Saturday, December 02, 2006

The Feast of St. Francis Xavier: Time Out - Mumbai

December 3 is the Feast of St. Francis Xavier. The December 1-14 issue of Time Out: Mumbai has this interesting, if rather irreverent write up on the events in Goa. (The readership is decidedly upper-class, secularized, Westernized, Indians, so yeas, of course.)

Forget IFFI’s (International Film Festival of India) closing fanfare and head to Old GOa if you want real theatrics on December 3. It’s the Feast of St. Francis Xavier, and hundreds of thousands of devotees will throng the ruined capital of the Estado da India to pay respects to the strident Basque reckoned to have registered more conversions than any other missionary in the history of the Catholic Church. Immediately after death, his body was declared miraculously incorruptible by the Vatican and colonial authorities, and the remains of the “Apostle of the Indies" became a useful politico-religious tool credited with preserving Portuguese rule over this tiny wedge of the Konkan coast. Since then, Xavier has been rapidly absorbed into the India context, the majority of worshipful attendants who file past the half-crumbled remains are Hindus who treat the Jesuit zealot as a kind of all-purpose pir. It would undoubtedly make Xavier bewildered to see this mixed-up congregation gather in his name, but it makes for a great show in a reasonably well-maintained World Heritage site. The one-towered Se Cathedral across the way is still the largest church in Asia, more than four centuries on. The magnificently wrought marble altar that displays the relic is a Florentine masterpiece executed by Giovanni Batista Foggini who took ten years to carve the three tiers of marble and jasper with intricate scenes from Xavier’s life, the commission paid for by the last of the Medicis, Cosimo II, Grand Duke of Tuscany.
I haven’t been to Goa since 1992. One of these days, insh'allah!

1 comment:

Georgette said...

Oh you need to go back there on your next trip to India! :)

We have been there a few times, and it is amazing! The thing that really strikes me is that this basilca keeps its doors and windows open, as it is non-air-conditioned; and this hot and humid environment has not affected the (mostly) incorrupt relic! The body is encased in a glass coffin, but it is not hermetically sealed or anything--its lid is kept in place with plain old screws so that it can be easily lifted and the glasses cleaned for the periodic expositions. And yet the body remained incorrupt for years. And in the first hundred years or so (when the body was VERY pliable and it looked just like that of a living person) the expositions were completely OPEN. And all in this environment. Amazing. God is so good!

But t the main miracle, I think, is the number of conversions that have come about during his life -- and after his death! He is truly one of the greatest Saints of the Church!

St Francis Xavier, ora pro nobis!