Towards the end of November, it’s almost a ritual among Goan families to visit Old Goa for the novenas of St Francis Xavier. The Spanish saint, affectionately known as ‘Goycho Saib’ in Goa, holds great reverence among various communities in the region.
This year the annual celebrations of the feast will commence with the maddi on November 24, preparations for which have started.
The feast of the saint, usually observed on the Saint’s death anniversary December 3, will be celebrated on December 4 (Monday) this year.
“December 3 is not just the first Advent Sunday, but also marks the beginning of the new liturgical year,” Rector of the Basilica of Bom Jesus, Fr Patricio Fernandes pointed out, adding that the bishop of Baroda, Rev Sebastiao Mascarenhas, will be the main celebrant at the feast mass.
To make the Eucharistic celebrations more meaningful and to help reflect on people’s lives and the times they live in better, each year a theme is selected.
“This year it’s ‘Like St Francis Xavier, let us do what Jesus did’. The theme always synchronizes with the pastoral letter and we also take into consideration what the Holy Father has talked about which is incorporated in the letter,” Fr Fernandes said.
Thousands will gather under the pandal erected in front of the Basilica of Bom Jesus, Old Goa, to experience the profound essence of spirituality. With about eight masses scheduled throughout the day, the atmosphere is filled with a sense of prayer.
Over the years, two deaneries have been allotted masses on each day of the novena. Something special about this year’s celebration is that four deaneries are being allotted masses on a single novena day.
“Some deaneries are pretty large and we had a problem last time. Sometimes there are thousands of people and nearly about 20-30 buses come in, making even parking an issue, so we decided to divide them into categories A, B and C,” Fr Fernandes mentioned.
The novenas will begin on November 25. This year there will be a 15-minute gap between each mass. Timings for daily masses are 6am, 7.15am, 8.30am, 9.45am, 11am, 3.30pm, 5pm and 6.15pm (English). On the feast day, masses will begin as early as 3.45am followed by masses at 5am, 6.15am, 7.30am, 8.45am, 10.30am (Feast mass), 1pm, 2pm, 3pm, 4pm, 5pm and 6pm (English).
Masses will be streamed online and be available on the Basilica’s and the Archdiocese’ YouTube handles and some even telecast on Goan media channels. There will be vernacular language masses and daily adoration, intercessions, confessions and rosary.
St Francis Xavier has been a spiritual guide for many across the globe who visit Old Goa all year through to pray at the mausoleum where the Saint’s sacred relics are preserved. He is the saint often remembered during natural calamities and through his miracles and life many have gone on to strengthen their faith.
Goa is also preparing for the decennial exposition of St Francis Xavier, where the mortal remains of the saint will be bought down and placed for veneration next year from November 21, 2024 to January 5, 2025.
Speaking on this Fr Fernandes said, “There’ll be prayer services, adoration. Now every year we have pilgrimages from surrounding parishes that come to this place (Old Goa), we may have parishes from over Goa come here each one individually. So that’s a possibility. These things will be decided prior to the exposition and we need to see if they are feasible. There’s time for that but preparations are on. There are also plans on having painting competitions on the life of St Francis Xavier and I also encourage tiatrists and others to compose songs on the exposition.”