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Annai Vailankanni Shrine, Besant Nagar, Chennai
Every hour the chime of 'Ave Maria' reminds us of Mother Mary's presence and reassures Her loving guidance. And this is the legendary Annai Vailankanni Shrine, Besant Nagar in Chennai(formerly Madras). This is the largest and most popular Shrine dedicated to Our Lady of Good Health outside Vailankanni(place of Apparition of Our Lady of Good Health) in Nagapattinam.

Being located at the Elliot's beach, on the sandy shores of the Bay of Bengal this Shrine has become a haven for pilgrims. History recounts that Mother Mary appeared with Infant Jesus in a dream to the late Rev. Fr. P. T. Arulappa, who constructed this beautiful shrine dedicated to the Virgin Mother of God to fulfill Our Heavenly Mother's desire.

Down through the years the Shrine has been proved to be of divine origin and a clear proof of international, multicultural, and religious harmony. Thousands of Christian and non-Christian pilgrims who visit the Shrine is the proof of the respect, love and hope in our loving Annai(Mother in Tamil language) - Mother of Christ and our Mother too. It is the sign of the growing influence of the Annai Vailankanni Shrine on one and all irrespective of caste or creed.

The Parish
Annai Vailankanni Shrine is served by the Diocesan Priests belonging to the Archdiocese of Madras - Mylapore. The Rector & Parish Priest followed by the Administrator, Assistant Parish Priest, the Confessor and the entire Parish council members of the Shrine aid in the overall growth of the Shrine. The parish council is the backbone of the Shrine in planning various social and religious activities. Spiritual, religious, charitable and pastoral activities are executed in a family spirit. 

At the Shrine

Madha Church(Shrine)
The famous chapel dedicated to the Annai Vailankanni Our Lady of Good Health, Besant Nagar. This was originally built in 1972. The upper portion of the walls is covered with paintings on the Apparitions of Our Lady of good Health. This was expanded in September 2000.

Hundreds of devotees visit this Shrine daily. Visitors queue up in prayers to touch the feet of the Holy Mothers statue. Devotees offer flowers, candles and garlands as a respect to the Holy Mother. Many miracles take place and are still continuing today.

The big Church is where regular Sunday Mass, Marriage services and 1st friday & 1st saturday services are conducted.

Mother Mary's Square
Mother Mary's Square was constructed in the year 2003 with the intention of visually presenting the four apparitions of Blessed Virgin Mary recognized by the Catholic Church. They are as follows:
Our Lady of Guadalupe (1531)
Our Lady of La Salette (1846)
Our Lady of Lourdes (1858)
Our Lady of Fatima (1917)
People come here to recollect the apparitions of the Blessed Virgin Mary and pay homage in the devotion to Our Mother.

Adoration Chapel
Opened in September 2001, this air-conditioned chapel creates and provides a serene atmosphere for people who come here to pray to the Eucharistic Lord. It is open to the faithful from 7:00am. to 8:30pm. on all days. Every Thursday special Adoration service take place in the evening from 7.30pm to 8.30pm. During the rest of the day the chapel is open for personal prayer, meditation and reflection.

The Grotto
The Grotto was constructed in the year 2002. A banyan tree is the base under which are depicted the 3 Apparitions of Our Lady of Good Health at Vailankanni. Devotees offer sarees in thanksgiving to Annai Vailankanni, which are draped around the statue of Mother Mary.

Niches of the Mysteries of the Holy Rosary
The niche of the mysteries of the Holy Rosary was constructed in the year 2000. It gives a conducive atmosphere for the devotees to meditate on the mysteries of the Holy Rosary.

The Museum has been renovated and reopened on September 6, 2008. It is a manifestation of the miracles endowed by the powerful intercession of Mother Mary. The various articles that are kept in the museum are the offerings made by the devotees to show their gratitude to Mother Mary. The articles are the replicas of the various favours received. The museum exists for the past 25 years, manifesting the faith in Mother Mary's powerful intercession.
Working hours: Saturday – 4:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m.
Sunday – 11:00 a.m. to 12:00 noon & 4:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m.
Holidays - 4:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m.

The religious article stall has a collection of prayer books, stickers, rosary, medals, calendars, statues, etc.
Working hours: 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. & 4:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. on all days

Shrine Office
This office was built and opened in December 2007. This houses the office for the Administrator, Mass booking, Annai Vailankanni magazine and the Matrimonial centre.
Working hours: 9:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. on all days

Matrimonial Centre
This centre has been in operation since 1981. Since September 2008 a new system has been installed. At present only Catholics are allowed to be enrolled. Only registered members are allowed to operate.

