Father Cosme Jose Costa displays an icon of Blessed Joseph Vaz in late October at the Society of Pilar headquarters in Pilar, India. Father Costa's 1938 birth was accepted by the Vatican as the miracle needed to beatify Blessed Vaz in 1995. Blessed Vaz w ill be canonized by Pope Francis Jan. 14 at the Vatican in Sri Lanka. CNS photo/Anto Akkara

Indian priest, ‘miracle son,’ are eager for Blessed Vaz canonization

By  Anto Akkara, Catholic News Service
  • January 10, 2015

PILAR, INDIA - Sri Lankan Catholics are looking forward to Pope Francis’ canonization of Blessed Joseph Vaz Jan. 14, but the enthusiasm and eagerness of Fr. Cosme Jose Costa stands apart.

“It is Blessed Joseph Vaz’s intercession that saved my life, and I look forward with deep gratitude (to) this great event,” said Costa, a 76-year-old member of the Society of Pilar based in Goa, Blessed Vaz’s home state.

Costa’s 1938 birth was accepted by the Vatican as the miracle needed to beatify Blessed Vaz in 1995. Blessed Vaz, an Oratorian priest, moved to Sri Lanka in 1687 and is known as the apostle of Sri Lanka — credited with reviving almost single-handedly the Catholic Church there during severe persecution by Dutch colonial authorities in the 17th century.

Costa, who attended Blessed Vaz’s beatification in January 1995, will attend the canonization in Colombo, Sri Lanka.

“More than 1,000 Goans are also traveling to Sri Lanka for the same,” Costa told Catholic News Service 9.

Costa’s mother, Quiteria Noronha Costa, had miscarried three times due to acute hemorrhage. In the fourth month of her pregnancy with Costa, she began bleeding, and a young priest in the family who was at the time working at a Fr. Vaz shrine encouraged the family to pray to him.

With the hemorrhage worsening in the seventh month, she was rushed to the hospital. Doctors wanted to conduct a Caesarian section but could not because of her precarious condition.

“My relatives placed a picture of Fr. Vaz on my unconscious mother’s stomach and prayed. Soon she regained consciousness and had a normal delivery,” said Costa, now a church historian. He weighed only two pounds, which earned him the nickname “Frog.”

His mother survived, and the family unanimously decided to name Fr. Vaz as the “godfather” for her “miracle son.”

Seeing the precarious condition of the baby, the Catholic nurse at the hospital baptized him within hours of his birth. Costa was formally baptized three months later.

Costa said his mother prayed constantly for Fr. Vaz’s intercession, and her premature baby gained health steadily.

“I could have been deaf, dumb, blind or anything. ... Blessed Vaz’s intercession saved us,” reiterated Costa.

“My mother accepted my vocation to priesthood as a reward for her sufferings, though everybody else in the family opposed it because I was the only son,” Costa said.

“My mother went on to live till the age of 94 and was alive when Vaz was beatified,” he added.

In September, Pope Francis moved Blessed Vaz’s sainthood process forward without formally recognizing a miracle needed for canonization.

Fr. Eremito Rebello, rector of the Blessed Vaz shrine at Sancoale, told CNS the announcement of the canonization date has increased the number of pilgrims to the popular shrine, which has been drawing devotions to the missionary priest since the early 1900s.

Since 1997, he said, the Goa Archdiocese has sent the Vatican details of 21 miraculous healings and births to childless couple due to the intercession Blessed Vaz.

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