Blessed Joseph Vaz
‘Apostle of Srilanka’ and ‘Patron of Goa’ and the Path of
Blessed Joseph Vaz Shrine
Today, in Colombo, I thank God for enabling me to add my voice to yours in this great symphony of praise, and to rejoice with you for the Beatification of Father Joseph Vaz. This is a day of special happiness for Christ’s followers in Sri Lanka. Today Joseph Vaz, the apostle of Sri Lanka, has been proclaimed one of the Blessed in heaven. Srilanka’s Catholics, with gratitude for all that God has done in the history of his people on this Island, can truly repeat with the Psalmist: “His love for us is strong! His faithfulness is eternal!” (Ps. 118(117):2). Joseph Vaz is rightly considered the second founder of the Church in Sri Lanka. From India he came, a dedicated priest of Jesus Christ, to this land of ancient spiritual traditions, a land steeped in respect for the Sanyasi, THE MAN OF HOLINESS, and THE MAN OF GOD. These are the words expressed by the Holy Father, John Paul II while preaching the homily on 21st January 1995 on the occasion of declaring the Fr. Joseph Vaz as Blessed. In this introduction the Holy Father introduces Fr. Joseph Vaz as Man of Holiness, and Man of God. When we go through the life history of Blessed Joseph Vaz we could ascertain the same.
A Bird’s eye view …one of the greatest Missionaries of Asia…
Joseph Vaz was born on 21 April 1651 in Benovlim, Goa. He was the third son of Christopher Vaz and Maria de Miranda of Goa. He became a priest in 1676 and served in different parishes in Goa till 1681. Later he was sent to Canara. Fr. Joseph Vaz traveled from Goa barefoot. He had served in Honnavar, Basrur, Kundapura, Gangolli, Mulki, Mangalore and finally Ullal – Panir. He was miraculously saved from an attempt on his life in 1684, when he was serving as the parish priest of Panir Church. His sole ambition was to work as a missionary in Sri Lanka. He entered Sri Lanka in 1687 as a labour defying a ban on Catholic priests. He however volunteered to be a missionary in the island of Sri Lanka, then known as Ceylon. The island was under severe religious persecution from the Dutch who at that time ruled the country. Catholic priests were forbidden to preach; it would mean imprisonment and even death if they were caught. Joseph Vaz went to Ceylon disguised as a labourer. He walked the rural paths through the tea-gardens, searching for Catholics, ministering to their needs, instructing them in the faith, regularizing their marriages, baptizing their children, and celebrating Holy Mass in their homes and villages. He was a veritable apostle for the Sri Lanken Church and he renewed the faith which had been badly affected by the persecution. He also converted over 30.000 persons who revered him and embraced the faith. It was in 1693 that the Bd. Joseph Vaz worked a miracle of rain during a drought and the King of Kandy offered him protection and freedom to preach the Gospel in the Kingdom of Kandy. He used the missionary method of inculturation. He composed a para-liturgy in Tamil and Singhala. He educated his servant John to be a priest. John belonged to the Kumbi tribe which at that time was not accepted for priesthood. During a small epidemic in Kandy, the king and other nobles fled; but Joseph Vaz remained ministering to the dying and abandoned victims for almost 2 years. Joseph Vaz finally died in 1711 after 23 years of arduous missionary work in Sri Lanka. In 1713 his cause for beatification was started. If the glories of the altar were denied to this intrepid apostle of the faith for almost 3 centuries, this must be attributed to the colonial mentality of that period. There is little use to lament over the injustice done. Perhaps in God’s providence, this millennium is the appropriate time for Joseph Vaz to emerge as a model of missionary effort in the face of opposition and persecution. Joseph Vaz was beatified by Pope John Paul II in Sri Lanka when he paid a visit to that island.He served in various places in Sri Lanka braving all odds, thus rekindling the Christian faith in Sri Lanka. He died on 16 January 1711.Fr. Joseph Vaz was a courageous soldier of Christ, a dedicated Indian Missionary and a humble servant of God. Recognizing his missionary work Pope John Paul II proclaimed him as Blessed Joseph Vaz in Colombo on 21 January 1995. He is venerated as the `Apostle of Sri Lanka’ and the `Patron of Goa’.