Rev.P.T.Arulappa Memorial Hall
This hall is used for marriages or any other special occasions. There is a reception hall and dining room.

First Saturday Devotions
The First Saturdays Devotion is a Roman Catholic practice which, according to the visionaries, has been recommended by the Virgin Mary in several visitations, notably Our Lady of Fatima. Catholics honour the Virgin on Saturdays because they believe that as the Mother of Jesus Christ she must have suffered a great deal and had much faith on Holy Saturday, before the Resurrection on Easter. Devotees of Fátima believe that the First Saturdays help to console the sorrows of God, Jesus, and the Virgin Mary for the sins of the world.

On the first Saturday of five successive months, one goes to confession, attends Saturday Mass and takes Holy Communion. Then the Rosary is recited. One remains in the church for at least fifteen minutes afterwards, meditating on the Rosary's mysteries. During this time one is considered to be visiting Jesus Christ, who, according to the doctrine of Transubstantiation, is physically present in the Eucharist.

Here in this Shrine, the first Saturday evening Mass is celebrated in a solemn way. Rosary, Novena prayers, the Mass, Blessing of the sick during a 10 minute adoration to the Blessed Sacrament followed by Jesus walk and last of all a grand car procession. Also there is an all night vigil with the Blessed Sacrament from 10:00 p.m. and it concludes with the Holy Mass at 4:00 a.m. Many pilgrims stay overnight and receive the graces showered by Our Mother.

About Mary

The Madonna of Vailankanni is the Mother of God. The Glory of the Blessed Mother is seen and experienced all over the world. Remember what she said at Cana, “Do whatever He tells you” and Her Son's word she echoed at Fatima: “The time is fulfilled…repent and believe in the Gospel” and again the words: “Come to me all you that labor and are overburdened and I will give you rest” (Mt 11: 28). We the suffering who feel attracted by the perspective of “relief” which the Divine physician offers should respond with hope through Annai Vailankanni. Sometimes it is physical relief. More often it is spiritual healing too. As we have crossed the threshold of Silver Jubilee year, our hearts are filled with thanksgiving for all the showers of blessings through the intercession of Our Heavenly Mother.

"All generations will call me blessed": "The Church's devotion to the Blessed Virgin is intrinsic to Christian worship." The Church rightly honors "the Blessed Virgin with special devotion. From the most ancient times the Blessed Virgin has been honored with the title of 'Mother of God,' to whose protection the faithful fly in all their dangers and needs. . . . This very special devotion . . . differs essentially from the adoration to Christ.

Throughout history down to the present day, men have given expression to their quest for God in their religious beliefs and behavior: in their prayers, sacrifices, rituals, meditations, and so forth.

How do we find God? To Jesus through Mary. Hence the need to venerate Mary.

Why should we honour Mary?
Why should we love Our Lady?
What is so special about Her?
Why Mary is called “Mother of God”?
How did Mary become our Mother?
How can we pray to Mary when St. Paul tells us that Jesus Christ is the “one Mediator between God and men”?
We can pray directly to God, why do we need to go through Mary?
Was Mary really sinless?
Do we pray to pictures and statues of Mary?
What actually happens when we pray to Mary?
Why Mary is called “a model of the Church”?

Why should we honour Mary?
When God chose to redeem humankind by sending his Son on earth to be born of a woman, the woman He chose for this singular honour was Mary. The Vatican Council reminds us that at the message of the angel that Mary conceived and became the Mother of God, united to Christ “by a close and indissoluble tie”.

“As a result, she is also the favourite daughter of the Father and the temple of the Holy Spirit Because of this gift of sublime grace, she far surpasses all other creatures both in heaven and earth”.

This is the fundamental reason why the Church down the ages has honoured Mary. Christ is the only Redeemer, the only Saviour of humankind; but in God's plan Mary, a creature like us, co-operated in that redemption in a unique and intimate way. All the titles bestowed on Mary, all the doctrines about her privileges and graces stem from this. This is fundamentally why we should honour her still.

Why should we love Our Lady?
Any reader of the gospels can see the intimacy of the son/mother relationship between Jesus and Mary. If He is the ideal man, then He must have been the ideal Son. If He was the ideal Son, then He must have loved his mother with a love that was warm and deep and true.

Being a Christian means being a person “conformed to the image of Christ”, having a Christ-like personality, having his values, loving as He loved. The closer our conformity, the more intimate our union with Christ, the better we will be as Christians. But how can we claim to be conformed to his image unless like him we have a love for Mary that is genuine and filial, a love we express by our words and deeds?

