This month, December and January will see many people from the city heading to Goa. But more than spending Christmas in the place to be, a saint is drawing many to the sunny state next door.
The first in a long line of pilgrims raising candles to the glass tomb cover of St Francis Xavier in the Basilica of Bom Jesus, Goa in 1974. Pic/Getty Images
The Exposition, the bringing down of the mortal remains of Francis Xavier, a Spanish Catholic missionary and saint in Old Goa, is a once-in-a-decade happening which will take place in these months, this decade. Thousands of faithful as well as those who are curious about the Exposition are headed to Goa between November 22, 2014 and January 4, 2015.
The relics of St Francis Xavier lie in the Basilica of Bom Jesus, Old Goa
For the Fernandes boys from Andheri East, Derek (19) and Alan (21) the trip to their village Thivim in Goa after Christmas has a special significance. Engineering student Derek says, “My parents are taking my brother and me to Goa to see the Exposition of St Francis Xavier’s body.
Preparations for the Exposition are on outside the Basilica of Bom Jesus
We have been to Goa a number of times, but we have not been for the Exposition. We will be spending New Year’s there and coming back to Mumbai on January 2.” His brother Alan adds, “St Francis Xavier is one of the first persons to come to India and spread the Catholic faith.
(L-R) Juilie Mahale, Ashish Shirke, Siddhesh Dalvi and Rahul Patil
Earlier, our parents did not take us for the Exposition as we were too young. Now as an adult, I am very excited about going for the exposition. I am from a Jesuit parish, Holy Family Church at Chakala, and so have deep faith in St Francis Xavier.”
(L-R) Derek and Alan Fernandes are headed to Goa for the Exposition after Christmas
“We are going by train and booked tickets in September as soon as bookings were open. There is a mad rush to go to Goa for the Exposition which happens every 10 years, we were aware of that and so we booked our tickets early. Our relatives have their own cars, we will be using those to go to Old Goa,” says Derek.
Doctor of Philosophy student Shweta Kadam and four of her friends, Julie Mahale, Siddhesh Dalvi, Asheesh Shirke and Rahul Patil will be going for the Exposition in the second week of December.
She says, “I have to collect some specimens from the Goa Institute of Fisheries. I happened to read about the Exposition on the Goa tourism website and was intrigued.
The sacred relics of St Francis Xavier are preserved and kept in the basilica in Old Goa which I had visited around three years ago. But the casket was at a height. This time, I am hoping to see it closely.”
Train tickets have been difficult to get and the air fares are literally sky high, so Kadam and her friends have booked a semi-sleeper bus. The 25-year-old adds, “We will be there for three days. To go for the Exposition we have hired bikes via a friend there, who has also booked a flat for us to stay.”
Juilie Mahale, her friend who found the article and planned the trip says, “I went to a convent school and am fond of Catholic ceremonies. I am also familiar with the saints; I have known St Francis Xavier as the patron saint of Goa.
I am excited to visit and experience an auspicious event like the Exposition. Also, a visit to Goa with friends will be a great trip.” Their friend Asheesh Shirke adds, “I am a non-Catholic and do not know much about the religion or the Exposition.
But when Shweta and Juilie told me about it, I was intrigued. I want to see a sacred body closely and the Exposition will offer me that chance as it will be brought down for all to see.”
On a pilgrimage
Jennifer Chavan, a teacher at Divine Child High School, Andheri will be going along with some of the school staff for the Exposition. She says, “I went for an Exposition somewhere in the 70s when I was a child.
I do not remember much about that trip, but that I had gone with my parents and that there was a huge crowd to see St Francis Xavier. We had to walk around the casket and I remember feeling a sense of awe.”
Chavan adds, “As an adult, I have wanted to go for the Exposition a number of times, but things did not work out. The opportunity to go came when our school principal announced this pilgrimage.
My faith has grown over the years and now I am going with a new insight. The opportunity to see the man who is the reason why I am a Christian today will renew my faith. We are going on Saturday, the same day when the Exposition starts.
A bus has been organised for internal travel to the cathedral and we will be staying at a convent. From Mumbai to Goa, we will be taking the train.” Her colleague, Violet Fernandes who will also be going to Goa, says, “I have been to Goa and seen St Francis Xavier’s body a number of times.
I went for an Exposition as a child. Going with my colleagues will be a new spiritual experience. Also, I have heard that this might be the last Exposition as the body is shrinking and preserving it for the next 10 years may be difficult. The chance to see a saint and his holy body for the last time is taking me to Goa.”
To avoid ticket problems and internal Goa travel issues, Ronald D’Souza will be taking his car. The Kandivali resident says, “My wife is a devout believer in St Francis Xavier and so she wants to go for the Exposition.
We are planning to go for Christmas to Goa. The flight, train and bus tickets are very high and also I have heard that internal travel in Goa will be a problem, so we have decided to take our car.”
“We are not from Goa, so I am unfamiliar with internal travel. Some friends who are Goans are also coming along with us. We have hired a house in Porvorim and will be staying there for a week in December. This is the first time for all of us and we are very excited,” says his wife Matilda.
Geologist Lloyd Menezes who is in Mumbai from Abu Dhabi for his brother’s wedding will also be heading to Goa for the Exposition. He says, “My family as well as my sister-in-law’s family will be going for the Exposition. We have booked train tickets much in advance as we have planned it as a pilgrimage as well as family bonding.
We were searching for a house closer to Old Goa, but managed to get one at Calangute for an economical rate. A few friends have told me that we can use special buses that the Goa government will be providing for the internal travel to Old Goa.”
“My entire education in school as well as in college was done in Jesuit institutions and so I have grown to love St Francis Xavier. He is my favourite saint and I feel close to him. The chance to see his relics and venerate them is drawing me to Goa.
I have been there many times, but this will be the first Exposition that I will be going for. I am looking forward to a divine experience,” ends Menezes.
St Francis Xavier
>> Referred to in Goa as Goencho Saib (Goa’s patron).
>> Born in Spain, in 1506 he became a Jesuit missionary priest and arrived in Goa in May 1542. Goa was then under Portuguese rule.
>> Having worked in Goa and other parts of India, he was planning on travelling to China but died on the island of Sancian on December 3, 1552.
>> His body was shipped to Goa in 1553 and has been kept at the Basilica of Bom Jesus since then as it did not get corrupted after burial.
What: The relic of St Francis Xavier will be kept in a silver casket for public veneration
When: November 22, 2014 to January 4, 2015
Where: Se Cathedral in Old Goa, 11 km from Panaji
Exposition travel rates (Mumbai to Goa, one way)
Air fare from Rs 5,000 to Rs 25,000
Train fare from Rs 1,000 to Rs 8,000
Bus fare from Rs 2,000 to Rs 10,000