Art and Culture
St. Francis Xavier, Patron Saint of Goa
- Category: Goan Saints and those awaiting Sainthood
- Created on Monday, 13 August 2012 16:12
ST. FRANCIS XAVIER,
FRONTLINE JESUIT MISSIONARY
AND PATRON OF GOA
by Prof.(Miss)Anne Menezes of Goa
This account is taken from the souvenir brochure of the XV Solemn Exposition of the relics of St. Francis Xavier
21 Nov. '94 to 7 Jan. '95 in Old Goa, India,
Notes from GOACOM:
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Saint Francis Xavier Biography
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Old Goa, once resplendent in glory as the seat of government and the centre of Christianity during the Portuguese regime, lost its importance after the plague when the capital was shifted to Panjim (also written Panaji). Despite its numerous edifices, some still impressive and others in a state of shocking disrepair and even in ruins, it now presents an air of desertion. Since Liberation (1961), however, it has become the haunt of tourists, both Indian and foreign, who come to admire the intricate architecture, and especially to visit the Born Jesus Basilica and its precious contents, either as devotees or from mere curiosity.
Nevertheless, the whole scenario is transformed overnight during the annual novenas and feast of St. Francis Xavier. Pilgrims converge on the Basilica from distant Kerala and Tamilnadu, from neighbouring Karnataka and Maharashtra, as well as from the remotest corners of the Peninsula, and even from far-flung countries and climates. In bygone years, when the Masses were celebrated inside the Basilica, the congregation was too vast and would overflow into the corridors and courtyard. To make the Eucharistic celebration more meaningful, since 1983 beneath a protective shamiana an altar is erected outside the Basilica and seating accommodation provided, to enable a larger crowd to participate with greater fervour. This crowd reaches its culmination on the feast day when all roads in Goa lead to the Basilica. Thousands that flock to Old Goa make a mockery of the transport system, that is grossly inadequate to cope with the rush. Even the Police Force has to be pressed into service to restore children, lost in the stampede, to their distraught parents. The gardens and wide open spaces that are usually deserted are, during these days, crowded with pilgrims representing the whole mosaic of Indian races and religions.
Why do these thousands come annually to the tomb of St. Francis Xavier making such a tremendous sacrifice of time, money and comfort? To comprehend his charisma and dynamic contribution to the Church, we must examine his activities and their influence on the Church, and more specifically on his successors, the Jesuits.
16th Century Background
In the sixteenth century both Church and Europe were in the melting pot. The conquest of Constantinople by the Turks, the spread of Renaissance into Western Europe bringing with it the ideal of a new paganism that, while pretending to emancipate the thought, gave free rein to the passions of people so that worldliness invaded even the sanctuary, and the invention of printing had all combined to throw Europe into a revolutionary ferment in the religious and political spheres. Add to this the Reformation which exposed moral laxity and the astonishing incompetence of those in high offices in the Church, whilst the neo-pagan currents of the new learning bred contempt for her authority and teachings, and brought an end to the age of unquestioned obedience and loyalty.
However, with her God-given wonderful resilience, her superhuman gift of retaining the good and discarding the evil in every movement, the Church would tackle this new threat as deftly as others in the past. Has Jesus not promised to be with His Church until the end of Time, and safeguard her from the forces of evil? In accordance with this assurance He raised up Ignatius Loyola, founder of the Society of Jesus, which was destined to exercise and through them play a unique role in the renewal of the Church. To the first nucleus of this "least Society of Jesus" belonged the young and ambitious Francis Xavier. Both Ignatius and Francis, like Saul turned Paul, were diverted from their respective plans and ambitions by God's Providence. Ignatius' promising military career was cut short at the siege of Pamplona, and Francis' brilliant academic achievements and the dream of winning laurels in this sphere were channelled into another glorious saga, undreamt of even by him.
God's Dream For Francis
In March 1540 when King John Ill of Portugal asked for six Jesuits to be sent to India, Ignatius could spare only two, viz. Simon Rodriguez and Nicholas Bobadilla. At the last moment, the latter being too ill to undertake the hazards and rigours of the voyage, Francis Xavier, Ignatius' own secretary at the time, was requested to step into the breach, which he accepted with alacrity. Thus began a service that would serve as a model and inspiration to his successors. Accordingly, on 7th April 1541 Xavier sailed from Lisbon. The voyage was terrible in its sufferings and trials. What with the roughness of the seas, the unsanitary conditions on board, the ravages of disease in some parts enroute which provided Francis with valuable opportunities for the exercise of his missionary and charitable spirit, after sailing for thirteen months instead of six, he finally landed in this our own "Golden Goa", God's priceless gift for Goa and the East!
