*Ivo da Conceiçao SOUZA

Movement is a sign of life. A saintly life is a life of growth, of movement. Movement can be local/geographical, cultural, dynamic, existential. Movement is sign of growth in spirituality. Thus, geography  can become theology. Yes, it can  become  genuine holiness, it can bind us to God, our neighbour, ourselves and the Universe. God has entered human history by sending his Son to the earth. Even the  far-off people  can become our neighbour, of our kith and kin. God has called those “who were far-off” to become his own people.

But the local-geographical movement is a manifestation of the dynamism of faith and love. With a new vision and new heart there is a living encounter with new people, new cultures, other religions and quasi-religions.

Let us have a glance through the movement in the life of Jesus, whose follower Fr.Joseph Vaz was, and in his own life.

In  the life of Jesus, we find this geographical displacement: The  first mention  of  the annunciation of John the Baptizer brings  us  to Ayn-Karim,  where Mary visited Elizabeth; but soon Mary  receives the  message  of the birth of Jesus in Nazareth  of  Galilee  (Lk 1:26).  Mary goes to a town in Judah, Ayn-Karim (Lk  1:39).  Mary and  Joseph go to Bethlehem, city in Judea, where Jesus is  born. Wise  men come from the East to Jerusalem. Mary and Joseph  go with Jesus to Egypt (Mt 2:14), even though we may think of midrashic elements in the Infancy Gospel, where Jesus is portrayed as the new Israel. Then they go to the town  of  Nazareth (Mt  2:23), since Joseph had to work in the construction of a new city of Sephoris.  Jesus is presented in the Temple  of  Jerusalem  (Lk 2:28) and  from there they returned to Galilee, to their  town  of Nazareth (Lk 2:39). Jesus goes to the Temple of Jerusalem, when he was twelve  years old. Jesus comes from Nazareth to the river  Jordan at  the  age of thirty years fo be baptized by  John the  Baptizer ((Lk  3:23). Jesus comes back to Galilee, he attends the  wedding at  Cana  in Galilee; He goes to Capernaum, a  town  in  Galilee, where he casts out an evil spirit (Mk 1:21-23). Jesus begins his preaching  in the synagogues at Galilee (Lk 4:14), in  the  syna­gogue of Nazareth (Lk 4:17). Jesus settled down in Capernaum, on the shore of the sea of Galilee. He had a house by the house of Simon Peter (Mt 4:14). Jesus heals a palsied man in Capernaum (Mk 2:1). From Capernaum he goes to Nain (Lk 7:11), where he raised to life the son of a widow. He cured the mother-in-law of Simon  Peter; there was a storm in the sea of Galilee; he  went to  the territory of Gerasenes, across the lake opposite  Galilee.

He  raised  to life the dead daughter of Jairus (Mk  5:22)  and  healed a bleeding  woman (Mk 5:25). On the way to Jerusalem, passing  bet­ween Samaria and Galilee, he went to Bethsaida, across the sea of Galiee, and fed five thousand with five loaves and two fishes (Mk 6:33; Jn 6:2). He went to the neighbourhood of Tyre (Mk 7:25). He came by way of Sidon to the Sea of Galilee (Mk 7:33). He went  to Jerusalem  for the feast of Tabernacles. Then Jesus went into  the villages  around  Caesarea Philippi. His journey to Jerusalem was the climax of his life, of the mystery of cross and Resurrection.[1]

In the life of Fr.Joseph  Vaz, we find dynamism of faith and action. He was  always on the  move. He is “A Saint on the Move”. His  geographical displacement can fill up pages of heroic life. It was the sign of his heroic life of faith and love, faith working through love (Ga 4:6).

