The feast of St. Andrew is celebrated with great pomp and devotion by the Catholics of Vasco. The celebrations literarily bring life to a halt and every Vascoite is spell bound by the turn of events around the church of St. Andrew. Like other feasts in Goa, the feast of St. Andrew begins with a nine days novenas that become a spiritual preparation of the people for the great celebration. The Bible teaches that it was St. Andrew who brought his brother St. Peter, who will go on to become the first Pope, to Jesus. This act of bringing one’s dear one to Jesus is in a very real way re-enacted in the Parish of Vasco and the Church conducts the nine day novenas with the same end in view. The heart stirring preaching during the nine day Novenas serves to lead the people of Vasco to deepen their relationship with Jesus , our Lord and Saviour. In several real ways St. Andrew becomes the bridge that leads all to Jesus. The feast day continues this mission of bringing our dear ones to Jesus as people of all faith come together to celebrate both spiritually and culturally the grand feast of the port city. The spiritual celebrations begin with early mass that culminates in a solemn feast mass which ends with a majestic procession. The cultural celebrations consist of the feast fair, festive banquets in the homes of Vascoites and traditional tiatr. Vascoites welcome their relatives and friends and host them in their homes with great enthusiasm and the port city rises to tide of joy.
St. John’s Gospels tells us an elaborate story of St. Andrew. It states that St. Andrew was a disciple of St. John the Baptist. It is when Jesus walked by one day that St. John the Baptist pointed out to him and said ‘behold, the Lamb of God’. It was then that Andrew and others decide to follow Jesus. Everyone feels the call to follow Jesus differently and yet the Church of Vasco seems to play the role of John the Baptist during the celebration of the feast pointing an indicative finger to Jesus, the Lamb of God. This is why we may say St. Andrew the Patron Saint of the port city of Vasco becomes a model to follow Jesus. He himself followed the Lamb of God to the point of his death and therefore becomes a great witness to the people of Vasco to continue to walk the way of Jesus with great enthusiasm, fidelity and joy. One can find another interesting parallel in the life of St. Andrew who preached the gospel around the shores of Black Sea. Vasco, the port city has the patron St. Andrew who challenges every catholic to live and proclaim the gospel like St. Andrew who acclaimed: ‘we have found a messiah!’
The answer of Jesus to the question of Andrew , ‘Master where to you live?’ is an invitation to a direct experience or anubhava. We can hear several echoes of this call in the Gospels. ‘Come to me..’ (Math:19:14), and ‘let the children come’(Mk 10: 14) are resonating the clarion call ‘come and follow me and I will make you fishers of men’. St. Andrew lived this call to follow Jesus. he experienced both fullness of the divine and fullness of humanity in Jesus. This is why the feast of st. Andrew is not merely a manifestation of his dramatic life and discipleship but becomes an epiphany as well as a call to the fullness of life offered to all humanity in Jesus. It is an invitation to remain in Jesus. Yes indeed! All Catholics live the life of Christ. But the feast in Vasco, intensifies this call. It is a manifestation of the union between and humans. In port city, the vivid image of sangod that ties two boats together may be an apt image for us Goans to understand the indwelling of the fullness of divine and the human life that is offered to us in Jesus. in a very real way, the feast in Vasco activates God’s loving curve and brings all people of God in Vasco into its embrace. St. Andrew experienced it as well as gave his life to share it with his people.
Like St. Andrew who brought the boy with two fishes and five barley loafs to Jesus and who then fed a crowd of five thousand, the feast of their patron triggers a response of generosity among the people of Vasco. One can find a double dimension to this generosity. It has both divine and human aspects. People become generous to God as well as their fellow brethren. At a time when the Church of Goa has challenged Goan Catholics to become like the good Samaritan , this sharing of our resources, love , care, talents and time finds common rhythm with St. Andrew who gave his life for Christ and his Gospel. It is said that He was martyred by crucifixion in Patras. Tradition has it that he was bound to an X-shaped cross because he deemed himself unworthy to be crucified to the same type of cross as Jesus. Today the X –shaped cross is hailed as St. Andrew’s cross. The symbolism of the cross brings us to the cross roads into the public space and challenges us to reach out in love and care to God’s people of other faiths. Vasco is uniquely blessed with religious diversity. It is challenge to become like St. Andrew and bring the fellow brethren of other faith to Jesus. it is the ever living call to be a fisher of man unto the image and likeness of St. Andrew. This is challenge is not of conversion. Conversion is the work of God. It is a challenge to bring human love, care and goodness to every human person. The great saint continues to inspire the port city and challenges the Catholics to follow Jesus more closely everyday of our life. May St. Andrew pray for us all.