|March 9, 2015 • VOL. 53, NO.5 • Oakland, CA|
Cathedral Mass will honor Goa's 'Saint of Peace'
There was jubilation when Pope Fancis canonized José Vaz, at Galle, Sri Lanka, on Jan. 14. On that day, Sri Lanka and Goa, the small, picturesque state on the western coast of India, got its first saint after a wait of three centuries.
His canonization has a connection to the Bay Area and the Diocese of Oakland.
Though many people came to pray at his shrine in Goa and work was being carried on in Sri Lanka and Goa to canonize him, the process was very slow.
In 1978, Filomena Giese, her family and a few friends formed the Joseph Naik Vaz Institute in Berkeley to publicize the missionary work and the life of José Vaz. Later George Pinto joined to further push the cause of his canonization. A great deal of credit goes to Giese for persistently lobbing for the canonization. Three people from the Oakland diocese attended the canonization ceremony at Galle: Giese, Pinto and Acaria Almeida.
Father José Vaz was born on April 21, 1651, to Christopher Vaz and Maria de Miranda in Benaulim, Goa, India. He was ordained a priest in 1676. Shortly, afterwards, he volunteered to go to Sri Lanka, where the Dutch were persecuting Catholics, and had banned all priests.
His superiors refused as they knew that sending him to Sri Lanka would mean his certain death. He was sent instead to Kanara in southwest India to renew the mission there.
The following year he returned to Goa, a former Portuguese colony on the west coast of India, and formed a religious congregation, the Oratory of St. Philip Neri. After a year, he left Goa secretly for Sri Lanka disguised as a laborer.
He served the people and the underground Catholics until he was caught by the Dutch and brought in chains before the Buddhist King Vimaladarna Surya. After St. Vaz performed a miracle of rain during a severe drought, he was released and permitted to do his work freely among the people.
He catered to the people unselfishly during a smallpox epidemic. Because of his untiring missionary work, he was called "Sammana Swami" or Angelic Father by the people. He worked in Sri Lanka for 23 years. He rescued and expanded the Shrine of Our Lady of Madhu. He died on Jan. 16, 1711 in Kandy, Sri Lanka.
Although the Archdiocese of Goa offered up 21 miraculous healings, only one miracle was accepted for Father Vaz's sainthood, that of the "miracle baby."
The "miracle baby" is my neighbor and playmate in Goa, Cosme José Da Costa. He is a priest at Pilar, Goa. He was born on Nov. 26, 1938 to Quiteria Noronha and Damiao da Costa. His mother had a defective womb. Father Cosme's mother and her sister Henriqueta prayed to Father Vaz for a safe delivery. Father Cosme was born premature, weighing 2.6 pounds. The small child could fit in the palm of anyone's hand. He was kept warm in a blanket lined with cotton and fed through an ink dropper. Incubators were not available in Goa in 1938. Father Vaz was made Cosme's godfather.
One day when we were in high school, Father Cosme's father said to me, "I will make Cosme an engineer." He was his only son. But Our Lord and Father Vaz had other plans for him and Cosme was called to work in His vineyard.
The Padre José Naik Vaz Institute and the Indian Catholic Community of the Bay Area are grateful to Bishop Barber and the diocesan priests for offering a Thanksgiving Mass in the Cathedral of Christ Light at 10 a.m. March 15.
The celebration will start at 9:30 a.m. with a Prelude of East-West sacred music.
Renowned North Indian classical singer, Smnt. Rita Sahai's Hindustani Choir will sing sacred Indian and Buddhist chants and two compositions on the theme of Divine Light.
A western choral group will sing a new composition, The Beatitudes in Raga Pahadi, by Bay Area composer, John Giese.
(Bella Comelo is a member of the Indian Catholic community of the Diocese of Oakland.)
back to top
|Copyright © 2015 The Catholic Voice, All Rights Reserved. Site design by Sarah Kalmon-Bauer.|