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Fate, Faith and Friendship

Fate, Faith and Friendship

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Fate, faith and friendship can bring you to the nadir or zenith of life. The journey of Saint Joseph Vaz, a 17th century Goan priest, portrays fate knocking him down, faith as his saving beacon and friendship intertwining fate and faith. Sometimes, the good intention of a friend can spell disaster on an intended path leaving you with only prayers and letting God intervene and lead you through. Till this divine assistance, fate can continue to torment your existence or aspiration.

One such incident in the life of Saint Joseph Vaz occurred on the Fishery Coast of Tuticorin. Father Cosme Costa, the author of the book, Life and Achievement of Blessed Joseph Vaz, informs us that due to the Dutch persecution of the Catholics in Sri Lanka, no Catholic priest was allowed to the visit the island.

Joseph Vaz, acting on the prudent advice of priests working in Tuticorin, decided to disguise himself as a slave to embark on a Dutch ship heading to Sri Lanka.

Waiting for the ship to set sail, he began to beg for alms before a church in the vicinity of the Dutch port. Interestingly, the priest in charge of the parish recognized Joseph Vaz as his companion at St Paul’s College at Old Goa. But aware of his intentions, the priest kept the secret.

Father Costa, whose own miraculous birth was accepted, entitled him to name Joseph Vaz as Blessed—a stage before Sainthood. He added that knowing the significance of Maundy Thursday, the priest at Tuticorin coaxed Vaz to join in the Eucharistic celebration. Although Joseph Vaz was not ready to reveal his true identity as a Catholic priest, as it would ruin his chances to board the ship to Sri Lanka, he celebrated the mass. People discovered that the beggar sitting in front of the church was in reality a priest. This news reached the angry Dutch Calvinist officer, who ordered that without his express permission no one would be allowed to embark on the ship. The officer resolved to personally inspect all the passengers boarding it.

Joseph Vaz in anguish turned to God in prayer for a way out to reach out to the people in Sri Lanka. Within three days the Dutch officer died under mysterious circumstances. The new officer, unaware of the prohibition, allowed Joseph Vaz on board as a poor beggar seeking a livelihood.

This depicts that at times friendship invites fate to intervene, and God leads us on our journey.

There is another incident where friendship rallied with fate on a faith journey of Joseph Vaz. Fleeing from the Dutch occupied territory, Joseph Vaz entered Kandy. A false accusation that he was entering Kandy as a Portuguese spy in the garb of a priest landed him in prison. There was no way to appeal for justice as the word of the king was supreme. Espionage was dreaded in Kandy. No foreigner was allowed to enter the kingdom and if anyone did they were not allowed to get out of the island. Taken by the modesty and meekness of Joseph Vaz, the king ordered him out of rigorous imprisonment and placed him under house arrest. During this time, Joseph Vaz learnt Sinhalese, shared his rations with fellow prisoners, administered sacraments to Catholics, and prayed for rain in drought affected Kandy. His reputation grew when it rained incessantly after his prayers. The king then set him free and afforded him protection and freedom to preach in his kingdom. This is an incident when fate intervened and allowed a friendship to flourish.

Enemies may unite for a common cause. When there is no political, diplomatic or economic advantage or disadvantage, a common ground of faith and friendship takes root in spite of fate. In the end, magnanimous intention congruent with honest action manifests itself in results. This is when friendship turns immortal and faith becomes a guiding example for humanity.

This article was first published in Timeline Goa Magazine Vol 1, Issue 2 (Page 22).

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