The Indian Scenario
What did Xavier find on arrival? Immorality and irreligion held undisputed sway in the city. Away from the gross profligacy of the European rulers back home, Francis' heart was sorely grieved by the idolatry he found in India. Besides, no sanctity of civil or religious contracts was respected; murders and robberies were rampant, and justice was sold to the highest bidder; luxurious living, easy gratification of the passions, absence of the Portuguese wives who refused to come to India had loosened the domestic tie, and homes were indistinguishable from brothels. The unedifying conduct of the Christians prompted Xavier to repeatedly cry out that the Christians were the worst enemies of Christianity. Exterior ceremonials were observed with the greatest pomp but the spirit was wanting, and the Eucharist and other Sacraments, which hold the central place in Christian worship and life, were in absolute neglect throughout the Diocese.
Xavier realised that money generated a lot of corruption. Slaves, who had been imported from Africa to work as domestics, were used for sexual gratification and kept as concubines. Portuguese officials cheated by retaining in the salary registers the names of those who were already dead. Francis would tackle all these vices with great tact, understanding and love, and thereby win over most people to a life of integrity and honesty.
"All things to all men"
Having left his kin and country behind like the Patriarch Abraham, Francis set himself resolutely to plant God's Kingdom in the distant East. Once he put his hand to the missionary plough, Francis never looked back. He immediately realised that his first task was to tackle the reprobates. Following the Pauline method, he became all things to all men that he might be instrumental in the salvation of all. He had acquired a suppleness of spirit that enabled him to play such a part to perfection. Xavier fraternised with all - soldiers, sailors and merchants. His versatility would keep them from malicious gossip, and the practice of swearing, deceiving and quarrelling gradually disappeared, and many a rake was lured to reform. With licentious officers and merchants who had converted their homes into harems, he was equally considerate: through persuasion he convinced them to change their lives, which they did.
But if he could dine with the worldly Francis could equally suffer with the populace, fast with the ascetic, discourse science and philosophy with the learned. Hospitals were his favourite places of visit to relieve pain or share it. He acquired this quality at the hospital in Venice where he made the beds, bandaged the wounds, buried the dead whose graves he personally dug, washed the rags of beggars, and even sucked the pus of a patient suffering from syphilis to conquer his revulsion. Such was the extent of his self-abnegation in order to be completely at the service of all.
Catechist par excellence
His greatest forte, however, was the teaching of Catechism. Ardent believer in the apostolate of children, Xavier would gather them in the church, instruct them by singing his lessons to lively tunes of his own composition, and then send them home to teach the same to the family members. Thus children played a prominent part in his missionary labours by becoming active collaborators in his apostolate. This practice of teaching catechism to the children gave rise to parish schools, which was a great boon at that time as there were no primary schools. In these parish schools instruction was combined with the teaching of vocal and instrumental music. This brought force to the remarkable musical talent which distinguishes the Goans. Xavier also appointed Catechists for each village to explain the Faith, and to act as sacristans. They would assemble the Christians on Sundays, baptise in case of necessity, and keep the registers of births and deaths.
Similarly, when Xavier moved further South, he organised the Paravas of the Fishery Coast who were pearl divers. They sought Portuguese protection against their Muslim foes, and in gratitude for this protection had embraced Christianity en masse. However, a shortage of priests and catechists reduced their instruction in the Faith almost to nil, and hence they were just nominal Christians. On his arrival on the scene Xavier not only organised their instruction on a regular basis, but also protected them from exploitation by the King of Travancore, who wanted the Paravas to pay annual revenue for pearl fishing, even when there were no pearls to fish. Thus, with his burning zeal to bring people to Jesus Christ and the Church through Baptism, Francis devoted his time and energy to preaching Jesus, preparing the people for Baptism, and then strengthening them in the Faith. But wherever he went he had a holistic approach in tackling material and social problems like injustice, debauchery, alcoholism, whilst healing spiritually those caught up in such vices.
