It is a form of love and trust that emerged in the era of the kings and feudalism. Today, the people note that the children of Catholic families are not involved in drugs or criminal activities, and are improving social harmony. A special year of indulgence granted by Cardinal Stafford to the faithful of Thai Ha.

Hanoi (AsiaNews) - Vietnam has had to face war since the country was first founded. The population was governed for a thousand years by China, for a century by the French, and for 50 years it was divided into two parts, the south and the north. But in every age and under every regime, Vietnamese Catholics have had a special devotion to their Mother Mary.

It is the same today. "When I find myself in difficulty," says Ngoc, a high school English teacher in Ho Chi Minh City, "I always go to the image of the Virgin Mary in my parish. Also when I have problems in my family. I pray to Our Lady of Graces. The image of Mary is present in all families and parishes. Time passes quickly, but the Lady of peace is always standing in front of the Cathedral of Our Lady, or the Mother of Perpetual Help at the Redemptorists. In every town, village, and area where there are poor laborers, the people go to Mary and pray with and for each another."

One young woman, Thu, talks about her experience with her prayer group: "in my family, we pray together every evening, and also on the anniversary of the death of our relatives. We get together and recite the rosary. When I go to Mary, I feel peace in my heart, and this helps me to live and to demonstrate Christian charity in society. The Virgin has helped, sustained, and strengthened our faith in God."

In effect, the Vietnamese pray together as a family: whole towns and villages demonstrate their devotion to Mary. They pray, their songs resound, and the people of other religions get the idea that Catholics are good people, which brings their own children to the faith. Their children are not involved in drugs or crime and stealing, and they reduce the social problems in the area. The education of their families improves coexistence and development in society.

In many parishes, after the Mass, the faithful sing hymns to the Virgin before returning home. On the occasion of the month of the rosary, to honor Our Lady, in May and October, flowers are offered in the parishes, together with the recitation of the rosary and the singing of hymns. Vietnamese Catholics have eight centuries of devotion to Our Lady: with feudalism, capitalism, and socialism.

"Vietnam," a former professor in Hanoi explains to AsiaNews, "has many important remnants of devotion to Our Lady. These are closely connected to the country's history, and to every development of our Church. Mary is always present, she protects and helps the faithful, the Church, and all good-hearted people." He recalls that the Immaculate was brought in 1861 to the province of Nam Dinh, in the diocese of Bui Chu, at the time of King Tu Duc, who persecuted the Church and had many Catholics killed. In 1895, the Church of Our Lady of the Rosary was built in the province of Ninh Binh, in the diocese of Phat Diem. In 1991, John Paul II inaugurated a holy year there.

Then there is the national shrine in La Vang, in the province of Quan Tri, archdiocese of Hue. The history books and the volume on the Holy Land by La Vang say that this was also the location of the village of Co Vuu, the ancient name of an area of the parish of Dih Cat. The parish was instituted in 1777, at the time of King Canh Tinh. After this, there was the regime of Tay Son. Back then, in the province of Quango Tri (one of the poorest provinces, and the most harshly tried by war), the Catholics lived in peace and helped each other, but Nguyen Quang Toan of the regime of Tay Son had them arrested and cruelly killed. When King Tu Duc died,the movement of Can Vuong rose up in arms and became the movement Binh Tay Sat Ta, which means "they defeated the French and killed Catholics."

So the Church in Vietnam has spent a great deal of time under feudal kings and dictators of capitalism and socialism. But Our Lady is always present, she protects helps us, now as in the past. As the lunar new year approaches in Vietnam, we trust in God and in our Church. The good news has come among us. And now the major penitentiary, Cardinal Francis James Stafford, in the name of the Holy See has granted a year of plenary indulgence for all of the faithful of Vietnam who participate with devotion at the Mass and in other ceremonies for Our Lady of Perpetual Help at the parish of Thai Ha in Hanoi, from January 31 of this year to May 5, 2010, under the normal conditions of going to confession, receiving communion, and praying according to the intentions of the Holy Father.

Through this event, the Church and the faithful have unity, community, they pray, love, and help one another in the love of Jesus.