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Letter To Fr Joseph Menezes

Father Joseph Vaz sent Fr. Joseph Menezes the following letter, which he must have dictated, as he was no longer able to write himself.

"Reverend Father Joseph Menezes, my Spiritual Father! May the love of God and of the neighbor always remain, and ever increase in your own heart, in the hearts of the Fathers who are with you, and in all the faithful entrusted to your charge. May God, who has been made Man for our salvation grant to Your Reverence, to Fr. Peter Ferrao, and to all my Brethren a happy Christmas, a happy New Year and Epiphany; may He give abundance of his grace, to be used for His service and the good of souls!


I am feeling better just now, the pains I felt at my ear have subsided, but the wound remains always open.  Yet I cannot recover my strength, and probably never will again; I am feeling weaker and weaker.  On this account I am no longer saying Mass, I am no more going outside the Church, and it seems to me that this is a sign of the approach of death which God sends me in His infinite goodness.  God bestows on me a great favor by warning me of the nearness of death, and giving me so much time for my preparation; in fact I'll have a great account to render, and this frightens me today more than ever.

For this reason, I wish to lay aside all occupations, and all other thoughts, in order to prepare for death. I beg you therefore, Reverend Father, to take on you the burden and office of Vicar General of this Mission, and that of Superior; you will assign their posts to the Fathers, and transfer them as needs require, in such a manner that, as far as possible, no part of the Mission be without a priest.  If these offices seem too heavy to you, accept them nevertheless, from obedience to our Bishop, and our Father Superior, and then ask them to relieve you, if necessary.  I cannot do so, for the Bishop has chosen you to be my successor, and it is also the will of Our Father Superior.  Don't mind my being still alive; for I can no more celebrate Holy Mass, nor hear confessions; what sort of life is this? Do me the favor to let me know that you accept, so that I may spend the few days, God may yet give me, under holy obedience exclusively engaged in those matters that claim my time and attention.


Yours unworthy servant in Jesus Christ,

Joseph Vaz.


A week later, when he had not yet received a reply - for communications with Putlam were long and difficult - Fr. Vaz wrote another letter to Fr. Menezes.

“Reverend Father,my Spiritual Father!

May the love of God and of our neighbor ever fill your soul! As I feel every day weaker, I think the moment is near when my soul will leave this mortal body.  Your Reverence may take the office of Superior, and charge of the Mission, and settle everything in the manner that seems best to you before God.

As for me, I beg Your Reverence, kindly to command me to pray to God  that He may grant you and all the Fathers, the strength of soul, and health of body necessary that your work may produce abundant fruit. 

I'll pray as much as my strength allows, for I am no longer good for anything else.  Strength fails me to busy myself about the Mission.  I am no more able to read; it is only by making an effort, and often taking some rest, that I can say the Breviary.  When listening to some reading I cannot fix my attention.  I cannot speak, on account of the pain I fell in the right side of my head in the wound left from the ulcer.

Pray all of you, I beg you, that God grant me a good life, a good death, and a happy eternity.  Let everyone of you, besides what is prescribed by the Rules of Our Congregation, say three Masses for the repose of my soul, and say on Office of the Dead, either  alone or in common with the other Fathers. That is all I ask for, since I know the charity of my Brethren; but let them offer these three days of prayers for my intention. May God have Your Reverence in his holy keeping!

Kandy. 15th January 1711.  

Your unworthy servant,

brother and obedient subject

Joseph Vaz." 




Let it be known to all who see this 'Letter of Bondage', angels, human beings and all creatures, that I, Fr. Joseph Vaz, sell and offer myself as a perpetual slave of the Virgin Mother of God.  This I do through a free, spontaneous and perfect act of devotion, which in law is known as an irrevocable act among the living.

