The Passos at Saligao Church

by Fr. Nascimento Mascarenhas

The Saligao Church parish in Goa has been celebrating the “Passos” (Passion Play/Procession) in the Mae de Deus Church over the years during Lent. The church has the images of all the Passos and they are held at the Saligao church on every Sunday evening during Lent, except one Passion play which takes place at St. Anne’s Chapel on Palm Sunday. The Passos are enacted at many other Goan churches and all churches in Goa observe the season of Lent with great solemnity.

On the 5th Sunday of Lent, Saligao village celebrated the main Passo, commemorating “Jesus carrying the Cross, meets His most afflicted Mother.” A lot of preparation went into the erection of the stage and dressing of the image of Jesus in purple, crowned with thorns and carrying the cross, as well as that of Our Lady, in blue, and depicting a crescent silver crown and seven silver swords on her chest.

The sacristans and the men folk of the village gathered at theSaligao  church in the morning. On an especially erected dais, the two images were dressed and the cross draped with “jelles” and kept one behind the other. In our times a black curtain covered the images from the view of the faithful. At a given signal during the sermon, the curtain was raised and the images were on full view. After a short meditational break, the sermon would continue. During those old times there was no Mass in the evening. But there was singing of the Penitential Psalms by the priests, followed by a sermon on the Passion of Christ.


Then the procession began. The sacristan with the bell for “escanso” (rest) and the altar boy with a cross led the procession, followed by little boys and girls in a double line. Next came older girls and ladies, sodalities, boys and men, followed by confrades with their white opa and red murca (opmus) holding candles. These were followed by the bearers with the image of Jesus carrying the cross. The image was always carried along in the procession by strong confrades in turn, and there were four boys carrying supports to bear the weight of the image when the procession came to a halt.

Passos procession during Lent in Goa

Passos procession during Lent in Goa

Behind these groups was the priest carrying the image of Holy Wood (Lenho Santo), followed by motete singers and the brass band that played penitential tunes. Our Lady, on a specially-made pedestal, arrived next. She was carried by other confrades, and another four youngsters with wooden supports to hold the handles of the pedestal and image walked alongside.


Prayers were conducted by each section of the crowd, but when the bell was rung for the “descanso” all kept quiet and listened to the motete sung by four cantors accompanied by violins and clarinets.

In Saligao we had three “descansos”. The processional route was from the Saligao Church to the Aula. Then the procession turned and moved in the direction of the tinto and turned again at the tinto facing the Saligao Church, walked down the Cotula road to wend its way through to the compound of the church. It was a good two-hour walk along this traditional route.

The first descanso was on what is now the CHOGM road in Saligao, which touched a muddy road with coconut trees on both sides. Through this road in the middle of the fields one reaches St. Caetano’s Chapel, Arrarim. The second descanso was after the Aula turn and the third was near the small diversion on the Cotula-Church Road. At all the descansos, three different motetes were sung with great feeling, which brought repentance to those who were listening and meditating on them, as they rested for a while before continuing on the onward penitential journey. They were sung in Latin as well as in Konkani.

Saligao villagers of the Hindu faith too carried jelles and deposited them at the foot of the images and joined in the procession for part of the way. The soulful sound of the Saligao church bell broke the occasional silence of the processionalists. Tents were erected at the spots for the descansos. The confrades and other Saligao church association members maintained the order during the procession. They also led the rosaries and hymns.

Veronica Song

Once the procession reached the compound of the Saligao church, those who could get seats were considered lucky, while the others stood patiently for another hour or so. The specially-constructed pulpit outside the church had a big tent alongside. It was from here that the Veronica Song would be sung. Everyone one strained their eyes and eyes to see and hear which young lad or lass was singing “the Veronica”.

The mestre tuned his violin to the right tone. The lad cleared his throat and was ready to begin the first lines of the Veronica Song. At the appropriate bar the young fellow opened his mouth in song, while at the same time unravelling a scrolled picture of the Vero Icon (the real face) of Jesus. All admired the way the lad sang the high-pitch note to perfection (it is this note that the young lad/lass had been asked to sing repeatedly, during practice). At the end, the people kissed the face of Jesus from a distance, and the young lad too kissed the picture, rolled it quickly and descended from the tent. The nearby “Houddeveam fullamchim zaddam” kept shedding their flowers even as many of the faithful shed tears during the Veronica song. Later the priest, usually someone invited from another parish, ascended the outside pulpit to unfold the mystery of the Seven Sorrows of Our Lady.

