15 The Hill of Martyrs (St Gonsalo Garcia - son of Vasai) Fr Valentine Pawkar

posted Jan 25, 2018, 9:45 AM by Neil D'Souza   [ updated Jan 25, 2018, 9:45 AM ]

(The first Indian Saint)

I am not a historian, nor a member of the National Geography Academy, but just a pious priest who loved his diocesan patron. On April 27, 2017, I reached Tokyo in Japan. I was very happy and pleased to see a country of sun-rise. After reaching Osaka by bullet train and staying at Sophia University for two days, I entered Nagasaki and climbed the hill of the martyrs, to visit the site of our great patron saint Gonsalo Garcia, son of Vasai, my own parishioner. I felt that I was on the hill of Calvary for some time. Tears of joy and pride flowed from my eyes to see my brother Gonsalo had walked in the footsteps of Jesus for his faith. I spent an hour in silent prayer, glorifying God for Gonsalo and his 25 companions. I spent time in the amazing memorial museum in their honour. I felt low even to touch the toe of his leg.

There I met an elderly Capuchin Brother who was managing that site. I told him that I was an inhabitant of Vasai where St Gonsalo Garcia was born in Vasai Fort in the year 1556. On hearing that, he embraced me with great affection, and exclaimed that he was fortunate to meet a priest from Vasai. After joining him for a cup of tea, I got a golden opportunity to celebrate the Holy Eucharist at the martyrs' chapel. Tears again flowed while celebrating Mass where St Gonsalo Garcia, the first Indian saint, was crucified. After Mass, we walked the stairs down to Nagasaki hill where St Gonsalo Garcia was crucified and he narrated the entire history of the martyrs.

St Gonsalo Garcia left Vasai at the age of 16, well versed in Japanese, preached Christ and finally gave his blood for Christ, along with 25 religious and lay workers. As a young lad, he was enthusiastic in learning the lessons of faith. His mother (from Agashi parish) taught him not only the doctrine, but to love Jesus intimately. He travelled 600 km on horse and bullock cart to preach the good news of God. He had built a love for priesthood and wanted to be a Jesuit priest, as he loved the Jesuit Fr Sebastian who accompanied him to Japan, but he had to take a turn to follow Capuchin lay brothers' congregation. But that did not diminish his zeal for Christ.