Apostle of Sri Lanka Blessed
Joseph Vaz was born at Benaulim,
Goa, on the 21st April, 1651. His parents were Christopher
Vaz and Maria de Miranda, both devoted and pious Catholics.
Even as a Child Joseph was noted for his deep piety and his
charity towards the poor. Having completed his studies at
Goa, he prepared himself for the priesthood and was ordained
at the age of 25.In 1681 he was sent to the district of Kanara
in South India as the Superior of the Mission. He returned
to Goa after three years and joined the Congregation of the
Holy Cross of Miracles, which he recognized in to the Oratory
of St. Philip Neri and which supplied Sri Lanka with missionaries
for a century and half.
It was in 1686 that Fr.
Vaz decided to come to Sri Lanka. He had heard of the sad
plight of the Catholics hear who were suffering under the
Dutch persecution and longed to minister to them. After spending
some time in South India he crossed over to North of Sri Lanka
in 1687, disguised as a Labourer in order to avoid the vigilant
eyes of the Dutch. In Jaffna he pursued his ministrations,
poor and unknown, helpless and friendless and stricken with
grave illness. After spending about two years in Jaffna he
passed over to Puttalam, the then chief seaport of the Kandyan
Kingdom, where he could work in peace and Security. There
he applied him self with great, preaching, administering sacraments,
rebuilding churches and wining souls to Christ. He then came
to Kandy, which was to be the center of his missionary activities
for twenty years. In Kandy he first suffered imprisonment
on the order of the King on suspicion as a Portuguese spy.
In course of time, however, the King became aware of his miraculous
virtues and gave him permission to go about his ministrations.
While in prison he compiled a Sinhalese – Portuguese
vocabulary for the use of the Goan Fathers. He also took steps
to create a vernacular Catholic Literature.
Fr. Vaz was later Superior
of the Mission and Vicar General of the Church in Lanka. He
established several missionary centers and took upon himself
the arduous task of going about the whole country tramping
through jungle paths, hazarding his life in the midst of wild
animals and even penetrating into the coastal towns where
it was a crime to even give shelter to a Catholic Priest.
The unbounded charity of
Fr. Vaz was evident when a severe pestilence broke out in
Kandy in 1697. Fr. Vaz and his assistant nursed the sick,
carried food to the segregated patients, and even buried the
dead. King Wimaladharma openly declared that were it not for
Fr. Vaz's charity the streets would have been full of corpses.
Apostle Father Joseph Vaz
endanger him life to preserve the faith of the Catholics,
who rallied under his leadership in the country. In his mission
he ministered the need of the persecuted Catholics in his
leadership in this country and safe guard their faith. He
learnt and used the language of the people both Sinhala and
Tamil as an instrument of peace. He used both languages to
sustain the message of love and strengthen the faith of the
people irrespective of their ethnicity. For him his mission
Sri Lanka was One country and its' people were one flock.
After having toiled with
indefatigable zeal in this part of Our Lord's Vineyard and
having converted or reclaimed over thirty thousand people
to True Fold, having worked many miracles and shown ample
testing of his apostolic zeal for God and of his deep purity
and humility, his pure soul left this mortal world on the
16th January, 1711. He died in Kandy and was buried in the
Church of Our Lady, which was erected by him. But alas when
Catholic priests were expelled from Kandy and Churches razed
to the ground, this historic Church which had stood for about
47 years disappeared and all traces of it have since been
Though two centuries have
elapsed since his death the fame of his sanctity lives to
the present day in India and Sri Lanka, Innumerable favors
have been received through this intercession, and many extraordinary
In January 21st 1996 our
Holy Father, Pope John Paul II proclaimed this great missionary
of Asia and Apostle of Sri Lanka as Blessed Joseph Vaz.