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Blessed Joseph Vaz: Part 18 – The Last Days and the Death of the Apostle


Myself. 

By T.V. Antony Raj

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Image source: blejosephvaz.wix.com
Image source: blejosephvaz.wix.com.

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During the last months of 1709, Joseph Vaz suffered from a peculiar kind of  fever, which subsided for a short time and then recurred with renewed force. Though  weak, during the periods when the fever subsided he visited the Mission. He went even as far as Kottyar on the southern coast. He had no proper lodging there. Years of continuous work and hardships fatigued him and broke his constitution.subsided he visited the Mission. He went even as far as Kottyar on the southern coast. He had no proper lodging there. Years of continuous work and hardships fatigued him and broke his constitution.

In January 1710, Joseph Vaz became seriously ill and there was no physician to attend to him. As soon as he felt a bit better, sent him off on a bullock cart. After eight days, he reached Mahanuwara.

In the capital, he was given good medical attention. After careful nursing, infections and fever left him, but he was found himself weak. Though he regained a bit of strength, his legs were partly paralyzed.

He asked Father Jacome Goncalvez to come to the capital and entrusted him with the care of the Catholics.

Inspite of partial paralysis, Joseph Vaz never ceased to work. He could no longer go on distant excursions as before. People saw him daily on the streets of the capital, dragging himself in extreme pain with the help of a stick. He visited the sick in their houses.

Every morning sitting in front of his door, he taught children Catechism. When his sufferings did not allow him even to do that, he spent the whole day in prayer.

Though Joseph Vaz recovered, he was weak. From then on, he was unable to leave the Church premises again, but whenever a call came to attend the sick and if Father Jacome Goncalvez or any other priest was not there, then he would immediately set out, but carried in a dooly (a kind of litter suspended from men’s shoulders, for carrying people or things; a modified stretcher).

On one occasion, when the bearers were descending a hill, he fell off the dooly. He was unconscious when the bearers picked him up. They brought him back to the church. He suffered body pain for about four months. He bore his illness with great fortitude.

In spite of his illness, Joseph Vaz undertook eight days of spiritual exercises prescribed by the Oratorian Rule. He considered himself a great sinner. He received the Sacrament of Penance every day as well as Holy Communion.

Joseph Vaz realized that it was time to resign from office, both as Vicar General and Superior. From then on, he spoke of death only.

On January 15, 1711 Joseph Vaz wrote the order of change of charge from him to Father Jose Menezes.

On the morning of January 16, 1711, Joseph Vaz wanted to make his confession. He dragged himself to the church as usual, attended Mass, received Holy Communion and went through his daily spiritual exercises. That day, he requested a stunned Jacome Goncalvez to have the holy oils ready for the last anointing.

When Father Goncalvez anointed him, Joseph Vaz made all the responses to the prayers for the sick and the dying. He kissed the crucifix which Pope Clement XI had sent as a gift to him through Monsignor Charles Thomas Maillard de Tournon, the Papal Legate. He requested Father Jacome Goncalvez to send the Crucifix to the Oratory in Goa.

Fathers Goncalves and Miguel Francisco Ignatius de Almeyda asked Josep Vaz to give them a message that they could etch on their stricken hearts. After a few moments of thought, the dying priest said in Sinhalese:

“Remember that one cannot easily do at the time of death what one has neglected to do all his life. Live according to the inspirations of God.”

Just before midnight on Friday, January 16, 1711, Joseph Vaz expired with Fathers Jacome Goncalves and Miguel Francisco Ignatius de Almeyda, beside his deathbed.

The young King Vira Parakrama Narendra Sinha, greatly affected by the death of his friend, the saintly priest Joseph Vaz declared a three-day mourning. He ordered all Catholics of his Court to attend the funeral. Many Catholics came from Colombo and other parts of Ceylon to attend the grand funeral.

After a solemn funeral ceremony, the body of the great Missionary was laid to rest in front of the high altar in the church he had built on the shore of the Bogambra lake.

Later on, a rumour spread that the Oratorian priests had exhumed the body of Joseph Vaz and had taken the remains to Goa. This distressed the King. However, Father Jacome Goncalves opened the tomb in the presence of a few nobles of the Court and show them that the body was still lying there.