Born  in Benaulim at his mother’s home, on April 21, 1651, son of Christopher Vaz and Maria de Miranda, Joseph Vaas (as he used to sign) was baptized on the eighth day in the parish-church of St.John the Baptist, Benaulim, by a Jesuit parish-priest, Jacinto Pereira. He attended the elementary school at Sancoale (Sankvalli), his paternal village. Later on, his father sent him to a school at Benaulim to learn Latin as a preparation for his priestly studies. Then he decided tos end him to the city of Goa to follow a course of Rhetoric and Humanities in the Jesuit College of St Paul. After haing completed his humanistic studies with the Jesuits, Joseph Vaz entered the Academy of St.Thomas Aquinas for his philosophical and theological studies and was staying in the collegiate Church of Our Lady of Rosary. He was ordained a priest by the then newly appointed Archbishop of Goa, D.António Brandao. As he did not receive any appointment , he went to this home at Sancoale and assisted the parochial clergy. He was summoned to the capital city of Goa to preach. He was chosen as spiritual director by two prominent men of his time, D.Rodrigo da Costa and Luis Gonsalves Cotta (both of them were later called to act as Governors of Goa). He opened a Latin school at Sancoale to help the candidates for the priesthood and also to educate the young people. On August 5, 1677, he wrote his “Deed of Bondage (or Letter of Captivity)”, at the feet of the statue of Mary in the church of Sancoale, offering himself as a slave to the Blessed Virgin Mary and decided, like an Indian yogi, to carry out his mission barefooted. At this stage his heart was turning towards the island of Ceylon, through a Canon of the Cathedral of Goa, F. De Sardinha, who spoke of the dire needs of the Catholics of Ceylon. His heart was set on fire. But the Cathedral Chapter proposed to him to go and save Christianity of Kanara. Joseph Vaz was given the high title of “Vicar Forane of Kanara”. He went on foot from Goa to Canara, where he worked for four years. With his new vision, he built churches, chapels, schools and, above all, communities. Back in Goa, he found a newly formed community of Goan priests at the Church of the Holy Cross of Miracles, Old Goa. Its founder was Fr.Pascoal da Costa Jeremias. They were called “Milagristas”. He joined them and was elected as their Superior. He organized the Goan community into the Oratorian Institute of Milagristas of Goa, according to the model of the Oratory of St.Philip Neri in Rome and of Fr.Bartholomeu do Quental in Lisbon. He left Goa for Ceylon in March 1686, accompanied by his servant boy John.[2] His intense journey continues: he went from Goa to Cannanore, to Tellichery, to Kochi, to Quilon, then to Tope on the coast of Travancore, where the Jesuits had a college. They advised him to wear the garb of a simple class worker so as to enter Ceylon like a “coolie”. When he entered the Malabar Coast, he tried to study Tamil, which was the language of the north of the Island of Ceylon. By the end of March 1687, they reached Tuticorin, on the Fishery Coast, where there was a Dutch fort from where they could embark to Ceylon. It happened that the Jesuit priest in charge of the church had been a classmate of Joseph Vaz in the College of St.Paul in Goa. By indiscretion he suggested to him to celebrate the liturgical functions of Maundy Thursday together with him. When the Dutch Calvinist officer came to know it, he suspected that he wanted to eneter Ceylon in disguise and ordered that he would not allow anyone to embark for Ceylon without his special permission. But within three days the Dutchman died and the new officer allowed them to enter the ship. From Tuticorin to Jaffna, they took 20 days to reach due to a tempest, instead of three to four days. They embarked on Mannar island and then by first half of May arrived in Jaffna. It was providential, because they were taken as Ceylonese travellers and embarked unnoticed.