In Kerala Francis Xavier encountered the St. Thomas' Christians who, unlike the Portuguese, preserved a high sense of Christian virtue. The Church here retained sufficient vitality to prevent the leakage of its members, none of whom were known to have gone back into Hinduism or crossed over to Islam. These belonged to the Chaldean rite. Among them were merchants who traded in pepper, and were cheated by the Portuguese. Xavier took up the cudgels on their behalf and got redress from the King of Portugal.
Xavier, however, was more preoccupied with the Christian converts left by the Portuguese. The soldiers went about grabbing their lands and making them prisoners. They baptised the natives without any reverence for the Sacrament, and without catechizing them or instilling in them Gospel values. Most of these converts were probably Muslims and lived in the coastal regions of Gujarat, Konkan, Malabar and even Arabia. As Xavier was anxious that Christianity should make a difference in their lives, he launched a programme of social reform. He moved from village to village maintaining close contact with the neophytes. He healed their sick, baptised their new-borns, catechized the children as well as the adults, gave counsel and settled differences. He saw that drink (arrack) was their besetting weakness, and took steps for its suppression and eventual abolition.
Xavier's Involvement In Education
But perhaps Francis Xavier's greatest contribution was in the field of education, an activity that is being pursued by the Jesuits with great vigour and enthusiasm. just before Xavier's arrival in India the college of St. Paul was founded in Goa in 1541. This college was offered to him soon after his arrival because of his academic achievements, but Xavier was reluctant to accept a non-Jesuit institution with no infrastructure. However, it finally passed into Jesuit hands in 1549. Its aim was to give. a solid Christian formation to the young men from Africa and Asia who would then return home as missionaries. St. Paul's soon became the pioneer of a series of similar institutions directed by the Jesuits in Thane, Bassein, Cochin, Quilon and elsewhere. These schools were meant as training-ground for the propagation of the Faith. Admission, therefore, was selective. Sons of men of rank were chosen because they would eventually wield influence, and consequently, through their being well taught and grounded in the Faith, more fruit was likely to be produced.
St. Paul's was the first Jesuit college meant exclusively for externs or non-Jesuits, and initially imparting only elementary education. Then the controversy arose whether Jesuits should have similar institutions, or exclusive apostolic schools. Finally, the decision was in favour of the former, and thus the career of the Jesuits as the school-masters of Europe began in India. In time St. Paul's became an important institution of higher education, even known as a University, with a few thousand students on its rolls. Courses were conducted in Arts, Philosophy and Theology, and the first publication to issue from the printing press in India was a list of philosophical theses printed at St. Paul's in 1556, the year of Ignatius' death.
In Xavier's Steps
Following this tradition, Jesuits have always been foremost in the field of education. What contributes to their success is the ongoing evaluation of their institutions. Because of the accusation of their being elitists, their recent decision is an option for the poor. One example of this effort is Hayden Hall which some twenty years ago, made its preferential option for the many with shattered dreams. An extension of St. Joseph's College, Darjeeling, it provides an integrated approach to human development. It endeavours to meet the minimum basic human needs of hundreds of thousands of less privileged families in the towns and villages of the district. Some of the time, resources and personnel are invested in the lives of those whose minds cannot be mended and bodies cannot be repaired. "These serve as a precious reminder of the bleeding, broken body on the cross, not only two thousand years ago, but also today - a body crushed and crucified like the billion starving and malnourished people that poverty bends down each night, because too few across the world have the hunger to feed them."
At the Jesuit Educational Association's Triennial Seminar held in Bombay in 1992, Fr. Jose Murickan S. J. pointed out that Jesuit educational efforts are not sufficiently "outward looking nor are they geared towards challenging and transforming the existing system of education and structures of society." Fr. Rudi Heredia, S. J. drew attention to the dialectical tension that exists between the charismatic and the institutional, and stressed the need for discernment to make this tension creative and challenging, rather than inhibiting and frustrating. Such valuable and pointed criticisms from the very ranks of the Jesuits are indispensable to effect dynamic changes in the system, and to prevent it from becoming fossilized.
As part of the celebration of the 4th centenary of the founding of the Society of Jesus some impressions were invited from lay collaborators working in Jesuit institutions in different parts of India. On the whole the Society came in for a lot of praise and admiration. As teachers and educational administrators they are "steeped in Indian culture, manners and mores. They are largely innovative, inspire admiration, dedication, are committed, exemplary, excellent educationists." However, their main fault seems to be a disinclination to share responsibility. They are also authoritative, not sufficiently appreciative of lay expertise, and "the relationship between the lay faculty and the Jesuits is predominantly an intellectual and management one, rather than an effective one."