King John of Portugal bestowed the highest praises on Joseph Vaz  in a letter dated April 11, 1726. He called him:

“The model of Missionaries, a great servant of God, and founder of a truly apostolic Mission.”

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← Previous: Part 17 – The Apostle of Ceylon and the New King of Kandy

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Blessed Joseph Vaz: Part 1 – The Early Years


Myself . 

By T.V. Antony Raj

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Blessed Joseph Vaz, the Apostle of Kanara and Ceylon
Blessed Joseph Vaz, the Apostle of Kanara and Ceylon

St. Thomas, the Apostle of Christ brought Christianity to India. For centuries, Christianity remained almost dormant until the arrival of  the missionaries who tagged along with the colonial powers.  Under colonial rule, the Christian faith spread gradually in different parts of India.

In 1510, the Portuguese with the help of Timayya, a local ally, defeated the Bijapur Sultan Yousuf Adil Shah. They set up a permanent settlement in Velha Goa (or Old Goa). Thus, began the Portuguese rule in Goa that lasted until 1961.

By a series of treaties the Vatican delegated the administration of the local Churches to the kings of Portugal. In 1514, Pope Leo X confirmed this arrangement known as the Padroado (English: patronage).

Joseph Vaz

The third of six children, Joseph Vaz (Konkani: Zuze Vaz) was born in 1651 at Pulvaddo, Benaulim in Goa, India. His parents Cristóvão Vaz and Maria de Miranda were devout Catholics. The day Joseph Vaz was born, his father saw a star in the Sky during mid-day and wrote in his personal diary that his son would become a great man.

Benaulim House, where Saint Joseph Vaz was born (Source: joegoauk.blogspot.in)
Benaulim House, where Saint Joseph Vaz was born (Source: joegoauk.blogspot.in)

Cristóvão Vaz belonged to a prominent Goud Saraswat Brahmin Naik family of Sancoale, a village in Goa. This village was once the home of Hindu Saraswat deities. Around 1560, during the Portuguese Inquisition, the Hindu devotees shifted their deities to Veling and Kerim (Ponda).

Cristóvão had his son baptized on the eighth day at the Parish Church of St. John the Baptist, Benaulim by its pastor, Jacinto Pereira.

Young Joseph attended the elementary school in Sancoale. He learned Portuguese in Sancoale and Latin in Benaulim. He was a bright pupil and his teachers and fellow students respected him. When his father noted that he was making rapid progress in his studies, he decided to send him to Goa City for further studies. In Goa, Joseph completed a course in rhetoric and Humanities at the Jesuit College of St. Paul. To further his education, he joined the College of St. Thomas Aquinas where he studied philosophy and theology.

During the early part of the 16th-century conversion to Christianity by the influence of the Portuguese, waned due to several reasons. As a consequence, many Catholics migrated farther south to Kanara.

The Portuguese administration in Goa supported the missionary activities of the Padroado in Kanara. However, the arrival of the British and the Dutch thwarted these activities. The Portuguese were not able to send the required number of missionaries to Mangalore. To keep the flame of faith burning in Kanara the appointment of a Vicar Apostolic of Mangalore was felt necessary. Shivappa Naik, the king of Bednore, wanted a native priest chosen as the Vicar Apostolic. So the Padroado in Goa chose Father Andrew Gomez as the Vicar Apostolic of Mangalore. But before the nomination papers could reach Mangalore, Father Gomez died.

Dom Thomas de Castro (c.1621 – 1684)
Thomas de Castro, titular Bishop of Fussala and Vicar Apostolic of Kanara. (Source: milagreschurchmangalore.com)
Thomas de Castro, titular Bishop of Fussala and Vicar Apostolic of Kanara. (Source: milagreschurchmangalore.com)

Dom Thomas de Castro (c. 1621 – 1684) son of Caetano de Castro and Maria Josefa Picardo was born in Divar,  Goa, in Portuguese India. He was the nephew of Dom Matheus de Castro (c. 1594 − 1677), the first Indian Bishop of the Catholic Church. While in his teens,  his uncle Matheus de Castro, Bishop of Chrysopolis took Thomas to Rome. There the young de Castro joined the congregation of the Divina Providencia or the Theatine Order.