They were half dead inJaffna, they needed rest and food. But Joseph was attacked with acute dysentery and was helped by a lady in the forest with a bowl of canjee every day. He started his life without any support from the Church or colonial authority. Since it was dangerous for him to remain in Jaffna, the headquarters of the Dutch command in the north of Ceylon, he prudently decided to to secretly to Sillalai, ten miles away from Jaffna. There he performed his apostolate at night to small groups of Catholics. He organized his work through the catechists (Moppu). He would eat his rice on a leaf, sitting on the ground like the poor people, and slept on grass or bamboo mat. When Adrian Van Reede, the Dutch commander of Jaffna, was harrassing him, he fled from Jaffna deep into the jungle in December 1689, crossed to Vanny, went to Puttalam, which was a part of the Kandy kingdom, ruled by Vimaladharma Surya II. There he catered to a little over one thousand Catholics, till August 1692. He visited the villages of the Kalpityia peninsula, and the interior villages inhabited by Mukkavars such as Manattivu, Tetapola, Manpuri, all in the district of Puttalam, also on the borders of the disrict of Vanny, the village of Galgamuwa, where there is still a cross, planted by Joseph Vaz , because of dread of wild animals. He had also contact with villages of Sat Korales, the seven districts lying between the coast of Puttalam and Kamala. But he preferred to take refuge in Kandy, the centre of his apostolate. He was imprisoned as a Portuguese spy in Kandy, where he took pains to study Sinhalese and prepared a vocabulary in Sinhalese. New missionaries were sent there: Fr.Joseph Menezes, Fr.Pedro Saldanha, Fr.Miguel de Melo, Fr.Jacome Gonsalves, who became a specialist in Tamil and Sinhalese, and won name and fame in the literary history of Sri Lanka, as a classical poet in Sinhalese and a writer of about forty books, rightly called “the creator of Catholic literature in Ceylon”. The papal legate in the East, Charles Thomas Maillard de Tournon, Patriarch of Antioch and afterwards a Cardinal, admired his work and wanted to appoint Joseph Vaz the first Vicar Apostolic of Ceylon, but he declined the offer, in order to avoid conflicts with the political power. Once Fr.Joseph Carvalho, his nephew, was stationed in Kandy, Joseph Vaz went to the west of the island: the city of Colombo, seat of the Dutch Government of Ceylon, in the guise of a beggar. He would assemble the Catholics by evening in house, like catacombs, and organized the pastoral work through the lay leaders and catechists, Moppus and Annavis. When the Dutch police officer was searching him, he left for Negombo, where he worked for the reformation of customs, and then he continued to Gurubavilla, Malvana and Sitawaka, and then to Soffragan. Back to Kandy, he went to Jaffna in the north of the island and passed to Vanny, where he met Fr.Pedro Ferrao. He returned to Kandy. When a dreadful small pox epidemic started in Kandy in September 1697, he together with Fr.Joseph Carvalho (who died of exhaustion in 1702), witnessed to faith through social service. He came for the second time to Colombo, continuing his apostolic journey through Negombo, Gurubawila, Malwana, Mantota, Mannar, Vanny, Kalpityia, Punarym, Jaffna, Trincomalee, Puliyadiva, Batticalao. During his third missionary journey in 17004, Blessed Joseph Vaz went to the end of Delft (Neduntivu island) in the north, where he converted 200 persons. In spite of his failing health he went to Kottiyar at the beginning of the year 1710. But he fell ill and died around midnight on Friday, January 16, of the year 1711, after 24 years of toil and moil in the mission of Ceylon, at the age of 59. He was loved and admired by the people of Ceylon as “Sammanasu Swami” (‘angelic priest’).

Blessed Joseph Vaz, the Apostle of kanara and Sri Lanka, and the Patron of Goa, was a man of God, a man of the people, a man on the move.


*Ivo da Conceicao Souza

Juze Vaz sopnam sopneta ani tim to sakar korta. To visvaxi sodanch to Devachi khoxi sodhun kaddta. Adlea Korarant Juze sopnelo ani sopnam iskuttavn dilim/parkhilim. Te bhaxen amcho Juze sopnam sopnelo ani sodanch visvaxi ravlo. Seilanvak  (Sri Lankent) vochun thoim povitr-sobha  thiraunk mhollear  techem  sopon  aslem. To hem sopon  sakar  korta.  Ponn thoinsor  bhitor sorunk zaite tras taka poddlet.  Aplea  utramnim ani  jivitache chalin Jezucho govai to zalo.

