The main celebrant of this year’s St Francis Xavier Feast, Archbishop of Delhi Anil Couto, in his homily, said that in today’s world it takes a lot of courage to live a life contrary to the prevailing materialistic, consumerist and hedonistic culture that does not believe in eternal values but considers the gratification of all sensual appetites as the primary and most important value.
Archbishop Couto was delivering a homily at the concelebrated high mass of the feast of St Francis Xavier in the massive shamiana at The Basilica of Bom Jesus at Old Goa on Monday. Archbishop of Goa, Filipe Neri Ferrao and Bishop Barreto of Sindhudurg, were among other celebrants.
Archbishop Couto further said that individualism, selfishness and greed are the pillars on which present culture is based adding that ‘end justifies the means’ is the basic slogan today.
"In the midst of such a situation, Christians are called to live another set of values – the values of the Kingdom of God which Lord Christ has proclaimed. They are the sure ways to eternal life and a witness to the truth of all that Christ has taught. St Francis Xavier gladly embraced the path of the kingdom of God and so has become a model of Christian discipleship for all of us. As we celebrate the 460th anniversary of his saintly death are we ready to say the same "yes" to Christ as he did, although in our own different contexts? Let us look deep into our hearts for the answer, for it lies there," Archbishop Couto said.
In his homily, the Archbishop further said, "We have gathered here today in this magnificent and historic church of Bom Jesus to celebrate the feast of our dear St Francis Xavier whose holy relics we are privileged to preserve in this church where, for over four centuries, devout pilgrims from India and abroad have thronged year after year to participate in the holy mass and seek the intercession of this great missionary saint in all their needs. We thank God for the gift of St Francis Xavier to India at large and to Goa in particular and pray that, as we venerate his relics and seek his favours, we also keep him before us as a model of true Christian discipleship."
Meanwhile, crowds of devotees were found rushing to The Basilica of Bom Jesus at Old Goa as early as 3 a.m on St Francis Xavier feast day on Monday, the volume of which was never witnessed before, Basilica officials said.
It took nearly two hours to calm the crowd as the concelebrated mass proceeded. Faithful, cutting across community lines, paid reverence to St Francis Xavier well known as ‘Goencho Saib’ in Goa. An usher, Mr Menino said that the 4 a.m mass must have attracted a crowd of approximately 18,000 devotees spilling onto aisle separating the rows of chairs.
Devotees see Goa’s patron saint St Francis Xavier as a benevolent protector who will be with them in times of the worst calamities and good times too.
Mr Martin Rodrigues, with 35 devotees, all set to return home, trudged the 115 km from Hindgaon village in Chandagad taluka between Sawantwadi and Belgaum to Old Goa making three stops on the way. This pilgrim movement was started by reverend Fr Prabhu Dhar with seven people 25 years ago.
At Aagra others join them, says Mr Basel Coutinho and "by the time we arrive in Old Goa there are over 100 devotees in our group. We wait for this moment every year."
Says Mr Martin, a seaman, "among us, there are stubborn elderly people who will only travel by foot and walk for three days. We see real miracles taking place."
Pointing to some of the pilgrims, he said, "their legs swell, muscles get crammed, they just can’t walk any further, but as we get on to the Divar-Old Goa ferry, our limbs are back to normal. This occurs very year."
"We are here to pay our respect to the Goencho Saib. He has cured our families from various sicknesses, gave us good jobs and healed us. Those who were not married found their match while making the pilgrimage, Goencho Saib has done too much for us," the Aagra pilgrims voiced in unison.
"In the past few years, we are joined by people from Sanquelim, Valpoi, and Bicholim. They wait for us with smiles and share with us their food," says Mr Basel. There were stories of faith and determination by people from Belgaum, Castlerock, Satris and Pune. They were packing up to leave.
The Spanish mass, was celebrated by Fr Jorge Williams, a Jesuit priest from Cuba. In his homily, he said that it is well known in Spain that St Francis Xavier withstood all the challenges and worked for the love of Christ. [NT]