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A bird’s eye view of the Saligao Feast of Mae de Deus

by Fr. Nascimento Mascarenhas

The joyous pealing of the two large and sonorous Saligao Church bells at 5 a.m. heralds the beginning of the patronal feast of Mae de Deus in the north Goa village of Saligao on the first Sunday of May every year. This is followed by the lovely and rousing music of Alvorada played with all enthusiasm by the Saligao Brass band at the residence of the President of the Saligao feast. The continuous firing of crackers by young lads and the people who have now lit up their houses, some with decorative lights, are sights and sounds that linger in our memories.

The chimes of the Saligao Church bells inviting the faithful of the village to attend the patronal Feast Mass strike a vibrant chord in the hearts of Saligaokars. So, dressed in their Sunday best, the villagers walk or drive towards the Saligao Church to receive the blessings of Mae de Deus, the Mother of God. The brass band playing beautiful tunes welcomes one and all to the House of Prayer and Thanksgiving.

The neo-Gothic Saligao Church of Mae de Deus during the day or night presents a structure of beauty and splendour for all to behold. Photographs of the Saligao Church adorn tourist brochures and books about Goa and its postcards are collectors’ items.

Solemn Mass

The ringing of the small sacristy bell reminds all to be ready for the Solemn Mass. It calls the priests to dress for the Eucharistic celebrations while the altar servers also get ready for the service.

The tuning of the string instruments to the right tone and pitch as well as the clearing of throats by the choir singers all turns into a melodious unit once the chords of the organ are struck for the entrance hymn.

In olden times the entrance hymn was solemn; today it is martial with occasional drum beats lending punch to the congregational singing helped by the choir. The deafening and thunderous sounds of crackers and Khon’nes accompanied by the wild ringing of the big bells make the hearts go boong-bang-a-bang and the legs weak at the knees as Paular Pavl is rendered. The altar, well lit and draped with linen and natural flowers looks majestic.

Saligao Church Altars -- Pic by JoeGoaUK

Saligao Church Altars -- Pic by JoeGoaUK

The entrance procession is led by the altar servers carrying a cross and two lit candles, followed by a select number of lay people that will play specific roles during the Eucharistic service. Making up the rear of the procession are the concelebrants of the Saligao Feast Mass in their flowing white and gold vestments. Their dignified walk along the aisle of the Saligao Church adds colour to the ceremonies. The quick count of how many priests have attended the Saligao Feast Mass will invariably be a topic of discussion while returning home. The greater the number the greater the solemnity, hence there always is a mad rush to invite as many priests as possible for the Saligao Feast Mass. The message of the Word of God seems to be of less importance than the attendance of a larger number of the clergy. O Tempora, O Mores!

While all stand during the entrance hymn, the young ladies have something to whisper to each other about their neighbours: “What a lovely pair of earrings, I wonder who gave them to her;” “Lipstick too loud;” “Dress piece from Salgaokars shop in Mapusa;” “Broach not matching.” And mind you, all this in a flash, even before the congregation has replied to the priest’s “The Lord be with you.”

Meanwhile, young chaps aloft in the choir cast down their eyes on the colourful spectacle below and render thanks to God for the presence of the coy young damsels in the nave.

Readings and Sermon

Everybody is eager to see who is going to do the readings. The reader assures everyone that “Nothing is impossible for God.” [Luke 1:37]. And so “Everything is possible to one who has faith.” [Mark 9:23]. The sermon is not too lengthy, quite bearable; surely not as dry as stones. Certainly the overture leads to the blaming of foxes tails. My God! A chorus ascends to heaven – Padarin sermanv koddock uddoilo! But the docile, serene and humble Lady seated on the main altar takes the foxes’ pride in her stride and willfully grants the requests made. Hence so much love for Mae de Deus wherever Saligaokars reside. On this day, worldwide, their hearts and minds are directed towards Her visage. They are back home in Saligao, in spirit if not in the flesh.

