Feast of our Lady of Health – A Display of Social Health of the Village

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2nd Feb is a day of great celebrations for the Catholics of Cuncolim. On this day, the people of Cuncolim venerate with deep devotion and love the holy virgin mother Mary invoked as our lady of Good health. All people of Cuncolim join together to celebrate mother Mary with great pomp and religious fervour. They have a special memory for mother Mary in our life. Like most feasts in Goa, the feast of our Lady of Good health completes the circle of life. It becomes an important event for the people. it at once opens us to the multiple belongings of people of Cuncolim. The Catholics exhibit their deep love for mother Mary as the mother of Jesus while their Hindu counterparts see her as somehow linked to the goddess Santa Durga of Fatorpa. Thus, somehow the bhakti to mother Mary doubles up and relates differently to the catholics as well as Hindus of the village and yet holds them together in their quest for God and humanity. Somehow for ages mother Mary has become a bridge for the two communities in Cuncolim. Festivities bring joy and family to the Catholics and they find new energy and vigour to move on with their life. Maybe the same is true for the Hindus in the area. One might say that it gives people the third eye that enables them to rise above their daily struggles and see the bigger picture of life. This is why one has to agree that the feast of our lady of health in Cuncolim completes the circle of life for all people living there and opens ways of moving forward with their daily rhythm of life.

The feast in Cuncolim becomes an inter-religious event for the people. It has a way of including everyone in the village. There is commingling that produces co-living among the people. Somehow our Lady of Health becomes the rallying point for all people both Hindus and Catholics. In a marvellous way, the symbol of our Lady links the past of the village and keeps history, memory and tradition inter-linked. In our Lady of health, the Hindu brethren see the sister of their deity Shantadurga Kunkollikarin while a sizable section of the Catholics regard deity Santadurga Kunkollimkarin as Mamai Saibin. Thus, beyond official theology, ordinary people have developed alternate theologies to bring solidarity and peace in a village that is marked by wounds of history and has the distinction of leading the first active resistance to the Portuguese colonial empire in Goa. Hence, alongside celebrations of the feast in the Church, there are theologies and beliefs that also animate the celebration for the people of Cuncolim. But these theologies may not be compatible with mainstream theologies of the people. Some may even point out that there is a caste virus that is inflicting those popular theologies and beliefs. What we have animating them is not Mariology but what may be called Mario-phany that is grounded in the experience, history, culture and tradition of the people of Cuncolim. One can clearly trace one-ness and difference living together at the same time.

The celebration of Cuncolim becomes therefore a celebration of unity in diversity, a true living of the marvel of one-ness and difference. We may not understand this with the strict structure of the ‘either / or’ logic that governs our thinking and being. We need to embrace an expansive ‘ And/ both’ way of thinking that can be traced in integral modes of thought like the ‘ ying/yang’ , advaita , acintya bheda bheda tattva etc. These modes of thinking lead us to think together polarities and hold them in an embrace of healthy tension that does not dissolve one pole in the other. Today we need this mode of thinking badly in an environment that chiefly privileges monological and homogenous thinking that privileges one pole over the other. The feast in Cuncolim inspires us to reopen the rigid boundaries that are drawn by narrow, bigotry-laden, exclusivist politics that has taken control over our life in our country. This is why the inter-religious festivities in Cuncolim had to become intra-religious and take away the sting of divisions, caste, rivalries and saw the seeds of love, harmony and peace for all in Cuncolim. It is indeed a huge challenge to rise above the dualisms and monisms that govern our social and political lives.

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The celebration of our Lady of health brings peace and health to all people. The embrace of our Lady of Health in Cuncolim transcends the Catholic community and embraces the Hindu brothers and sisters in the village. She seems to be holding all the people of Cuncolim into her embrace. This is why we cannot undervalue her presence in Cuncolim. She teaches solidarity, peace and healing. Hence, her feast unites the entire village of Cuncolim. It is a powerful example of solidarity that irrupts almost spontaneously under the weight of history and tradition. The co-mingling of popular theologies that often guide people more powerfully alongside orthodox theology and faith is an important instance for study and understanding. In all this one thing stands shining, the expansive embrace of Mother of God. May this expansive embrace of our Lady of Health assist us all to widen the width of our embrace and relate to everyone in our society. May we find one-ness and difference that is inscribed in the feast in Cuncolim and embodied in the triune God of Catholic faith, maybe the way of our life. May the Bhakti marga that we walk in Cuncolim enkindle divine light into our life and become our Jnana marga so that we may be enabled to walk the Karma marga of our life bearing fruits of peace, harmony and love to all. May the third eye of faith illuminate and guide our life.

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Hypocrisy is the tribute that vice pays to virtue.

- Fr Victor Ferrao