The top job

by Fr. Nascimento Mascarenhas

Have you ever had the opportunity to observe a beehive at close quarters, watching those industrious creatures going about their business vigorously and tirelessly? With our own busy lives these days and also the rapid spread of urbanisation, even spotting a beehive is a rarity. But when I was a young lad growing up in Saligao, things were different. The beehives on the belfry of the Saligao church were a treat to watch.

Our “gang of four” – Salvador Mascarenhas, Johnny Machado, Dominic Andrade and myself — focused our eyes on the hives, waiting for honey to fall into our mouths. Of course nothing of that sort happened. The bees swarmed around unconcerned, their rhythmic buzzing adding to the bel canto of the Saligao choir singing inside the neo-Gothic church led by our famous choir master, the late Eustaquinho D’Souza from Dakhtem Morod.    

The bees were unaffected by the tolling of the bells, which were rung at different times and in different patterns and sequences, each signifying a different ritual, occasion or event, such as before the start of the Mass, the Angelus, deaths and funerals, weddings, processions, etc. The bees kept busy, unflustered by the resonant clanging produced by our familiar bell ringers José, Menino, Pascoal (Pasku) and Moti (Mateus) from Bairro Alto. The bees did not sting the sextons, nor did the sextons plot to smoke out the bees or bring down the hives. Not even the sparrows and doves during the day nor the bats at night disturbed the bees that diligently served their Queen.

During the day Fr. Roberto Vaz, the popular Parish Priest of Saligao, kept an eye on the village youngsters lest they disturb the bees by throwing stones at them, leaving the Rectory priests and the church personnel in danger of being stung. But nothing like this ever happened, at least not during the fifties when we were around. Quite logical actually, as the village of Saligao was never witness to any battles in its history, so the villagers were not in the habit of aiming and shooting!

Cotula apiary

Dr Ramiro Rodrigues, who lived in Cotula near the home for the aged, had an apiary on his premises. He was highly engrossed in his hobby of rearing bees for the production of honey. Being a very good apiarist, he was able to collect a lot of honey and stored it in bottles in the many antique cupboards he had in his house. I used to visit Dr Ramiro occasionally, and he always welcomed me. He was also an avid reader and had a number of valuable books; some of them today adorn the shelves of the Xavier Centre of Historical Research at Alto Porvorim. 

In his compound Dr Ramiro had several wooden boxes specially constructed for bee-rearing. Swarming multitudes of bees entered and exited these boxes in tandem. The nectar-gathering bees buzzed around the flowers in the garden. One day I took a look into the honeybee hive in his apiary. The bees were as busy as, well, bees! Some were building the cells to store the honey, others were guarding the stored honey; there were “chef” bees who made the “bee bread” to feed the baby bees; some bees fanned their wings to keep the hive cool. One big bee was the Queen. She had lot of servants who washed and combed and fed her. She laid eggs that hatched into baby bees so the hive would stay full of workers. It took all kinds of bees to do the many kinds of jobs that made the hive work. I know that this description may seem rather simplistic nowadays, but it was fascinating to my young mind at the time.

 Today I am in pastoral work, based at the Holy Spirit Church in Margao. Other priests are in charge of parishes, and we also have bishops, archbishops and cardinals, each with different tasks and responsibilities. It takes all kinds of people and talents to do God’s work here on earth. Not every job seems to be a “top job” and not everyone can be a queen bee. But the good Lord has an important job for each of us. One way to serve Him is by being kind to our friends or helping our people at home and in the neighbourhood. Whatever may be our task, if we do it for God, it is a TOP JOB. May Mae de Deus help us all — the busy foxes of Saligao!

3 comments on The top job

  • Ereen Colaco

    Hi Fr. Narcimento,

    Your writeups makes interesting reading. Thanks for sharing it out here.. Dont know if you recollect me while you were serving in Penha de Franca church during the early 90ties.. I still hold on to the proverb booklet you had gifed me.

    Can you let me have your email id. It would be great to correspond with you.


  • Fr Nascimento Mascarenhas

    Hello Ereen

    Yes of course I remember you. Thank you for your comment. I am glad that you found the book of proverbs useful. I have just got back to the Internet after many years and now have an email id again —

    God bless you!

    - Fr Nascimento Mascarenhas

  • Higino Miranda

    Exmo. Sr. Padre,

    Glad to know that you are still writing memoirs of Saligao.

    It surely has been good to know that you can now be contacted through the state of the art communication method.
    I will be dropping you a few lines at your address.

    Please confirm if you received 2 cards sent to you 1 each from the Philippines and the other from U.K.

    Respectful Regards

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