The prayer of faithful is for the welfare of the Church and government leaders, the President of the Saligao feast and prosperity of all the people from the village at home and abroad. Another 50 take part in the offertory procession and with added commentary of the gifts, the hearts, minds, joys and sufferings are offered to the Lord.

The rest of the Saligao Feast Mass ceremony goes as planned. During the Feast Mass the fervour of the congregation gradually builds to a crescendo and all partake in the Eucharistic meal.

Procession

Under the scorching sun, the Saligao Church Feast procession begins. And whether you like it or not, in Saligao, it is a must. It has something more than penitential indulgence and that is why most wait for this moment. The same suited-and-booted bachelors who where were on the loft are the first ones to descend down. With cameras in hand, hurriedly clicking photos they rush to take their place in the procession and whether they know or don’t know the lines of O’ Brilhante!- they open their mouths wide and sing: Salve Santa Mae de Deus, Nossa Guia e Protectora, Salve Rainha dos cues, Sacratissima Senhora!

And the brass band carries the most loved hymn to new musical heights. As the procession slowly wends its way one notices multicoloured parasols protecting the heads and fashionable sunglasses adorning pretty and rugged faces alike. Relatives and friends coming to Goa from overseas for the Saligao Feast join the ones at home in the prayerful walk. A few have their eye on a prospective bride or groom and ready themselves to make their first move later during the fair, but not before they receive the blessing of their Patroness Mae de Deus. The Mother of God blesses every one as she is carried in the procession: Ghall Maie tujem besanv, bhagi zaum amcho ganv! Pau Maie, Ie Maie, ghe amkam tujea gopant is soulfully sung to the sounds of the Saligao Church bells. The ties with the procession, come what may, are seldom broken.

Saligao Feast sweetsIt is a fashion nowadays to thank each and everyone at the end, from the main celebrant to the sacristan and sexton, not forgetting the mordomo and his family. No one in the audience minds it though, as the thanks are more than justified for the efforts put in by everyone for the Saligao Feast.  The mordomo for the Saligao Feast of the next year is announced together with the weekly programme and names of the donors. Finally the blessing of Our Lady is given and the new mordomo is crowned. With the kissing of the image by one and all, the final hymn is chanted. Happy Feast. All pains and heartaches are forgotten. We are one in the Lord.

The vendors at the stalls of the Saligao Feast fair do roaring business. Inflation or no inflation, in Goa all shell out good money to buy ample quantities of traditional sweets. In my younger days, with just eight annas I carried home a good measure of grams, ladoos, and three packets of firecrackers, besides one balloon, whistle and mialheiro (mellor).

Boas Festas!

3 comments on A bird’s eye view of the Saligao Feast of Mae de Deus

  • Fr. Nascimento Mascarenhas, Val D’Souza and Mel D’Souza wish each and every reader of saligaoserenade and the people from the village of Saligao at home and in diaspora, A Very Happy Feast of Mae de Deus, the Patroness of our Village. May Jesus through the Mother of God bless you and you families. BOAS FESTAS.

  • Oscar Cordeiro

    It was gratifying to read your brief. It was not just a birds eye view but the whole nest. It encompassed nostalgic memories of the entire Feast day which culminated in the grand Dance where many a match occured.I also do not forget the vibrant yet competitve salves among the vaddos which evoked the very best in the participating nances from each vaddo.The church stood out in all majesty lighting up the skies with the flavor and rich aroma of joy and song. I am sure every villager is proud to be a saligaonkar or as better known as Fox not in the literal sense.
    Viva !! to all saligaonkars and to you Fr. Nascimento. Do remember us in your prayers.Oscar,Maxine,Sharon and Tanya.

  • Hubert William D Souza

    The Holy Cross Chapel at Grande Morrod celebrated the Feast of the Holy Cross and there was a wonderfull choir arranged by Naju and Cake and eatables were given to the people by Philip Lobo. The Mass was celebrated by the Parish Priest Fr. Luciano. There was housie after the Mass.The celebration got over by 11.00am

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