Few months before the release of the book, there was a buzz around regarding the investigation of a non-Catholic, about Blessed Joseph Vaz. For me personally, it sounded like another trumpet blowing, “We’re trying to make Bl. Joseph Vaz a Saint!“. That’s a phrase I’ve heard since the beginning of the last year. For some weird reason, unlike other Sri Lankan Catholics, who were bragging about his work, I was simply not interested. Everyone is a Saint, so if he has done something good, he’ll be rewarded in Heaven, why run behind a “Saint” prefix for his name? To add to my disinterested spirit, last year we had a module at the Theologate regarding Bl. Joseph Vaz and his contribution to the Faith and country. Nope, neither did that get my spirits high about the guy.
I got this book last week and first thing I usually do when I get a book is to read the Cover. The back of the book mentioned about the author Kusum Waidyaratne and his research areas, Para Human Archaeology, Ethnoarchaeology, Rheology, Architectonic, DNA. Those words sounded music to my ears, because I fancy all the high tech science and geeky stuff (NOT fiction, but Realizing fiction with Reality).
Read the first page, turned to the next… kept on doing it for minutes, hours and before I even knew I had read the first 10 chapters of the book and wanted to keep on going. It was addictive, the more I read, the more I wanted to dig in and dig deeper. I also did some research on my own with regard to the scientific areas touched in the book to see if, what I was reading was reality or the author was trying to fool me into something.
I don’t want to spoil the fun, but I’ll give a sneak peak into the book. It’s primarily about Bl. Joseph Vaz. And if you don’t know who that is, let me help you out. Ask a priest, catechism teacher or the final resort Mr. Google. If you’re a Sri Lankan and you don’t know him, high time you relearned history. And if you’re Sri Lankan plus a Catholic and don’t know about him, then shame on you!
As you go on reading, it will unravel the reality of this great personality, Bl. Joseph Vaz and his immense contribution to a foreign soil. Done only with one intention in his mind, that is to do his Father’s will. Every word of the book is a prayer, a step towards a strengthening journey of Faith. You can take my word on this, because though I’m a Theology student, I’m not a hard core prayer person. The word “Prayer” gives me jitters. But today, I’ve come to realize that Prayers are a constant chitter chatter with God. Speaking to Him, Crying with Him, Laughing with Him and even fighting and insulting Him and asking for forgiveness. Giving the truth of your Heart, that is the only Mantra.
The best example of such an intimate relationship is the one that Bl. Joseph Vaz had with God the Father. This book made me realize that we all are Bl. Joseph Vazs inside. The difference is, some have discovered themselves and people like you and I keep orbiting our day to day painstaking lives, looking for help outside. Our help is right here, within our grip, but we don’t see it. We ignore it and go venturing into other modes to find solutions. And if we do know it’s there and reach it, there’s always that thorn of doubt pricking constantly.
The story of the book flows on two rivers and they meet at a confluence. One stream carries the tales of BJV (Bl. Joseph Vaz) and the other speaks about a married gentleman named Wishwa, who is a father of two and is struggling with his own life’s journey. The two stories run parallel. Whatever happened to BJV few centuries ago, happens to Wishwa today. Similarly you can also see a comparison of human effort vs God’s guidance.
Few Examples from the Book:
- Persecution by the Dutch soldiers // Imprisonment or Wishwa being attacked by some goons.
- BJV praises God during crisis // Wishwa cursing the divine
The book also uses the Word Of God, Sacred Scripture quotations to form the foundation of Faith. It comes handy as a literary technique to give light to the readers, a glimpse of hope towards a better fulfillment of the story.
“…if you believe you will see the glory of God“
The initial chapters, speak of the Journey of BJV and only in Chapter 20 you get to know about the beginning years of BJV. The essence of these chapters is, the author portrays a heart of a mother. A 3D view is given with 3 mothers playing the roles. BJV’s mother, Wishwa’s mother and the crest, Mother Mary – The Mother of everyone.
The book also touches areas which provide clear cut evidence that Catholicism existed in our land before the arrival of the European invaders. It also shows that the era where Buddhism was in a declining phase, it was not because of the Catholics.
The book portrays the miracles of BJV, his intercessions, crucial journeys, prayerful life and most importantly, how loud his silence was and is.
I found three interesting themes run across the story.
Starting with a sob it progresses towards a loud cry. It is revealing one’s true self, confession, helplessness.
With the act of taking a bath, where the characters felt refreshed, cleansed. In Christianity, this is a sign of purification or sanctification.
A sign of hospitality, love, care.
The book also reveals details about BJV’s tomb and what is disappointing is that, intense details about him are not found in Kandy. One would get to know the real reason behind this. But if there were records, I’m sure it would speak volumes about BJV.
If the Bible is a book that contains mystery, comedy, romance, thriller, action, tragedy, history, science, etc; Then ගෝවෙන් අමුත්තෙක් ඇවිත් – A meek Brown Man From Goa will similarly fit into most of the literary genres. Unlike fiction it wouldn’t provide you with a temporary mental satisfaction. These pages would help you face your biggest fear, LIFE! It is a live manifestation of Divine Providence. For sure it will show you at least a ray of Hope.
Instead of learning about saints who are foreign to our land, it is important that we as Sri Lankan Christians, give credit to the valuable service and sacrifices of BJV. If it was not for him I would’ve not been able to address my God in my mother tongue. If it was not for him I would’ve not been a Catholic, the Church would’ve died decades ago. As Sri Lankan Christians it is our duty to recognize this great servant of God and cherish his work.
I tried this interpersonal formula that I learned from my new friend BJV. It was yesterday, when Asia was hit with an 8.9 magnitude earthquake. The moment I got the news, only thing that ran across my mind was, “What would Blessed Joseph Vaz do?” Without delay, I went to my room and started “Praying“. I think this was after many months or years, that I prayed so intensely. I called Mother Mary and BJV to come for our mediation. Within few hours, the news said that the earthquake was horizontal, hence it was less likely that a Tsunami will occur. I believe that this happened because of the intercession of Mother Mary and BJV. I’m sure millions of us prayed for a miracle and we got it.