Without such a love, our Christianity will always be incomplete.

What is so special about Her?
The Gospel of St. Luke records Mary's reaction to God's call, how she reached out beyond herself and her natural limitations to accept God's word and submit to him.
Her reply, “Behold the handmaid of the Lord, be it done unto me according to your word, “came from her loving trust in God whom she had neither seen nor touched. She courageously surrendered to him and by that surrender enabled him to do great things for her and through her.

We too are called to believe, to trust and to put ourselves in God's hands. We all know how hard it is to do that. We lack courage, we give with reservations, we are worried by doubts. But not Mary. She not only gave herself to God but she never retracted that offering. There was no change of mind, no rationalizing doubts about her vocation when sorrow and difficulty came, no turning back.

True, God gave her grace to do all this. But He gives us grace too and we fail sometimes. That is why Mary is so special.

Why Mary is called “Mother of God”?
Mary is called Mother of God because Jesus Christ, her Son, who was born of her as man, is not only man, but is also truly God.

Mary is not a “goddess”. She is as human as our own mothers.

The big difference lies in the sons – Mary's Son and our mother's sons.

Mary's Son is the Son of God. Our mothers' sons are human, very human.

How true then were the words of the cousin Elizabeth when she greeted Mary in the Gospel, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And why is this granted me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” (Luke 1:42-43)

How true our words are when we say, “Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death”.

Mary indeed is the Mother of God!

How did Mary become our Mother?
Mary became our Mother when she conceived her Son Jesus Christ. He is the source of our supernatural life. We share that life with him. So Mary, who is the Mother of Jesus Christ, is also our Mother.

Also on the Cross Jesus reminded us that Mary is our Mother when He said to John who represented the whole human race, “Behold your Mother”.

Of course there is this difference: Mary is the Mother of Christ in a physical sense; she is our Mother in a spiritual sense.

Being our Mother, Mary has a place in her heart for all of us. Our worries are her worries; our fears hers; our difficulties hers; our problems hers.

Mary is the world's greatest mother. She is certainly a mother for the troubled world we live in. thanks to our good Lord, she is our Mother.

How can we pray to Mary when St. Paul tells us that Jesus Christ is the “one Mediator between God and men”?
Jesus Christ is indeed our principal Mediator. However, there may be secondary mediators. Mary is one of these mediators.

The practice of asking the prayers of others (secondary mediators) is common sense. We have all asked friends to speak on our behalf at some time or other. It may be to obtain an increase in our salary or to find a place in a kindergarten for one of the children or to get a good price on something we are buying. In praying to Mary, we are asking her to speak to her Son on our behalf. So He is still the principal Mediator with God.

Further, Mary has the God-given role of mother – Mother of Christ and Mother of all who are united to him. Just as Jesus sought her comfort and care during his life on earth, so we who follow him should also turn to her in our needs, confident of her motherly concern for us.

We can pray directly to God, why do we need to go through Mary?
This is a good question, except for one thing. It fails to recognize that we are sinners!

Prayer prayed by a sinner lacks the power of prayer prayed by someone who is sinless – Mary.

Of course, usually most of our prayers are prayed directly to God, for example, the Mass and the majority of the prayers we say each day.

However, we always have the freedom to go to Mary or some other intercessor. We do this for example at the Novena and in the Rosary.

This freedom, most of us use – with the blessing of the good God!

Was Mary really sinless?
Yes, really sinless.

More than that only was Mary free of sin, she was also full of grace. This God-given privilege is called her Immaculate Conception.

It should surprise none of us. If we were able to choose our own mothers, wouldn't we choose the most perfect woman we could find?

God could not choose the most perfect of women for his Son's mother, He could personally form her so that she would be the most perfect.

This He did, making sure she was free of sin and full of grace.

Who are we to begrudge the good God this wonderful use of his power?.

Do we pray to pictures and statues of Mary?
Of course not.

Pictures are made of canvas or paper. Statues are cut from wood or stone or marble. Prayer to such objects does not make sense. They cannot hear, still less help us!

If we do not pray to pictures and statues, what do we do?

We pray before them. Just as we use photographs to remind us of those we know or love, so we may use pictures and statues to remind us of Mary, when we speak to her in prayer.

Most people find pictures and status wonderful helps to fight distractions during prayer. The mind tends to wander less.

Try it and see!

What actually happens when we pray to Mary?
Let us begin by saying what does not happen.

Mary does not, as it were, reach into her pocket, take out our request and give it to us. She lacks the power to grant our requests. She is a creature. She is not the Creator.

