St Joseph Vaz
St Joseph Vaz was born in Benaulim, Goa. After years of serving as an Oratorian Priest, he pursued his desire to evangelize the ‘abandoned Catholics’ in Dutch-occupied Ceylon (now Sri Lanka). He exchanged his habit for beggar’s clothes and worked as a labourer to pay for the journey.
In Sri Lanka, most Catholics outwardly practiced Calvinist customs for fear of persecution. In a bid to find Catholics, Fr Vaz went door to door begging for alms, and when any of them looked with interest at the Rosary he wore around his neck, he’d confirm their loyalty and then reveal his identity as a priest. Bit by bit, he re-evangelized the island, listening to Confessions and celebrating Mass.
The troubled Governor placed a bounty on his head, but nobody betrayed Fr Vaz. The faithful were persecuted, but he managed to escape to an inner part of the island ruled by a Buddhist King. The Calvinists spread rumours that he was a Portuguese spy, and managed to imprison him there. But the King refused to persecute a spiritual man, giving Fr Vaz the opportunity to preach and restore the presence of the Church all over the island. Later, when a smallpox epidemic broke out, Fr Vaz’s guidance helped contain the infection, saving many lives.
From working as a labourer to going undercover, St Joseph Vaz, 'Apostle of Ceylon', did what it took, trusting God’s providence every step of the way.