Xavier's Dialogue With Buddhists
Thanks to his brilliant University education Xavier could hold learned conference with the sages of the East - the Hindu Brahmins of India and the Buddhist Bonzes of Japan, and thereby win respect for his wisdom and scholarship. Francis' knowledge of the natural sciences won the admiration of the Japanese. He would begin his discussions with the marvels of creation, especially the creation of man, and end with the Creator and the final goal of human life. The Bonzes realised the futility of further arguments with this savant who answered all their questions and ridiculed their fallacies. Thus Buddhist monks and nuns left their monasteries and exposed the immorality that prevailed within. Soon the whole place was in a state of ferment. The more the Bonzes opposed the teachings of Francis, the greater the number of conversions. Thus the dialogue with other religions which Xavier initiated has been continued in India through the ages especially by the Jesuits, and has reached its culmination today.
Jesuits and Inculturation
St. Mary's Indian Academy is one of this century's attempts at relating Christian theological studies to the Indian religious realities. It has dealt with questions on sociology, culture, history, philology, and the great religions of India. In 1926 a course on Hindu philosophy was started, and in the same year the study of regional languages were made obligatory. Consequently research papers, seminars and public discussions proliferated. Pamphlets and other publications aimed at giving even the lay person a basic knowledge of Hinduism.
Similarly, in the heart of the Hindi belt, i.e. near Benares Hindu University is 'Maitri Bhavan'. In 1992 its Institute for the study of Religions was officially opened. Its plan is to research into the history, growth of life of the various religions, for the removal of all prejudices and superstitions. It will also have a specific religious dimension as it plans to teach prayer and meditation methods, offer facilities to learn the living religions through practical living, and conduct courses on the history and growth of religions in their socio-psychological settings.
Another example of inculturation is the attempt by Swami Shilananda who, clad in his saffron robes, could easily be mistaken for a Hindu ascetic. He is really a Spanish-born Jesuit priest, formerly known as Angelo Benedetti, having an ashram in Bhavnagar district, Gujarat. At his 'Tapovan Ashram' he feels that his spiritual life can be meaningful and relevant as a sanyasi (ascetic) living for others. Through his life-style and teachings he is well accepted by Hindu villagers in that area. His main endeavour has been at purifying religion from impure elements like superstition, and spreading values like ahimsa (non-violence), truth, justice, love and forgiveness, which are not only Christian, but also Gandhian. Being fascinated by Indian culture, he learnt Gujarati and Marathi. A keen musician, he learnt Indian music and completed his 'Sangeet Vishrad'. He found the Indian way of praying through chanting bhajans (hymns in adoration or praise of God) a very deep and soul- elevating experience. He also studied Sanskrit and the Indian scriptures, and undertook a research of the Bhagwad Gita and Maratha reformers at Pune University. He conducts 'Satsanga' which he uses as an opportunity to understand the people's faith, and also to communicate his own religious convictions.
Nearer home a similar more "inculturated" missionary approach was initiated much earlier (in mid-forties) in the Belgaum District in Karnataka by Swami Animananda (formerly Fr. Armando Alvares S. J.) of Aldona, Goa, a man of undaunted zeal who faced tremendous odds. Altogether five Jesuits have been engaged in this venture. Having adopted the dress and food habits of the Lingayat sanyasis (ascetics), they have been living in their midst, thus winning their confidence and affection. Differently gifted, these five ascetics of the Goa Jesuit Province - who have a great patron in another Jesuit of the 17th Century, St. John de Brito who lived and worked as a sanyasi in Tamilnadu - manifest an exceptional endurance springing from their ardent commitment to Jesus linked with a deep respect-filled love for the people and their socio-religious culture. They have been in their own way contributing to the educational, economic and social upliftment of their mostly poor Lingayats as also to their spiritual enlightenment.
Because Francis Xavier laboured for only ten years in the East, and because the problems that confronted him were innumerable, he confined his activities to the coastal regions. One of his successors, Robert de Nobili, was the first to carry the Gospel message to the interior of the Indian sub-continent. He adopted the dress and life-style of the Brahmin ascetics. Like them he ate only once a day, his food consisting of a little rice, milk and vegetables. He studied Tamil, Telegu and Sanskrit, and began preaching Christianity in the native language in Madurai with such singular success that, within a short time, he was able to enroll some Brahmins as his disciples.
