THE GREAT SON OF GOA
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Back in Goa, Blessed Joseph Vaz gave an account of his proceedings to the Cathedral which was again in charge of the vacant diocese. Needless to say that his behavior showed dissatisfaction and did not give him any charge of souls. Bl. Joseph Vaz did not visit his family in Goa except after a long time and that also only after constant requests from his mother. He was obsessed by his idea of going to Sri Lanka. Though he had been the Vicar Forane of Kanara, on his return to Goa, he did not deem it below his dignity to go and help two missionaries, Frs. Manuel das Entradas and George das Saidas, who had come to Goa from Portugal to preach a mission but did not know the language (konkani). Bl. Joseph Vaz was at their beck and call as the sole interpreter of the two of them and helped them also in the administration of the Sacrament of penance in many Churches in Goa for many months. Because of his knowledge of the vernacular, so many people flocked to him to confess their sins and he reconciled to God, that the two preachers addressed him as the "Holy Missionary".
ORGANIZER OF THE FIRST INDIGENOUS INSTITUTE OF ASIA:
During his mission in Kanara he was exploring ways and means to achieve his dream of going to Ceylon (Sri Lanka). Returning to Goa he retired to the cloister so as to realize better his dreams, when he found a small community of Goan priests at the Church of the Cross of Miracles, Old Goa. Up to this time the different religious orders in Goa were staffed with Europeans and mestizos, no Goan being allowed to enter their ranks. The situation in Sri Lanka was such that no (white) Catholic priest would be allowed to set foot there, because of Dutch persecution. Bl. Joseph Vaz saw the hand of God in this small community of the Milagristas led by Fr. Pascoal da Costa Jeremias from Margao - Goa India, who had assembled with two companions after being refused entry by the other Orders.
On 25th September, 1685 Bl. Joseph Vaz, therefore, entered this tiny community. Bl. Joseph Vaz knelt down at the feet of Fr. Pascoal and begged him to admit him in it. He was not only admitted with great joy but was elected the prefect Superior. He humbly declined the post but was constrained to accept it under obedience. He worked with zeal for the progress of this staggering institution. Within a few months seven more priests joined the community and gave it a new energy.The reason why Bl. Joseph Vaz joined them was that he had seen the plight of the abandoned Christians of Kanara. He knew that his work would die with him in Sri Lanka if there was not a flow of missionaries to go to Sri Lanka after him. To give a form of stability to this incipient community, Bl. Joseph Vaz consulted his spiritual director Fr. Antonio Venntimiglia, and following his advice, requested one of his confreres, Fr. Paul de Souza, to write to Fr. Bartholomeu do Quental asking for a copy of the statutes of the Oratory founded by him in Lisbon on the model of the other founded in Rome by St. Philip Neri. He then organized the Goan community into the Oratorian Institute of Milagristas of Goa. (The Oratorians are autocephalous in each place).The indigenous priestly community he had joined was the ideal group to work in Sri Lanka and restore the Catholic Church there. With this preoccupation in mind, Bl. Joseph Vaz managed to give a missionary orientation to the "Milagristas". Whoever wanted to join this community had to accept the condition of being ready to go to difficult place, face hardships, risk his life and accept customs, traditions and languages of the people to whom he would be sent and be ready not to return back to Goa or to his family (once he had gone to the missions).
It was not an easy job to settle this new community. The Church of Cross of Miracles had only a sacristy with an open corridor and a small parlour. The paucity of funds did not allow a new construction. So Blessed Joseph Vaz erected small cubicles with wooden partitions. The cubicles were so small that only one person could be accommodated in each. He provided one cubicle for each of his confreres, but for himself not even a small place. He was happy to pass his time in the choir of the Church where he could take a brief rest, if at all, otherwise he was in the Chapel and almost always at the foot of the Cross of Miracles. To give an example of mortification he used to don an internal belt with sharp thorns.
INTENSE SPIRITUAL PREPARATION FOR HIS MISSION:
In the first months after reorganizing the Milargristas community of Goa, Bl. Joseph Vaz was often found lost in contemplation at the foot of the Cross of Miracles. He would pray with such fervour that others could hear the sighs and sobs that came out of his concern for the abandoned Christianity of Sri Lanka. He begged the Lord to open a door for their rescue and to use his person as an instrument in this great work for His greatest glory.He also toured the villages of Goa preaching missions. In one incident when he was preaching a mission in S. Mathias, Malar (in Goa), a lady named Mariana Fernandes who suffering from malaria moved by the fame of sanctity of Bl. Joseph Vaz went to confess to him and revealed to him her sad condition. He consoled her and told her to have trust in God, she was immediately cured.He spoke often of the passion of Christ, of the ingratitude of men, of the ugliness of sin, and of the terrible punishment of hell and he always preached these things with sighs and with eyes full of tears.
