Here in Goa festivals are celebrated in a glorious way. Be a Christian, a Hindu, Muslim or a person from any religion they all come together to celebrate each others festivals. In Goa there is abundant food that is prepared by the families, all traditional goan dishes, the family reunites and comes together to celebrate. The beauty of the unity in Goan people is something everyone appreciates and honours.
Goa’s biggest and most renowned celebration is the feast of St. Francis Xavier. The Goan people come in thousands over a span of a month for the novenas and the main feast day, some devotees spend a night in prayer at the churches as well. Pilgrims from all over the world come for this feast to pay their respects to the Patron Saint of Goa.
‘Goencho saib’ as how the Goans refer to him came to Goa along with the Portuguese to evangelize and spread Christianity. Saint Francis Xavier who was born in Spain was a companion of St. Ignatius of Loyola. His mission was into Asia mainly in the Portuguese empires of that time. He was successful in the evangelization work in India, he had also been working with other areas such as Japan, Borneo and the Maluku Islands.
He had a lot of struggles with opposition from the people, he fought through it, learning their language in each area was also another challenge that he went through. St. Francis Xavier never gave up he wanted to extend his missionary work in China but sadly he died before accomplishing it.
Pope Paul V beatifies St.Francis Xavier on the 25th of October 1619 and Pope Gregory XV canonized him on 12th of March 1622. He is also know as the ‘Apostle of the Indies’ and ‘Apostle of Japan’ and considered one the greatest missionary’s since St.Paul.
The feast of St.Francis Xavier is celebrated on the 3rd of December (the day he was buried)to commemorate his death. Before the feast there are 9 days of special prayers or services known as novenas.
His body is in the Basilica of Bom Jesus, it is placed in a glass container encased in a silver casket which was constructed by Goan silversmiths. Last year the church celebrated the 16th decennial exposition of the holy remnants of St. Francis Xavier. There were approximately 2.5 million pilgrims that visited Goa from all around the world.
The feast of St.Francis Xavier is one of the greatest events for Christians worldwide. The most amazing aspect is that not only the Christians take part in this celebration, non Catholics as well come in big numbers for the veneration. Here in Goa this unity and St.Francis Xavier is what binds the state together!