‘Mudipu Miraculous Hill’… ‘Divine intervention’ in the life of ‘Great Blessed’…
Mudipu is a small village 25 km from Mangalore on the way to Vittal from Konaje. It is known for the Blessed Joseph Vaz Shrine on the Mudipu Hill which is about 2 km from the Mudipu Junction. Mudipu was a part of Panir church and later of the Fajir church. However it became an independent parish on 29 June 1997, the only church in India to be dedicated to Blessed Joseph Vaz. Mudipu hill is a place of great importance which has a special history behind it. Fr. Joseph Vaz, worked in Canara from the year 1681 to 1684. It was in 1684 when Joseph Vaz was the parish priest of Panir church, dedicated himself for the ministry of Divine Word, Social Justice and Welfare. He went house to house teaching catechism and serving the poor and the marginalized. This brought great joy to the people and was eagerly looking forward to his coming. But some people were against him and were trying to destroy him and his work. As a result some miscreants took him one night to the Mudipu Hill on the pretext of administering the last sacraments to a dying person. When the miscreants reached the Hill along with Joseph Vaz, an attempt was made on his life. Fr. Joseph Vaz knelt down in prayer when the whole place brightened up and water gushed out from the three holes appeared in the places where Fr Joseph Vaz had knelt along with his walking stick. The enemies escaped. God saved Fr. Joseph Vaz miraculously. The three holes formed that day give witness to the event even today. There is water in one of the holes and there are a large number of recorded cases of healing – physical, mental, emotional and spiritual ailments by the use of the water and through the intercession of Blessed Joseph Vaz. Thus, the place where they tried to harm him and kill him for his faith is marked even today upon the hill at Mudipu. Even today the faithful visit this place with great reverence and devotion and become the ‘Mudipu Miraculous Hill.’
The Path of Blessed Joseph Vaz Shrine… A Remarkable History…
The work of honouring Joseph Vaz was at Mudipu hill began much earlier than he was declared Blessed. The record shows that in the year 1937 an attempt was to build a chapel by Rev. Fr. Salvadore Rodrigues, which was completed later by Rev.Fr. Robert Z.M. D’Souza in the year 1967-1978. The old chapel is no more existing now, but at the same place a new shrine has been built in the year 2000 by Rev.Fr. Alwyn D’Cunha, the 1st Parish Priest of Mudipu Church. Ever since an independent parish came up in Mudipu, a lot of developments have also taken place in a miraculous way. A Shrine was erected and was inaugurated on 6th February 2000. A motor able mud road was made to the Shrine; 14 Bishops have so far visited the Shrine; a record number of devotees throng the place everyday and also participate in the Annual Feast of Blessed Joseph Vaz Shrine on every first week of December. Further, Mass and Novena are conducted on every Friday to help and nourish the faith of the pilgrims and free meals are served to all the devotees on this day cooked by the parishioners themselves.
Thousands of pilgrims come and visit the shrine every day and experience the presence of God and receive lots of favors through the intercession of Blessed Joseph Vaz. Whoever visit this place have a different and unique experience and number of visitors increase day by day. The pilgrims from Srilanka visit this shrine in the month of August and February every year. Lots of pilgrims come from Goa regularly. Besides the Catholics and other communities irrespective of caste and creed are attracted towards the shrine and gain lots of spiritual benefits. To conclude with the words of Holy Father John Paul II who said “May the example of Fr Joseph Vaz speak your hearts; Fr Joseph loved the nation and all its people. He welcomed everyone as a child of God.” May we too love and welcome everyone as a child of God and bring peace and reconciliation, unity among each and everyone. May the servant of Jesus Christ intercede for us.