Blessed Joseph Vaz wanted to set an example of detachment from family ties. Once, after he had joined the Oratory, his eldest brother Pedro Vaz was sick and sent word to him to come home and assist him spiritually. He did not comply with this request but sent a reply, asking his brother to call for the Parish Priest instead. When he was going to leave Goa for Sri Lanka in 1686, he was determined not to return back yet he did not want to see any member of his family, thus proving his total detachment from the world.
After 6 months stay in the Oratory, he set out for Sri Lanka, from Goa, not knowing the distance, how long it would take, what means he would use to enter Sri Lanka. He was determined not to return from there if once he secured the way. Keeping everything secret even from his own mother and his relatives and confreres - it was an act of sheer courage and fortitude on his part to undertake such a journey to an unknown destination, trusting only in God and in Mother Mary to whom he had dedicated himself as a slave.
Fr. Antonio de Ventimiglia, with whom Fr. Joseph Vaz used to make his confession and spiritual direction, affirmed that he had not found in him any grave sin when he heard the general confession of his whole life before leaving Goa for Sri Lanka in 1686.
THE ORATORY - HISTORY:
The Goa Oratory of St. Philip Nery is supposed to be the first native religious community in Asia as well as the first community to Latin rite in the third world. It was very difficult for the Oratorians to get the approval. The application sent by Fr. Paulo de Souza at the behest of Blessed Vaz to Fr. Bartholomew de Quental of the Lisbon Oratory, asking for a copy of the statutes of the Oratory brought a favorable reply by September 1687, when both Blessed Joseph Vaz and Fr. Paulo de Souza had left Goa with Bro. Stephen D'Souza for Mangalore and Sri Lanka. The Superior Fr. Pascoal de Costa Jeremias also died in February 1687. It was left to the new Superior Fr. Custodio de Leitao to follow up with the adaptation and to obtain approval of the Oratory. When the Archbishop of Goa, Dom Pedro da Silva, was approached, he rendered the same to the Jesuit Fr. Francisco Simoes, who was favorable to the idea. But the next Archbishop D. Frei Agostinho de Anunciacao was against granting the approval and put in all hurdles and difficulties. The Cathedral Chapter put its own conditions. Patrimony was made compulsory. The Archbishop reserved for himself the right to appoint a Superior and even the choice of missionaries to go to Sri Lanka was to be done with his consent. There was a time when the Superior and confreres of the Oratory were so desperate that they thought of joining the Jesuits instead.Blessed Joseph Vaz was very much aware of the difficulties, created by the authorities. In his letter dated 25-07-1695 he deals extensively with the problem of approval of the Oratory and consoles his Prefect saying that "Those difficulties, God willing, would lead to greater stability of the Oratory. Anything obtained easily and immediately is held in less esteem, is forgotten and disintegrates soon; but when a gift takes time to come and is the result of intense prayer and trials, it shows how unworthy we are of the divine bounty, and so it is appreciated very much, the object of it becomes solid, lasting and it is adhered to with filial affection, zeal and great esteem". This is what Blessed Vaz wrote to his Prefect.Hectic negotiations went on and finally only on 26th November 1706, that is 24 years after its foundation, Pope Clement XI approved the Oratory because of Bl. Joseph Vaz's courageous apostolate in Sri Lanka.
The King of Portugal gave his approval only on 30th March 1709, 2 years before the death of Bl. Joseph Vaz. The Oratory of Lisbon, Jesuits and Theatines helped them to overcome many difficulties in order to get the Goa Oratory recognized by the civil and ecclesiastical authorities.Under the inspiration of Bl. Joseph Vaz the Oratory produced zealous missionaries of high caliber. The Oratorian Congregation served Sri Lanka for over one and half century and built a dynamic church which withstood persecution and social and political upheavals. Bl. Joseph Vaz can be rightly considered the pioneer of native religious clergy in India, and founder of a native congregation. Unfortunately, the Oratorian Congregation was suppressed along with other Religious Orders in Goa, in 1835. There were 2 lakh Catholics in Sri Lanka on that occasion. The Oratory had supplied missionaries not only to Sri Lanka but also to south India. Madagascar, Indonesia and Africa. Among the missionaries who remained in Sri Lanka after the suppression of the Oratory, two were consecrated Bishops and appointed Vicars Apostolic of Sri Lanka: Bishop Vicente do Rosario Dias and Bishop Caetano Antonio Pereira.
The Goa Oratorian Monastery whose walls are standing today at Old Goa, was slowly added by the Prefects who succeeded Bl. Joseph Vaz after his departure to Sri Lanka and after the death of the Founder Fr. Pascoal. However, Blessed Joseph Vaz had added charitable works for the novices. They had to teach Christian doctrine to the poor who used to assemble at the entrance of the Oratory and then distribute alms from the little they could get for themselves. He wanted his confreres to have full trust in Divine Providence.
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Contact: Rector (Vice Postulator - Goa)
Sanctuary of Blessed Joseph Vaz, 413 Blessed Joseph Vaz Road, P. O. Cortalim, SANCOALE - Goa - 403710-INDIA
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