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A devotion to Mother Mary

Mother Mary is loved by all and is considered a mother to everyone, irrespective of one’s religion. NT BUZZ highlights the significance of the month of the rosary and the tradition of ‘Saibinn’ in Goa

ANNOUSHKA FERNANDES | NT BUZZ

Catholics believe that the rosary brings peace and holiness in one’s life. And in fact, the month of October is dedicated to the rosary in honour of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

This tradition goes back to earlier times when the Vatican was involved in war and the Church would send crusaders to fight battles. On October 7, 1571, the Holy League (a coalition of European Catholic state) fought the Ottoman forces at the Battle of Lepanto. Before the ships sailed off to battle, Pope Pius V prayed to Our Lady seeking protection for the men who were to engage in the battle and also to help them emerge victorious. Every man on board the ship carried a rosary.

Following the victory of the Holy League, Pope Pius V declared the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary on October 7, thus attributing the victory to her. A procession was held at St Peter’s Square of the Vatican and October gradually came to be known as the month of the rosary. October was officially established as the month of the rosary in the year 1884 by Pope Pius XIII.

And this tradition continues today, even in Goa. “October is a month of devotion,” says Father Pascal Fernandes from Aldona, adding that the rosary is to be prayed everyday in order to honour Our Lady of the Rosary and show one’s devotion to her. “The rosary is a prayer that should be said with your families. When a family prays together they honour Mother Mary as a patron of the family,” he says .

Sister Margaret Fernandes who was brought up in Goa and who is presently the principal, St Anthony’s Convent School, Kolkata also echoes this statement. “Also, we should be getting together as a small community to pray together,” she says.

In Goa, the Catholics get together at various chapels, churches, and crosses in their villages and pray the rosary in order to commemorate the rosary month.

However, with the changing times and lifestyle, this getting together as a family to pray the rosary doesn’t happen as much as it used to, believes Sister Margaret. “Traditionally there was much more fervour in celebrating the feast of Mother Mary or the month of the rosary because they were encouraged by the parish priest and families. Today, there’s less encouragement along with less time due to other activities and commitments and most of the time is invested on social media. There is less time spent on praying to her,” she says, adding that one must inculcate devotion to her as through Mother Mary, God’s grace is obtained.

And while Mother Mary always forgives, Fr Pascal states that one should at least recite three Hail Marys to honour Mother Mary in order to seek blessings.

Also, until a few decades ago, to commemorate the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary, young children would attend the novena masses celebrated at their respective parishes before leaving for school. “Now you barely see any children for novena masses in Goa. But, we can’t judge people’s devotion towards Our Lady,” says Sister Margaret, adding that even though people may physically not show their devotion, they may be devoted internally.

Catholics in Goa also have a tradition of bringing the statue of Our Lady to their homes (usually for a day) around this time. Locally known as ‘Saibinn’ this tradition is believed to have been started by the Portuguese in Goa. In fact it is still celebrated with the same fervour and enthusiasm in each parish.

The parish priest sends forth the statue of Our Lady in hopes that her grace and blessing are sent to the homes of those families. “For families it signifies that Mother Mary is coming into our homes. She arrives with grace and peace which is lacking in most families. Thus, bringing Mother Mary home signifies peace in the household,” says Sister Margaret.

‘Saibinn’ is also a time for togetherness with members of the ward all coming together to pray along with the members of the family that has brought ‘Saibinn’ into their homes. “Bringing mother home is like a get-together for the whole ward. Children and adults come together once a year, on this occasion the communities and families get together in unity,” says Fr Pascal.

During ‘Saibinn’, ‘chonne’ (grams) are served to those who attend the celebration. Serving grams is not a tradition, says Fr Pascal, stating that in earlier times cakes and patties were not available as easily as they are now. “Cakes were considered as rich people’s food. Also all of this wasn’t easily available. And grams were easy to distribute and was also cooked in large quantities,” he says.

Fr Pascal adds that the church encourages people to serve grams and not modern food items as not all people can afford these.

Yvonne Fernandes, a resident of Mapusa says that celebrating this tradition once a year is a beautiful experience as the entire community visits each other’s houses during this period. “Together we pray and sing and each family in the community becomes closer to one another,” says Yvonne.

To welcome Our Lady home, preparations are done days in advance by decorating houses thus ensuring that everything is done right. “My family is enthusiastic about that day, right from handpicking the flowers and making the garlands, to decorating the altar and taking care of small details to welcome Our Mother,” says Yvonne.

For Dylan Fernandes, a resident of Anjuna, ‘Saibinn’ is all about unity and the getting together of families and the community. “During ‘Saibinn’, the members of our family from different places come together to pray with us, it’s exciting to meet and pray with the people who we don’t meet on a daily basis,” he says.

While for Artimisia Fernandes from Merces, bringing ‘Saibinn’ home means the arrival of peace and blessing into the family. “Our Lady is the mother of Jesus. If we pray to her, she will intercede on our behalf,” says Artimisia, adding that it is not only Catholics who take part in the prayers but members of other religious communities as well.

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