When we pray to Mary, we are really saying to her, “Will you who are so close and dear to your Son speak to him on my behalf? Will you ask him to mediate with his Father for me in this need?”

Precisely because Mary is so close and dear to her Son, that Son listens with the greatest attention.

Why Mary is called “a model of the Church”?
The Church is like a mother. She brings forth Christians, children of God by Baptism. The ideal mother on whom the Church should model herself is Mary who conceived and brought forth Christ. Her virtues, especially her faith, her dedicated obedience to God, her self-giving service provide the pattern, the ideal for the Church.

Not only is Our Lady the model of what the Church ought to be during her pilgrimage here on earth, but also the model of what the church will be in heaven. In other words, Just as Our Lady is now forever united to Christ in heaven so will the Church one day be.

Mary demonstrates what Christ came on earth to do. He came to redeem humankind. Our Lady co-operated perfectly with God and in her the redemption had its full effect. She is the perfect Christian; and looking at her we see “a sign of sure hope and solace for the pilgrim people of God”.

Courtesy: Novena Devotion to Our Mother of Perpetual Help,
Church of St. Alphonsus, Singapore

Apparitions of Our Lady of Good Health at Vailankanni

This Shrine has been dedicated to Our Lady of Good Health known as Annai Vailankanni in Tamil(local language). The Apparitions of Our Mother at Vailankanni has been the inspiration to found this Shrine. The history behind the global fame of Our Lady of Good Health is founded on three events that took place intermittently since the 16th Century at Vailankanni, in Nagapattinam district, in India.

First Apparition
The foremost incident is the Apparition of Our Lady, Mother of Jesus, which occurred during the pleasant daybreak on a sunny day, sometime during the sixteenth century. Our Lady with her infant son appeared to a Hindu boy carrying milk to a customer's home. While he rested under a banyan tree near a tank (pond), Our Lady appeared to him and asked for milk for her son and the boy gave her some. On reaching the customer's home, the boy apologized for his lateness and the reduced amount of milk by relating the incident that occurred on his way. On inspection, the man found the milk pot to be full and realized that something miraculous had happened. That man, also a Hindu, wanting to see the place where the apparition occurred, accompanied the boy. When they reached the tank, Our Lady appeared once again. On learning that it was Our Lady who appeared to the boy, the residents of the local Catholic community became ecstatic. The tank where the apparition took place is called "Matha Kulam" or “Our Lady's tank”.

Second Apparition
Around the end of the 16th century, there lived at Vailankanni a poor widow with her son who was lame by birth. Every day the lame boy used to sit under a banyan tree at a place called ‘Nadu Thittu' (central mound) and sell buttermilk to the thirsty wayfarers. On a certain day, to his bewilderment, a very bright light appeared in front of him and from amidst the light, a Lady of peerless grace with a divine Child in her arms, asked the boy for a cup of buttermilk. Then she directed him to go and inform a Catholic gentleman at Nagapattinam to put up a Chapel in her name on the spot of her apparition. The boy realized that his lame legs have become normal upon the word from the Lady. With great joy, he buoyantly ran to Nagapattinam to carry out the errand. Having been already directed in vision by Our Lady, the Catholic gentleman, with the support of the people, built a Chapel at ‘Nadu Thittu' where now stands the present Shrine Basilica. The Lady was called, ‘Our Lady of Good Health'

Third Apparition
In the 17th century, a Portuguese merchant vessel, sailing from Macao in China to Colombo in Sri Lanka was caught in a tempest in the Bay of Bengal. The helpless sailors besought Mary, the star of the sea to save them. They vowed to build a Church in her name, wherever they could land on. The stormy sea became calm. Their ship landed near the shore of Vailankanni on the 8th September, the feast of the nativity of Our Lady.

They transformed the thatched Chapel erected by the Catholic gentleman of Nagapattinam into a beautiful stone-built Chapel. And today that is where the Shrine Basilica of Our Lady of Good Health at Vailankanni stands.

Although the apparitions here in Vailankanni were not well documented as in the case of Lourdes, Fatima and Guadeloupe, Vailankanni Matha devotions have proved to have divine origin, simply because billions of people today have gone beyond the surface of history to the depths of the mystery. Pope John Paul II declared Vailankanni as “the Lourdes of the East” because like Lourdes in France, millions of pilgrims visit the Shrine throughout the year, praying to Our Lady for various needs and thanking her for the favors received through her intercession.

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Annai Vailankanni Shrine,
Besant Nagar, Chennai 600 090 - India

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