A few of the restless people, instead of listening to the Word of God, were more keen to buy “boje” from Surya of  Cotula. The aroma of the fried snacks tempted the faithful to break their fast… and the “tambddi xerbott” of Harichand, also from Cotula, invited all and sundry to quench their thirst. During the preaching, several people went forward to worship  Jesus and Mary by bowing before their images. Some fulfilled their vows, others did it as a humble gesture of reverence. After the service, as the people departed in silence, the doors of the Saligao church were finally opened, and the images kept in the Saligao church until the feast of Our Lady of the Sorrows on the following Friday, preceding Palm Sunday.

My only regret

My only regret, and a dream which remained unfulfilled, was that as a young boy I was never picked to sing the Veronica Song! To appease me, in the year 1948, my uncle made me stand on the dining table in our house, handed me a rolled almanac with a picture of Jesus on it and asked me to sing “Ecce Vidimus” (the Veronica Song, “Auchituch Nodor”). The audience was made up of our family members. After the song I walked around the table with the picture, and my “audience” kissed it. I was accompanied on the violin by my uncle. Of course as a priest, in several of the churches of Goa, I have had ample opportunity over the years to teach the Veronica Song to many, in Latin as well as in Konkani, making up many times over for my juvenile childhood regret.

7 comments on The Passos at Saligao Church

  • Dr. Meenacshi Martins

    please ask Fr to call me.. i need to contact Fr. Nascimento …my cell is 0 9225 901098… God bless

  • I am glad to know that today, Sunday, April 11, 2010, the book of my seminary companion and friend, Fr.Nascimento Mascarenhas, on the Churches of Salsete, has been released. (Though I am in the same Church of the Holy Spirit, Margao, I could not be present, since I am sick). It is an asset to the historians and the Church in Goa. He has continued with persistence and love the work of Msgr.Francisco Xavier Gomes Catao, a historian and professor of Latin, who dedicated himself to the compilation of history of Goan priests and churches till the end. I met him in Clergy Home, Porvorim. We need religious history and sociology. I was intending to publish on Calangute village, but my health did not allow me at present.
    I wish more people could do the work of digging into the history of the church and of Goan villages.
    Keep up!
    Mog asum di!
    Fr.Ivo da C.Souza (Holy Spirit Church, Margao, Goa 403601, India)

  • Fr. Nascimento Mascarenhas

    Dear Fr. ivo,
    May God comfort you in your sickness, I pray. I also wish you a speady recovery. Yes the book was launched by Fr. Ventura Lourenco as announced. Thanks for your wishes. Much love, fr. nascimento mascarenhas

  • fr>ventura lorenco

    the church has been painted and repaired by me and every one is appreciating my works, but some people are opposing my works. I have made Holy Spirit Church, Margao golden. pls. also look at the church and write some articles

  • fr. nascimento mascarenhas

    I am in a process of collecting documentatiom of Holy Spirit Church, Margao and also of the Chapels affiliated to it. Margao religious history will also cover Grace as well as Fatorda churches . When this documentation is ready I will write its history not on this blog saligao serenade but elsewhere. Some of its history as well as other churches of Salcete is given in Vol. III in summary form in my book” Follow Me” But that is too little. The reference, notes will take some time as I am busy with publications of some books already planned earlier.
    Sorry Fr. Ventura Lourenco I will not be able to write what you have asked at the moment.
    The Saligao blog is mine and exclusively on the village of Saligao, Bardez, its matters and men. It will also cover outsiders if they have or had some connections with Saligao, otherwise no. The comments to be made on this blog is on the matters I write on Saligao. Saligao people may write articles on this blog refering to the subjects given in Home Page of this blog. It is not open to others.

  • Fr.Ivo da C.Souza

    I am glad to know ythat my classmate, Fr.Nawscimento Mascarenhas, publiashed another book, this time on his own native3 village, Saligao. It is an important village in the history of Goa. Fr.Nascimento will be proud to remember the past glories of his own village. May God bless him!
    Fr.Ivo da C.Souza (Margao)

  • Fr.Ivo da C.Souza

    I am glad to know that my classmate, Fr.Nascimento Mascarenhas, published another book, this time on his own native village, Saligao. It is an important village in the history of Goa. Fr.Nascimento will be proud to remember the past glories of his own village. May God bless him!
    Fr.Ivo da C.Souza (Margao)

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