I give myself and all that I possess so that She, as my true Mistress and Mother, may dispose of me and my possessions as she wills. And because I consider myself unworthy of such an honor, I beseech my Guardian Angel and the glorious Patriarch St. Joseph, the most blessed Spouse of this Sovereign Lady and the Saint whose name I bear, as well as all the citizens of Heaven that they may obtain from Her this favor to be included among the number of Her slaves. I confirm this and seal it with my name; I would have liked to sign it with my heart's blood. Written in the Church of Sancoale, at the foot of the altar of the same Virgin Mary Mother of God, Our Lady of Health, on this day the 5th of August, the feast day  of Our Lady of Snows, in the year 1677.


Joseph Vaz 




Written to his nephew, deacon of the Congregation of the Oratory of Goa

"May the love of God always abide and grow in our souls. Brother Joseph Vaz, I appreciate very much the good news that you gave me in your letter and much more what others write to me about your good beginnings in the practice of virtue.  I thank the Lord Our God profusely for all this and beg of him everyday to give you much progress, and to lead you soon to perfection, in all virtues so that you may fulfill all your duties perfectly for the great glory of the same Lord, for your own progress and that of others. "

Joseph Vaz




You have requested me to send you holy documents for spiritual life, in order that you may not err in the way of salvation and may be able to guide others. In reply to your request, I thought of giving you the example of the moon which, to be illumined well and in its turn to illumine the earth, has the sun from which it receives the light.  However, the earth, besides not having it's own light to illumine itself, and much less to illumine others, intervenes between the sun and the moon, and eclipses the latter and enveloping it in darkness, obscures it.  By this I don't want to say that you do not require enlightening guidelines or that I don't have a double obligation to give them to you.

I only want to say that you are in the sub-lunar sky of the congregation, in which there shine so brightly as man suns as there are superiors and masters of spiritual life and other virtuous subjects, who by the splendor of their bright works and words, teach, animate, call attention and even punish if need be, and thus do not allow those who are under their care, to stray from the narrow path of salvation, but lead them to the safe harbor of blessedness.  This does not happen with us here, in this land, which although it may be warmer and therefore closer, to the material sun, is nonetheless, very far from the Sun of Justice, for it does not receive the clear light of His Holy Faith and does not want to come out of the darkness of infidelity.  Though there are some here who presume to have knowledge of the skies, planets and stars, and many others who wish to have it, few really know the Creator of the Universe.  There are atheists who say, "there is no God", and others who believe that t here are many Gods and that there are many laws and that they can attain salvation through them all.  They have no knowledge of the real good to follow and of the evil to run away from. Thus what ordinarily one sees and hears in this land is carnal, temporal and transitory, all of it belongs to the corporal life, nothing to the spiritual and eternal.



The madness of these people (may God give them his light), does not give me any excuse to be what I am, nor cease to be what I should be.  For never has the divine mercy kept me without enough light.  Besides the evangelical lamps, who surround me with the light of their exemplary behavior and illumine everyone in this mission with salutary doctrine, go on working tirelessly so that everyone may come to the knowledge of the true God and attain salvation by obeying His precepts.  Having special love for the spiritual gain and eternal salvation of this miserable creature merely because I am their unworthy brother and companion, they do not cease to help me with their special and useful advice, calling my attention to my faults and showing me efficacious means to correct them. 

In fact, I am not making use of these means as I need and ought to do.

Why has this miserable creature turned so earthly, that he appears to be the very earth; So cold for the lack of the warmth and ardor of charity; So dry for the lack of the humility of compunction and contrition; So hard for the lack of the tenderness of devotion and compassion; So resistant to the thrusts of the darts of divine warnings and inspirations; So impenetrable to the roots of the good seed of the Word of God, and evangelical perfection; So uncultivated due to being un-ploughed by true prayer and examination (of conscience); So empty due to the absence of the plants of virtue; So full of thorns and thistles which hurt and scandalize the neighbor; So rough and intractable for want of gentleness and affability towards those with whom he deals; So barren due to the lack of the fruits of penance and meritorious deeds; So inhabited by the horrible monsters of vices; So exalted to the hilltops of presumption and self-confidence; So overcast with darkness and blindness of understanding; So lorded over by appetites and inclinations of self-will; So weighed down with the load of grave sins; So immovable for lack of the course of diligence and due to sloth in the service of God.