Bhoktivont Padri Juze Vazachem jivit teagi jivit; aple  gunn Jezu  pasvot bhettoile: gneanan huxar to aslo; to  umedin  xikta, ponn sogllench aplea havesa khatir laita. To Juanvak gheun bhikari-kuli koso, Tutikorin thaun  Jaffna-che  vatter  astanam, modd ieta ani te Mannar urtat.  Bhukek  ani tanik  te sampoddtat. Thoinsor te bhik magon dis kaddhtat.  Asro sodhit,  te Jaffna pavtat, ponn thoisor moddxi zaun  to  piddest-osokt zata. Lok tenkam poisaita and eksurea zagear ghaltat.  Ponn Dev tenkam soddhina: ek ostori tenkam pez ani ier gorjecheo  vostu dita. Thoinsor Katolk ghorabeant bhitor sorun, to aplem  munniar­ponn choloita: ekunntis vorsam uprant Jaffnant poilem Mis  tenkam favta.

Surokxa  na zaun te Sillalai vetat. Ponn thoinsoroi te  sam­poddtat. Kristi lokak Holandez Sorkar piddnuk dita. Thoimthann te Puttalam’  vetat.  Thoinsor Padri Juze Vaz  nettan  Devachem  Utor porghotta,  Mis  bhettoita,  sonvskar dita.  To  Kandy-nt  bhitor sorta.  Thoinsor te bondkhonnint poddtat. Ponn thoinsor te  prar­thon kortat ani Padri Juze, 1691 vorsa, Kristjoiantiche ratri Mis bhettoita. Vimaladharma Surya Razan teka suttka dili, ponn Kandy xharantlo  bhair sorunk porvangi diunk na. Padri Juzen  ek  sadhi igroz  bandhli. Teche vinontin ek vismit ghoddlem: pavs naslo  to pavs poddlo. Ten’na Razan teka soglli sot’tea dili.

Techo gutth mhollear prartnachem jivit. Jen’nam  Papsaibacho Protinidhi,  Antiokecho Patriark, Thomas Charles de Tournon,  teka  Bisp zaunk magta ani ek khursar khillail’lo Jezu dita, Padri Juze  Vaz Khuris gheta ponn Bisp zaunk kobul na. Teka vhoddvik naka,  mijas naka, rajki guspagonddoll naka–Seilanvacho  Bisp  zaunchem dennem to nakarta. “Padroado” ani “Propaganda”-che bangoddint to misoll zanvk sodhina, ponn ikmotin osle proxn suttave korta.

Tannem 15 igorzo ani 400 kopelam bandhlint. Dublleancho  mog kelo. Kristi Sannyasi koso jielo ani melo. Durboll-sadho  mision­ar.  Zatkaticher add urben-hikmotin to zhuzlo. Vatikani  Vixvsobha  ani odhunik  misanvxastri  xikoitat, tem tannem  adhim-fuddench  korun dakhoilem. Ponn khoim to hem sogllem xiklo? Aple dhimbier,  aplea kallzant, aplea moga vorvim to “sogttank sogott” zalo (1 Kor 9:22) ani mogachi vatt dakhoili (1 Kor 13:1-13).

Sopnam sopnevn Jezuk ani amchea apovnneak visvaxi ravum-ia!

[1] Cf.T.V.Rodriguez,  Life  of Christ. A Total Picture, Through a Thorough Analytical Study  and Synthesis of the Holy Gospels, Santhome Publications, 5, Crescent Road, Madras-600030, 1988, pp.15-238. It is to be read with a critical sense, in the light of modern biblical exegesis.

[2] Fr.Cosme José Costa, SFX, Life and Achievements of Blessed Joseph Vaz (Apostle of Canara and Sri Lanka), Pilar Publications, Goa, 1996, pp.52-81; Fr.Denis Pereira, Joseph Vaz, India’s Gift to Sri Lanka, Don Bosco Publications, Mumbai, 1995.


Tags: , , , ,

One Response to “A SAINT ON THE MOVE”

  1. 2010 in review « Ivosouza’s Blog Says:

    […] A SAINT ON THE MOVE January 2009 […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: