07 Saint Joseph Vaz: an Indian Sanyasi in a Foreign Land - Subhasis Chattopadhyay

posted Jan 9, 2019, 8:55 AM by Neil D'Souza   [ updated Jan 9, 2019, 8:56 AM ]
St Ignatius of Loyola (1491-1556 AD) and St Philip Neri (1515-1595 AD) burnt into Saint Joseph Vaz (1651-1711 AD). St Fr Joseph Vaz is India's son of the soil who went on to become the patron Saint of Sri Lanka. It will be clear in a moment why we should study St Joseph Vaz's life in relation to St Ignatius of Loyola. It is common knowledge that St Vaz belonged to St Philip Neri's Congregation.

Hindu Scriptures (PrasthanaTrayi) declare that a man of God owns no property; he keeps moving from place to place to cultivate detachment, does not meddle in the affairs of worldlings and practises holy reading or lectio divina. St Vaz, if seen through the Sannyasa Upanishads was such a man - free from the bondage of samsara. He is (sic) a Paramhamsa. The Son of Man had no place to lay His head; St Joseph Vaz too had nowhere to rest and call his own in this valley of tears.

Like St Paul at Rome, Fr Vaz was hunted through India and Ceylon (now Sri Lanka), like a common criminal. Like the Lamb who was led to the slaughter, Fr Vaz chose to be a burnt offering to Yahweh for the love of his own countrymen, and later, of the Sri Lankan people. The Other became one with the Self in the economy of salvation in the case of this Saint, as is the case with all Saints. Remember the slave girl who became Yahweh's own? Saint Josephine Bakhita (1869-1947 AD) overcame inhumanity with love, as Fr Vaz overcame hatred at home and in Sri Lanka with that love which has no finitude. Amor Vincit Omnia. There is not a single instance in human history where unconditional love has not finally defeated anger, injustice and hatred.

Fr Vaz re-affirmed hesed in colonial India and Ceylon. There is documented evidence that he protested Portuguese high-handedness in the Goa of his own times, and lashed out against Dutch racial discrimination against the Ceylonese. Like St Bakhita, St Vaz allowed himself to be tortured, but protested if colonisers tortured us - the colonised. The Communion of Saints is a Communion of Love which is not afraid to stand up for the rights of others, be they Hindus or Christians.