So surrounded by the waters of mundane pleasures;

So soaring in the air of vanities; So undisturbed in regions even below the natural centre, undergoing no violence to make it rise in spirit in the contemplation of supernatural realities and with no disposition to be raised to them by the impulse of the Holy Spirit; So like the earth exuding dense vapors and pestilences of evil behavior, whose touch or example infects others; So weak to persevere in good resolutions and in good initiatives, but like an island situated in a turbulent sea of disturbances without peace of conscience;

So attacked on all sides by waves of different thoughts, finally, why is he so like the earth which coming between the sun and the moon (which illumine it), acts as a barrier, obstructs the rays of the sun from being communicated to the moon, and thus eclipses and obfuscates it with its shadow?Appreciation Of OthersFor, by the thickness of my gross behavior, I prevent the light of the evangelical planets, who guide me along the way of perfection, from being known to others.  And with the dense shadows of my imperfections I diminish the splendor of their brilliant virtues by interposing my defects and laxities between their light and those who see it. 

Thus I become the adequate cause of diminishing the light and warmth of these suns in the imagination of those who know well my ruinous conditions and are unaware of their good ones; since those who are ignorant take them to be as imperfect as I am, for we are all companions and confreres, and much worse, since they have me as their superior.

Besides the magnitude of my neglect, laziness and tepidity in the love and service of God and in the pursuit of perfection which I profess, are such that they mitigate the zeal and diminish the light of ardent charity in others not just in any others but even in my own subjects. As a consequences they would come to a halt on the way of virtue and recede backwards in their slow progress towards perfection.  But God, with the impulse of his divine love, does not allow them to turn back but makes them progress and run straight and follow the steps of the LAMB JESUS.  Thus these evangelical stars who illumine me so closely not only cover up with their splendor, the shadows of my faults and failures, but also of other planets and stars; for if any anyone were to judge and evaluate the charity and other virtues of my confreres, priests and Christians, in comparison with what they experience in me, a miserable priest and Christian, none of them would escape from suffering an eclipse in the brightness they themselves have.

Being a wretched person so bound up with the earth and so evil, what heavenly doctrine and what holy documents can I give you so that you may progress without erring and guide others to the safe port of salvation? 

I do realize that because you have a good opinion of me, you are asking me good counsels.  Praised be the goodness of our Redeemer who for the love of my salvation and that of others, and to deliver us from scandals, permits that this evil servant should enjoy in the esteem of others an opinion of being good and faithful and who covers my miseries with the cloak of his divine mercy.

Pray to this merciful lord to make me such as you and others take me to be, and better still, such as the Lord himself wants me to be, for I ought to be and wish to be such; so pray, I beg you, that He may make me such for His divine pleasure, Therefore, trusting in the power of God, and not in my own weakness, I will satisfy as best as I can, your just petition: so that following the good advice in case you find much to benefit from, you too may produce much fruit or little fruit, if you find little to benefit from. I will give you little or everything of the little I have, though that itself is not my own but borrowed from others or from the common traditions. Be Like A ChildI suppose that you entered the congregation at a younger age the other confreres, who have joined it up to now. Like wise the moon too is called the smaller one of the two great luminaries.  Hence considering some properties and circumstances of the moon and of the younger people and little children, like whom those who aspire for perfection and salvation of souls ought to be, I will give you some advice which you have asked of me in order to guide yourself and others in the way to heaven and to serve God in the missions, from some instructions out of many, which I feel are necessary.

