Sanjeev V Sardesai
Goa is a land of festivities and gaiety. The people of this land have a remarkable respect for the faiths of each other, and we can see a cross celebration of feasts and festivals, with people of every faith participating in it with an open heart.
One such event that happens in Salcete at Colva, which draws an immense number of devotees from all corners of Goa, is the ‘Fama De Menino Jesus’ at Colva. The inflow of devotees is so much, that appreciably, the feast organisers erect a temporary, high, wooden, footbridge from across the road to the church precinct, to allow free passage to two wheelers under it, without inconvenience.
This church is dedicated to Nossa Senhora das Merces or the Our Lady of Merces. Built as a chapel by the Jesuits in 1630 AD, it was elevated to the status of a church on May 28, 1635, along with the churches of Seraulim and Betalbatim. The church feast is celebrated on a Sunday, on or after September 8.
The traditional Fama feast, which will be celebrated on October 24, 2019, has a beautiful legend. It is said that a long time ago, possibly during the early Portuguese rule, the fishermen who were at sea, and occupied in their fishing, saw a huge flock of sea gulls hovering over a small islet jutting out into the sea. As they proceeded towards this islet to investigate, they found something shiny and reflecting the sun rays. Thinking that it could be a person needing help, they approached the islet to find a beautiful wooden carved idol of a baby with a ring on its finger. Possibly it was this that was shining!
Though scared, they removed it and handed it over to the Jesuit priests who were in the Colva Church. They identified it as the image of infant Jesus or ‘Menino Jesus’ and initiated veneration. The news of this find, coupled with many people claiming miraculous cures and benevolence, led to its fame spreading to all corners of the land. The crowds started to swell and this led to the celebrating of the traditional Fama.
Another legend stated on the ItsGoa website states that “a Jesuit priest Fr Benito Fereirra sj, found the statue off the coast of Mozambique, and brought it with him, to the Church of Our Lady of Merces, in Colva, Goa, where he was posted. A place was created on the altar and this idol was placed there.”
However, the celebration of this festivity came to a standstill when the Order of the Jesuits was transferred to the Rachol Seminary, and took the idol along with them. The villagers, being emotionally attached to this deity, went to Rachol and pleaded with them to return the idol to them. Their request was flatly refused. The villagers returned, sad and empty handed.
But when they returned, they discovered that the ring which was on the finger of the ‘Menino Jesus’, had fallen in the altar niche. Rejoicing over this find, they created another similar idol, put the ring on its finger, and started their veneration.
Every year, the novenas or the religious services start on the second Monday of October, nine days prior to the feast, and are held to a packed house. This year they will start on October 14, 2019, with three Masses preached in the morning starting at 5 a.m. and one in the evening at 5:30 p.m. On the Feast Day (October 24, 2019), Masses will be held at 5:45 a.m. and 7.45 a.m. The High Mass will be held at 9 a.m.
One must attend and see the amazing crowd in well organised queues that stand for long periods in the hot sun to get an opportunity to kiss the hand of Baby Jesus, and also the ring. Wonderful arrangements are made for devotees and special care is taken of sick patients and people with disabilities who come to pay their
When you visit here, please note the wrist of the nun who holds the Baby Jesus, as devotees kiss it. You will find the other end of a strong string, tied to the ring as a safety precaution and to guard against loss.
Being a religious feast, visitors and tourists must take all care and maintain high protocol when you enter the Church. After this visit, one can proceed to the pristine Colva Beach and enjoy the Goan ambience.