Before the calling – St Joseph Vaz’s childhood
VENITA GOMES|NT BUZZ
Known for many miracles St Joseph Vaz lived a humble life. Through his teachings and practice he touched many. “It is believed that no wish goes unanswered if you ask the saint whole-heartedly to intercede and therefore, the people of Goa have deep faith in him. People today still visit the saint’s home in Sancoale and the church to seek for his blessings,” says Cortalim-based Agustino Dias.
St Joseph Vaz was born on April 21, 1651 at his maternal grandparents’ home in Pequeno-Pulvaddo, Benaulim. Though his home existed long before, during his time it was however demolished and the property was given to the Moniz family who built a new home and have been residing there over the last 200 years. Confirming the same, Vincent Moniz a descendant of the family says: “This was the place where Joseph’s mother Maria de Miranda lived; it was her home. It was also the place where Joseph was born. They had a small house that faced the east. But today the house no longer exists as the Miranda’s migrated to Margao and sold it.”
He refuted many claims that people consider his home as the saint’s mother’s home which is not true. “On the internet there are many pictures and many people consider this as his home which is not the actual thing. This is the place, but the old home was demolished long before. They also say that four-poster bed in the house was where Joseph slept which is false because it had the initials carved showing that it belonged to my Moniz family,” says Vincent.
He then adds that outside his home there is a shrine which was re-built and a statue was erected when Joseph Vaz attained sainthood and till date they offer prayers and a mass is celebrated on several occasions.
The church of St John The Baptist in Benaulim was where Joseph was baptised parish priest Fr Lucio Dias says: “And remembering the same incident we have built a statue at the entrance. Earlier there were pictures of him and now the church is currently under reconstruction, so it’s not quite visible. We do have a morning mass at the church on the feast day and in the evening the mass is at his maternal home. Though there are no records of the baptism with us.”
An interesting symbolic happenstance is that the saint’s birth, baptism and death are marked on exactly the same day of the week in a calendar year. April 21, 1651 (birth) and January 16, 1711 (death) and baptism were all on Fridays which is considered as a re-enactment of Christ’s Friday.
Many devotees today visit the saint’s home in Sancoale at the foot of a hill. The place is now an oratory. Former vice postulator for the cause of St Joseph Vaz, Fr Eremito Rebelo throws light on the Vaz family, he says: “His house at Sancoale was his paternal home. Fr Joseph had brothers and the grandsons all became priests and joined the saint in Sri Lanka. Therefore, there were no traces of the family after that generation. There is an account of one of the Visconde de Bardez, who was the descendants of the Henriques family who came from the line of Joseph’s sister’s family. That’s the last which is known, after that nothing is known of the paternal family.”
Fr Eremito then adds that since his family had no heirs the paternal house came into the posession of his relatives and was sold to the Gomes family and Adolf Gomes was the last of the descendants whose sons are now in the Gulf. “The Gomes family donated the house to the committee for the cause of the saint which is now changed to committee of promotion of the devotion of Joseph Vaz,” he mentions.
If one visits the house today, they can only find a prayer room as the rest of the house collapsed. There is a jackfruit tree planted by Joseph that still stands. In a book, ‘Of Divine Bondage: The Epic Life of St Joseph Vaz’ written by Oscar de Noronha there is an instance mentioned about Joseph and his father. Once, his father pushed the back door inadvertently pressing it against his son who did not whimper; he was found in prayer and that is when his body left an imprint on the door. The door has however gone missing today but this anecdote has been passed on from one generation to the other.
Joseph Vaz was ready to follow and serve the Lord and therefore, he joined the seminary and was ready for his mission. He was told that Catholicism had been at the receiving end of the Dutch Calvinist fanatics in Sri Lanka. However he was made the Vicar Forane of Kanara where he worked and later went to Sri Lanka to carry on his mission, there he selflessly served as a missionary. Today, not just Goans but people of Sri Lanka have deep faith in the saint.