Today Jesuits are in the forefront of an all-round inculturation, understood more deeply and more broadly: philosophy and theology, spirituality and liturgy, Christian life itself must be inculturated.
Xavier The Intellectual Liaison Between East And West
A man of intense action, Francis Xavier had no time to compile a course on missiology, but his method of approach to the missionary task was intensely modern. Before starting a mission among any people, he would attempt to learn from reliable sources whatever he could of their mental orientation and way of life, their religion and intellectual development, their physical resources and their economy. Thus in 1547 having learnt all about Japan from Anjiro, the young Japanese who became his first Christian from Japan, he got Alvares to write an ample description of the land and its people. This treatise was sent to Europe, the first of its kind in a European language describing the Shinto religion. In Goa he got more information both about the country and its religion, and sent it to Rome and Coimbra, the first treatise in a European language about the birth, life and death of the Buddha. The same procedure was followed in India. Though he studied the language of the two theatres of his labours, viz. Konkani in Goa and Tamil in the Fishery Coast, his attempts to get an insight into philosophical Hinduism proved abortive.
An Exemplary Pioneer
Thus, after a meteoric apostolate which stretched over a little more than ten years, during which time Francis Xavier sailed from Goa down the Fisheries Coast to Sri Lanka and as far afield as Japan, often in very hazardous conditions, he, the missionary pioneer par excellence, laid the foundation to many activities that were later developed and perfected by the Church, and more specifically by the Jesuits. Catechesis, Inculturation, Social Service, Press Apostolate which in Xavier's time was confined to printing and now incorporates the mass media - all these areas were tackled by him for the greater glory of God as tools or part of his evangelising mission.
Sunset In The Land Of Sunrise
Not surprisingly but dramatically and painfully soon came the end of Francis' dreams. With a burning zeal to extend his apostolate to China, which was denied to him, he died on the island of Sancian hankering after an unrealised ideal, with the faithful young Antonio as his sole companion. It was in the early hours of December 3, 1552. Did he die disappointed as we humans would think? Did he look upon his life and missionary enterprise as a failure? "Not interested in personal advancement or prestige, his unsinkable optimism was rooted in profound faith in the God he experienced in his daily life. His voice was that of the prophet. He was truly a man of God, a man of the Church, and a man for others." Thus was portrayed by The Tablet, a Jesuit who, 400 years after Francis, fell in love with Japan and became a very famous modern missionary there and later was called to be the successor of Ignatius of Loyola as the 28th Superior General of the Jesuits: will not Pedro Arrupe agree that what was written of his person describes in an eminent degree the personality of the unsurpassed Apostle of the East? One who with such ardent and undivided loyalty made himself the servant of God and of others, who "gave without counting the cost, who fought without heeding the wounds, who toiled without seeking for rest, who laboured and asked for no reward except to do the will of the beloved Master and Lord" that sent him even if he died at the young age of 46 with an unfulfilled dream, can never be deemed a failure. Rather, as the inscription over the bronze plate depicting the solitary death of Francis on his mausoleum puts it, he appears "MAIOR IN OCCASU" (Greater in Death)! The sun that set on the eastern shores of a lonely island during the dark night of the 2nd to the 3rd December 1552 was surely greater and shone brighter than ever before, and its glow still illumines East and West.
Goa Welcomes The "Saint"
Francis Xavier was proclaimed a Saint along with the beloved father of his soul, Ignatius of Loyola, only on March 12, 1622. But the people of Goa did not have to wait for so many years to acclaim "their saint". It was "the saint" that was triumphally received in Goa on that 16th of March 1554, when the incorrupt and totally fresh body (in spite of having been buried twice in quick lime!) landed in the Old City. But what made the "saint"? Not his miraculous powers nor his exhausting travels and stupendous activity. Gripped by the living God who magnetised him, this unequalled man of action (not just a super-activist killing himself with work) was deeply immersed in the contemplation of the Saving God, the Trinity, not only during his long night vigils, but even through his exhausting arduous days! Hence sprang Francis' total commitment to JESUS, sent by the Father and carrying the cross for the salvation of the human race. So completely was this "contemplative in action", genuine son of Ignatius, burning to be one with the Crucified Saviour that no sacrifice was too great for the continuation of His mission; hence Francis' constant plea for a greater share in the Cross: "More, Lord, more!" Xavier's consuming obsession was that JESUS' life might grow in him through this mystery of "death" and thus burst forth into Life for others, as experienced by St. Paul (2 Cor 4: 7-12; Phil 3; 7-12). Dead to self and fully surrendered to the Spirit for an even fuller identification with JESUS, His beloved Master, "Francis the Saint" is the work of the Holy Spirit who nourished in him his undaunted courage and enthusiasm and led him to daring exploits for the sake of the Gospel. This is the genuine heroic sanctity which radiated from Francis, endearing him to his contemporaries and which still captivates the hearts of thousands of admirers and devotees, especially of us Goans who under no circumstances would forfeit the inestimable treasure of his incorrupt body that God deigned to entrust to our unworthy care.
