The Feast of St Francis Xavier, a celebration of the spirit of Goa

The Event of the feast of St. Francis Xavier engages Goans of all walks of life. Life somehow becomes intense and Goans flok to Goa to pay their homage to Gocho Saib. This year there is an added joy as Goans are allowed to congregate after the covid-19 disruption. Goans feel relieved and excited to join each other to celebrate the feast of their beloved Saint. People from surrounding areas of Goa also come on a pilgrimage to pay their homage to the great Saint. Several of them do their penitential walking pilgrimage. The saint has a way of attracting tens of thousands to his feet. There is a sense of spiritual tranquillity in the air. People come to pray for their several needs. All of them have great confidence in the Goycho Saib. Besides, the spiritual dimension of the novena which is centred around the holy Eucharist and the Word of God ( orthodoxy), we have concrete practice of some people who have chosen to live their love for the Saint and fight to protect the precious heritage around him ( orthopraxis). Both this practice of Orthodoxy and orthopraxis transform us into an ortho-community. We can see how the authorities concerned have revoked the permission granted to the structure that is threatening to destroy our Goan Heritage. Maybe victories like this lift up the spirits of Goans and their devotion and trust in Goycho Saib as protector of Goa and Goans is ratified. The fact that elections are round the corner, it makes the Goan think that victory over the heritage protection has rung in the Goan moment to take responsibility and fight for the Goa that he/she loves. There is a growing sense that the protector of Goa and Goans will not orphan Goans this time. Hopes that were damp and almost had eclipsed have begun to brighten.

Although in his life we may say that St. Francis Xavier was an accidental Goa in death he become Goycho Saib the protector of Goa. St Francis came as a substitute missionary in place of a sick companion Bobadilla but God and the people of Asia and Goa made him (un)subsitutable . He was a man in a hurry. His love for Jesus Christ and his compassion for the people knew no bounds. In Goa, he served the sick in the hospital and evangelised the children in the surrounding villages. His missionary labours bore fruits, the children brought their parents to him and several Goans were baptised. It is said that he was disillusioned with the quality of Christian life of the Portuguese authorities and merchants in Goa and did not stay in Goa for long. He travelled down south and worked with the poor fishing community and converted them enmass. His missionary sojourns in Japan, Malacca and Moluccas are well known. His thirst for missionary work led him to sail to China but as God would have it he did not reach his covetous destination. He died on the island of Sancian looking at China, the land of his dreams. With the name of Jesus on his lips, he gave his life in the hands of God. God rewarded him for his great sacrifices and heroic life and his body remained incorruptible and completely fresh. It was brought to Goa via Malacca and now his sacred relics are venerated by tens and thousands of people in the Basilica of Bon Jesus in Old Goa. He was beatified in October 1619 and canonized on March 12th 1622 along with Ignatius of Loyola.
The letters of St Francis Xavier and hagiographies of his life ignite the faith of Catholics down the centuries. They present his heroic life of profound spiritual depth. He lived the Jesuit charisma of contemplative action and magis to perfection. He followed Ignatian dictum that exhorted the Jesuit to enter through the door of the people but brings them out through the door of Christ. He worked hard to multiply his effect and influence by influencing the influential. But in all things, he displays matchless trust in God’s providence. We can look at the life of St. Francis as a spiritual journey. It had its ups and downs. He did display a misunderstanding of the ways of the people of the east. We may have issues with his theology of mission and consider our own more enlightened. Yet we cannot take away from him his sheer courage, his deep faith, all-embracing compassion and profound zeal for missions. He is certainly a man of his times but continues to be the saint for our times. Several of his battles still remain un-fought. His struggle against caste and moral degradation continues to challenge all Catholics even today. He seems to be telling us in silence that we cannot serve Christ and Caste at the same time. We are still challenged to shun aside both moral as well as practical relativism today. He continues to unite us in Old Goa and challenges us to live in harmony and peace with all as well as the protector of Goa challenges us to work hard to protect our precious Goa. His presence in Goa and his heroic saintly life continues to draws us all to God, the Gospel and to Goa. May Francis Xavier continue to Pray for Us all. Happy feast to all!

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Hypocrisy is the tribute that vice pays to virtue.

- Fr Victor Ferrao