Blessed Joseph Vaz
Born on 21 April 1651 at Benaulim, Goa, Blessed Joseph, the third son of Christopher Vaz and Maria de Miranda, went on to become one of the greatest missionaries Asia has ever produced. It was at the age of 25, in the year 1676 that Joseph was ordained priest at Old Goa by Mons Antonio Brandao, Archbishop of Goa. In March 1681 he set off for Kanara whence there was no turning back. His ministry took him to Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) where at Kandy, he proved himself to be a missionary par excellence, facing bravely the vagaries of time and weather, as well as suspicion, imprisonment and hardship of every kind just so that the Word of the Lord be proclaimed and His love reign supreme
Long before the word inculturation came into use, Joseph Vaz had already shown how authentic Christian asceticism could be happily blended with Indian sanyasism. Language too was no barrier as he not only learnt the local languages, Sinhala, but also complied a dictionary (English-Sinhala) for the benefit of his companions! Such was his practice of the Catholic faith that his whole life has come to be regarded as "an object lesson in missionary methods" (Fr Cryil Papali), methods which drew rather than repulsed, non-Christians to the faith. His dealings with people of all ranks, kings and paupers alike, were admirable to the point of earning him the distinction of being referred to as "the perfect model of an apostle" (Fr. Pierre Charles).
Fr. Joseph's pioneering efforts in organizing the first ever indigenous missionary institute in the Third World known as the Oratory of the Cross of Miracles of Old Goa not only ensured a steady supply of missionaries to continue his work in various places but actually helped revive the Church in Sri Lanka and save it from virtual extinction.
Joseph's love for Our Lady was phenomenal. In a letter written by him shortly after his ordination, he states: "Let it be known to all who see this 'Letter of Bondage', angels, human beings and all creatures, that I, Fr. Joseph Vaz, sell and offer myself as a perpetual slave of the Virgin Mother of God".
Joseph died as he had lived - serene and peaceful, a light to all around him. With a lighted candle in his hands and the sweet name Jesus on his lips, he breathed his last just before the midnight of Friday 16 January 1711. Exactly 284 years later, i.e, on 21 January 1995, Fr Joseph Vaz was proclaimed "Blessed" by Pope John Paul II.
Reflection :"The one who illumines us.. is our good Jesus the saint of saints, the light of lights, himself eclipsed on the Cross. May he give you eyes of the body and much more of the soul... To desire to imitate him and follow his example and his doctrine in everything" (excerpt from a letter of Fr Joseph Vaz to his nephew, Deacon Joseph Vaz).