In 1674, Thomas de Castro arrived in India to begin his missionary work.

On August 30, 1675 to remedy the sad plight of the Kanara Catholics, Pope Clement X acceded to the recommendation of Monsignor Sebastiani, the Vicar General of Verapoly. The Pope first consecrated Thomas de Castro as a titular Bishop of Fussala.

On the same day, the Holy See appointed Thomas de Castro,  as the Vicar Apostolic for the kingdoms of Cochin, Tamor, Madurai, Mysore, Cranganore, Cannanore and the Coast of Kanara. He also remained the Vicar Apostolic of the Latin Catholic Archdiocese of Verapoly in present day Varappuzha in Kerala from 1675 to 1684.

However, inordinate delays prevented Bishop Thomas de Castro from taking office.

The  “Deed of Bondage“.

In 1675, Custódio de Pinho, the Vicar Apostolic of Bijapur and Golconda ordained Joseph Vaz a deacon for the Archdiocese of Goa.

In the same year, after a vacancy of 22 years, the Archiepiscopal See of Goa was filled with the appointment of Father António Brandão, S.O.Cist. (Cistercians of the Common Observance) as Archbishop of Goa.

In 1676, Archbishop António Brandão, ordained Joseph Vaz as a priest. After his ordination, Joseph Vaz wishing to live like the poor started walking barefoot. Soon, people started acknowledging him as a popular preacher and confessor. He opened a Latin school in Sancoale for prospective seminarians. on August 5, 1677, Joseph Vaz consecrated himself as a “Slave of Mary,” sealing it with a document known as the “Deed of Bondage“.

Three years after his consecration as Vicar Apostolic, Bishop de Castro came to Mangalore to take office.

The Portuguese Padroado authorities in Goa were in direct conflict with the local Catholic authorities in Kanara belonging to the Sacra Congregatio de Propaganda Fide (Sacred Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith). As such, António Brandão, the Padroado archbishop refused to recognize the appointment of Bishop Thomas de Castro as Vicar Apostolic of Kanara, despite the fact the latter carried the letter of his appointment by Pope Clement X. Archbishop Brandão claimed that the jurisdiction over the district of Kanara to be his by virtue of the Padroado granted by former Popes to the sovereigns of Portugal.

Archbishop Brandão forbade the Catholics of Kanara from having anything to do with Bishop Thomas de Castro appointed as the new Vicar Apostolic of Kanara. This was the first discord in the history of the Catholic Church in India.

Archbishop Brandão died on July 6, 1678. After his death, the Cathedral Chapter of Goa administered the diocese of Kanara.

The Vicar Capitular of Goa appointed Joseph Vaz as the Vicar Forane of Kanara and sent him to assert their jurisdiction against the Propaganda Fide. Vaz was ordered not to submit to Bishop de Castro unless he could adduce his Bull of Nomination to establish his title. Three Goan priests accompanied Joseph Vaz.

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Next → Part 2:  THE CONFLICT BETWEEN PADROADO REAL AND PROPAGANDA FIDE

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Note 1: A titular bishop in various churches is a bishop who is not in charge of a diocese. By definition, a bishop is an “overseer” of a community of the faithful. In the tradition of the Roman Catholic and Orthodox churches, a priest is ordained as a bishop for a specific place. There are more bishops than there are dioceses. Therefore, a bishop who does not functionally head a diocese or archdiocese is appointed, an auxiliary bishop, a papal diplomat, an official of the Roman Curia, or is retired from one of those positions. Such a bishop is often appointed to a titular see.

Note 2: Fussala is a town in the Roman province of Numidia that became a Christian bishopric. The town and bishopric disappeared after the Muslim conquest of the Maghreb, but the bishopric was revived as a titular see of the Catholic Church.

Note 3: A titular see in various churches is an episcopal see of a former diocese that no longer functions, sometimes called a “dead diocese”. The ordinary or hierarch of such a see may be styled a “titular bishop”, “titular metropolitan”, or “titular archbishop”. The term ” titular see” is used to signify a diocese that no longer functionally exists, often because the diocese once flourished, but the territory was conquered for Islam by Jihad, or because of a schism.

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