5 lesser known facts about Goa’s only saint, St Joseph Vaz

Goa’s Catholics keep alive the legacy of the saint through devotions and prayers
Our Lady of Health Church, Sancoale
Our Lady of Health Church, SancoalePicture Courtesy: Rohan Fernandes

There's one major common factor between the Catholics of Goa and those of Sri Lanka, and that is the devotion and love of the people towards St Joseph Vaz. Joseph Vaz, was born in the village of Benaulim, in South Goa. He carried out a lot of missionary work and help spread Christianity in this part of the globe in the 17th century.  

Not only in Goa, but also people in Sri Lanka, follow the saint whole-heartedly.

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The novenas of the St Joseph Vaz commence in January each year, and culminate on the feast day, January 16.

Many devotees visit the saint’s paternal home in Sancole, South Goa, while others visit the ruins of Nossa Senhora de Saúde. It is here that the saint is said to have signed the 'Deed of Bondage' -- offering himself as a 'slave' to Blessed Virgin Mary.

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The saint is often depicted holding a crucifix in his hand, and the sun and moon around him. In addition to that, you can also find the mitre and crosier (both are part of the attire of a Catholic bishop) on either side of the saint.  

Here are 5 interesting lesser known facts about the saint and his devotion.

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Friday, is an important day of the week associated with this saint as it is believed that the saint was born, baptized and died on a Friday. Therefore, you will find devotees attending mass on the second Friday of every month.

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It is said that when Kandy (in Sri Lanka), was hit by the drought, the king of Kandy invited a Catholic priest (Joseph Vaz), to pray to the God for rain. On this order, the St Joseph Vaz (a priest at the time) went and surmounted an altar in the middle square and erected on it a great cross and prayed. Soon after, the rain began to pour and the streams began to fill up!  

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Catholics in Goa and Sri Lanka have great devotion to the saint. There is a school in Sri Lanka which is named after him – Joseph Vaz College of Wennappuwa, which was founded by the Marist Brothers in the year 1933. Similarly, in Goa, there are many schools and also a college named after the saint.

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Born in Goa, he is Goa's only saint. Joseph Vaz spent many years working as a missionary in Sri Lanka. He disguised himself and went around preaching the Word of God in Buddhist-dominated Sri Lanka, hence becoming Sri Lanka's first Catholic saint.

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The British MP, Keith Vaz, is said to be a distant relative of the 17th century missionary, Joseph Vaz, who was canonised in 2015.

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