Our Dear Goycho Saib
Every Goan feels privileged and honoured to consider herself/himself the custodian of this unique treasure. Goans value it more than their personal possessions, and would rather forego a sentimental heirloom than even consider parting with the holy relic. Their very lives are linked inextricably with the remains of the Patron of Goa. Whenever there has been in the past any fear of a calamity, whether natural like an earthquake or a cyclone, or a political upheaval like the merger issue or the language problem, the people have spontaneously appealed to Goycho Saib (the Lord of Goa) to take their fate into his hands and to deliver them through his powerful intercession. And the tremendous confidence which is manifested in his power with God to obtain deliverance is indeed an eye-opener. But this devotion and confidence are particularly manifested annually during the ten days which include the novenas and feast day of our dear Goycho Pai (Father of Goa i.e. of us Goans, as we endearingly love to call the Saint), braving any inconvenience or difficulty. At this time, Goans in thousands flock to the "Old City" to be present at the novenas and/or the feast and to venerate and touch the relics of the Saint. The fact that numerous churches and Institutions in Goa are named after him show how much our Patron is our Model, Inspiration and Protector. Parents too, in deep attachment to him, take great pride in naming their son Francis or Xavier thus placing the child under the care and protection of this Saint. Affluent Goans or those who have risen from the ranks and can afford a car/truck/tempo/bus, or even a twowheeler make it a point to come to Old Goa to have the vehicle blessed and placed under the protection of Goycho Saib, before putting it on the roads. Traders with their wares, and especially fishermen, bring their tools/implements to the feet of the Saint to obtain his blessings on their occupations, and their faith is consequently rewarded. Now that transport is considerably easier, weddings/anniversaries/special occasions are increasingly being celebrated in the Basilica to obtain abundant graces and favours from God through the powerful intercession of St. Francis Xavier. Disputing parties come together to solve their differences at the feet of the Saint. Childless couples beg St. Francis for the boon of a child and solitary bachelors or spinsters for a suitable companion in life. The list is unending... Nor is this love and esteem for our Patron confined to the shores of Goa. Wherever Goans may be scattered they take this precious sentiment with them. Just a handful of Goans are enough, whether it be in England, Africa, USA, Canada or Australia, to make the feast of Goycho Saib an occasion for a royal and memorable get-together. He is the cultural link with the homeland, and the effective class/caste leveller since on this auspicious day every Goan, whatever his position, status, caste, or employment, is an honoured invitee to the feast. If possible, the Mass will be celebrated in Konkani, but, if not, hymns in his honour which make Goan hearts throb will be sung in Konkani. This will be followed by the traditional Goan delicacies accompanied with mandos and dulpods, so that the inextricable tie with the homeland will be maintained. And when these non-resident Goans take a holiday to the native shores, a visit to Old Goa is a priority on their itinerary, for no holiday is complete without paying homage and respect to our Patron, our so deeply revered Goycho Saib, our ever dear Goycho Pai.