Dear Brother, you should consider your entry in this holy congregation at an early, as the highest benefit of your vocation and therefore, you should have greater simplicity and innocence than the other confreres. For this particular favor you should thank the author of all-good and try by all means and with all your strength to love and please perfectly and singularly the same Lord who called you to this holy congregation, which admitted you in its bosom,

This is a very special grace for which He will demand a greater account from you and you too should be ready to yield the best.  And even if you were not at a time of your vocation and entry in the congregation, as small as that child whom the most innocent Lamb presented to his apostles, (so that imitating him in his humanity and simplicity, they might be able to enter in the kingdom of heaven), yet he was very close to your age.  Therefore, other things being equal you ought to be able with less difficulty, to be like him.  Hence considering], my dearest brother, that everything undertaken in the holy religious life is aimed to attain the innocence of that little child in this world itself, innocence that was lost by Adam's sin, work hard to make yourself like that innocent little child; not so much in age and natural conditions, I say, but more so by acquiring the supernatural innocence and other virtues that are exemplary and worthy of imitation.  This simplicity of life should increase as you grow in age making yourself by God's grace, ever more innocent and small. 

In this way you should be. A small child through obedience; A small child through chastity and continence; A small child through humility, innocence, simplicity; A small child through lack of pride, self interest, and jealously, A small child through lack of ambition, hatred, and envy; A small child through lack of cheating, malice, and sin; A small child which loves its loving father who loves, creates and sustains it, not wishing to get out of his arms and of his embrace and much less out of his presence, house and grace; A small child which loves other children, without injuring them, and without keeping grudges for injuries received from them. A small child which is content with the food, and dress which its parents give and does not grumble or murmur; finally A small child in everything, and smallest of all, like the moon, which is smaller of the two great luminaries.  


Letter To Fr. Pedro Paulo,


Kandy, 10th September, 1697: in ‘ Biblioteca da Ajuda’, Lisbon, Ms. Mu, 51-VIII-40, 262-264)  "We are working hard to bring everybody in to the right path"  With the resources that God has given us, we are all working hard to bring everybody into the right path, regretting that we cannot do more towards other persons and in other places for lack of authority. And for lack of grace and spirit we failed to obtain results that other servants of God do obtain elsewhere. But we pray to God, who can vouchsafe to us and these natives the grace he has lavished on other ministers and inhabitants of other parts of the world.

Regarding the shortage of personnel, I say that, if the Christians of these lands dwelt all together in few places, we who are here will be sufficient to assist them unremittingly in all their spiritual needs. But they are spread over different and distance regions. As such, even if we run and reach out to the places of Christians nearer to each of us and one of us tours the remote areas devoid of a priest in the vicinity, yet where there is no actual assistance of a priest nor a possibility of easily meeting him, the same shortage and need are felt. Moreover, though the Christians living in the lands of infidels are few (indeed all of them together do not exceed two or three thousand or, at the most, may be two or three thousand), those living in the lands under the Dutch are many more because, accepting the Dutch heretics and those from Jaffna who may be more the renegades then the faithful, almost all or the majority of those from other places are Roman Catholics.

Not all of these Christians living in the lands under the heretics can, even taking pains, reach out to us. This is the case mainly of women, slaves and others who are temporarily forced to serve the heretics, as well as of those who dwell in areas too distant from the residence of the priest or near the villages where our priests cannot go and stay to assist them because there are no houses of our Christians bordering on them in the lands belonging to this king of Kandy. In order to help all the above Christians dwelling in the lands of the heretics to fulfill at large the obligations of Christian life, the priest has to go secretly to the above regions with the consent and collaboration of these same Christians, the priest indeed runs the risk of being caught and the said Christians of being punished, in their persons and belongings, if the heretics detects them.

On account of this danger and of the fact that we are few and not all of us still master well the language and the customs of this land, I fear it will be a mistake if any of these priests, who manifest great desire, zeal and spirit, should go there. May God grant us spirit, increase it in all of us and comfort me and, even more, them and the said Christians too. May they efficaciously persevere in this and be free from fear, which may at times be imprudent, in order to implement effectively, with His divine favor, this plan of Salvation of so many souls.

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