By BRADLEY ZINT     11/27/2023

An Orange County doctor who is producing virtual reality (VR) videos of sacred Christian sites around the world recently posted his first project documenting Lourdes, France, with the hope that the footage will serve as palliative care tool for persons throughout the world.

Dr. Vincent Nguyen, a palliative care physician at Hoag Hospital and member of the Order of Malta Western Association, in May visited the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Lourdes, a major pilgrimage destination and the site of a Marian apparition in 1858. The Marian shrine there is a famed destination for the sick and disabled because its grotto is said to have water with miraculous healing powers.

The Lourdes trip is an annual tradition for the Order of Malta, and Dr. Nguyen has gone on it for the past four years as a medical team member.

“One of my roles is to accompany malades (seriously sick people chosen by the Order of Malta to travel to Lourdes) and their companions to Lourdes in search of comfort, healing, peace with their prognosis and, perhaps, a miraculous cure,” said Dr. Nguyen. “No one who comes to Lourdes goes away unchanged. I have witnessed many leave Lourdes with an inner peace they did not before experience. I have also seen many come away with a greater acceptance of the difficult circumstances in their life now filled with greater hope, trusting that there is a redemptive value in their sufferings, and a deeper faith that God will bring good out of them.”

This year, by producing a virtual reality experience, Dr. Nguyen found a way to share the Lourdes experience with those who cannot make it. The experience can be a palliative and spiritual care tool, he said.

“As a physician, I deliver medical tools and therapies that promise people hope,” he added. “This hope is rooted in the scientific discoveries of the past, experienced in the treatments of the present, and becomes inspiration for the future. I am most privileged to incorporate the science of medicine with the humanity and spiritual framework in the care of my patients and their family. Sharing the pilgrimage and sacred spaces in Lourdes with those who cannot visit will be an important part of fostering this spiritual framework.”

The five Lourdes videos, which were made with the support of Hoag benefactors, are on YouTube account Sacred Spaces in VR. They include a visit to the grotto and sacred spaces throughout the town of Lourdes.

The VR experience can be done on any computer, tablet or smartphone. Videos are navigated using the circular pad with four arrows located in the upper left-hand corner of the video. On smartphones, it is recommended to use the “play in app” setting. VR glasses are also recommended for use while seated.

Dr. Nguyen said he is looking to document the Holy Land next year and the Vatican sometime in the future.