The Patron Of Goa Appeals To Goans
Can we remain satisfied with this type of attachment to the Patron of Goa? Xavier urges us to look at the world around, with his eyes and heart. Today humanity lives in a world that is chaotic and even more mind-boggling than in the 16th century. Abusing the rapid progress in science and technology men and women, beset with hedonism and consumerism, seem to have lost their humanity. With the obsession of making a fast buck in order to keep up with the Jones's, corruption has become a way of life, and with impunity the go-getters think nothing of trampling on the rights and emotions of others for personal advancement. The very right to life is denied by thousands of women whose wombs, destined to generate life, have become the tombs of innumerable aborted babies. Human dignity and mother Earth's rights have been trampled upon with increasing indulgence in molestation and rape of humans and of the environment, even by those who are entrusted with the safety of law and order. Family life is disrupted by want of mutual love and respect between wife and husband, and between parents and children. Illicit sexual indulgence is common among adolescents thanks to condoms promoted and cheaply distributed by the Government. Dowry deaths are increasing in a society in which brides are desirable more for what they can fetch than for what they intrinsically are. Human relationships are based on convenience rather than respect for the individual, and care and concern for the other. In the name of euthanasia or mercy-killing those terminally ill, physically disabled or mentally handicapped are eliminated. And old people are promptly dumped into 'Homes for the Aged' as soon as they are no longer useful to the family or society. In this highly tensed atmosphere violence is sparked off at the slightest provocation even between members of the same family sometimes resulting in death, and the Peace which JESUS brought as the fruit of His supreme sacrifice is chased away by our own interior attitudes and exterior actions. Gripped by this terrifying condition of our world at the end of the 20th Century, how would the indomitable Xavier react? How does he expect us, his devotees, to react?
The Christian, and more specifically Goan, response
In this environment the Christian, as every person of goodwill and more specifically every Goan, is called to be a collaborator in the building up of Cod's Kingdom of justice and peace, of truth and love. For us Goans particularly, who acclaim Francis Xavier as our much-revered and cherished Patron, a solemn Exposition of the holy remains of his uncorrupted body is offered by God as a time of great grace: not merely to come to his feet on pilgrimage or to burn many candles and implore temporal or exclusively personal favours, but to respond to a call for a personal and united commitment. In the 1984 Exposition the Saint awakened us and spurred us on to "GIVE THE WORLD JESUS" according to our various states and conditions of life, according to the innumerable types of persons, groups and situations that are so badly in need of JESUS the Saviour. This time he calls and urges us all to stand up for and promote fundamental and most tragically attacked human values, which are thus expressed in the Exposition motto:
In Society: JUSTICE, UNITY, PEACE
-This, truly, is DEEP DEVOTION TO GOD!
So the coming Exposition becomes to us followers of JESUS, devotees of Xavier and all persons of goodwill a real challenge. Our action must definitely begin not in the temples and churches but in that cell that has been called the "domestic church", the Family. In this year dedicated to the Family a concerted effort is called for to maintain or restore and foster in the Family mutual love, respect for life and for the human person at all stages and in all circumstances, mutual concern and harmony. 1 personally believe that none of this can be done without God Himself guiding us through His inspired Word, and without the fan-Lily gathering together for prayer. In an age when the T.V., the video and other electronic devices hardly leave time or taste for prayer and rather contribute powerfully to the erosion of those very values we have to uphold, it is my conviction that all our efforts will be fruitless without sincere and meaningful prayer. Even our family Rosary, among Catholics, rendered more meaningful, can still become a powerful spiritual weapon in the battle we are called to wage.
Through the family, the entire society: for this progressively deep transformation slogans alone won't do, long speeches will not suffice. We must become ourselves persons of deep convictions who value love, life, justice, unity and peace. In public life politics, industry, business, education, medicine, law... - we must prove ourselves persons of total honesty and integrity, shunning corruption in every form, respectful of every individual and group, banishing from our minds and from our socio-religious habits all manner of discrimination based on sex, caste, creed or religion, promoters of peace in a renewed society. "This, truly, is DEEP DEVOTION TO GOD!" Our efforts to reform ourselves and thus to launch unitedly into reforming our society will probably be much more arduous than four centuries ago. But victory belongs to those who, like the Patron of Goa, do constantly surrender themselves to the transforming action of the Holy Spirit of God and thus become invested with power from above for a gigantic superhuman task. Then, surely, the Exposition will not be a mere lip-service to our Goycho Saib. We may not die with a saint's halo, but we shall have lived as genuine imitators of this front-line Jesuit missionary, the beloved Patron of Goa.
Extract from a Letter of St. Francis Xavier
(EX. I, 377)
"Thanks to God it has become the custom in Ternate (Moluccas) for the boys in the streets and the girls and women in their homes, day and night, for the toilers in the plantation and the fishermen at sea, to sing, instead of vain songs, holy chants such as the Creed, the Our Father and Hail Mary, the Commandments, and many other prayers, all in a language understood by all, whether recent converts to the Faith or people still pagans..."