Colva’s Fama: Where thousands seek miracles from Menino Jesus

Thousands of devotees will throng the 400-year-old Our Lady of Merces church for the grand 'Colva Fama' to seek the blessings of Menino (Infant) Jesus tomorrow October 17, 2016.

The fama mass will be celebrated at 5.30am after which the Infant Jesus statue is brought out of the crypt, onto the altar, and carried in a solemn procession around the church before it was kept for public veneration till late night.

Celebrated with much religious fervour, the fama is neither the feast nor the novena , but a special day after which the novenas commence to ultimately conclude with the church feast to held on October 27.

Colva’s Miraculous Menino
by Maria de Lourdes Bravo da Costa Rodrigues

Navhind Times in Buzz

Colva will celebrate the Fama of Menino Jesus on October 17, 2016. Fama is the day before the novenas commence, and the celebration is to announce the beginning of the novena. For the fama, a maddi (pole made from the areca nut tree) and a bandeira are put up in the open space of the Our Lady of Merces Church facing the church and a banner with the picture of the deity whose feast is to be celebrated is hoisted on this pole.

The ritual involving the hoisting of the Image is carried out by the priest in the presence of the president of the Confraria (Confraternity), confreres and devotees. If the feast is being celebrated by an individual then he too is present. The Image remains there till the day of the feast.

Usually, it is the feast that receives all the attention, why then is the Colva Fama celebrated with such pomp, so much so that the feast gets pushed to second place? The Colva Fama is also the most important Fama in Goa, why?

This is because it celebrates the Fama of a miraculous statue enshrined in this church.

Before the Image of the Infant is kept for adoration at the Church a High Mass is held after which the niche housing the Image is opened. Several keys are involved in the opening of this niche and the responsibility of safeguarding these keys rests with the Confraria of the Colva Church, who keeps them at an unknown location for safety and bring them to the church only on the day of the Fama.

The vicar and the president of the Confraria climb up to the altar where the president unlocks the shutters and hands over the last key to the vicar, who takes the sacred statue from its pedestal and displays it to those present. This act is announced with fireworks. The Infant is covered with regal robes and jewellery and taken in a solemn procession around the church.

Before entering the church, the procession stops near the maddi. The clothes and jewels on the Image are then removed and the Image is bathed and the water collected by devotees. It is then dressed in a white robe and the ring is refastened to the right thumb with new holy cords before being exposed for public veneration.

Some Catholics wear a green cord on their hand right from the month of October, a ritual peculiar to the Colva Fama. These are called medidas and are sold during the festivity.

Medidas, literally meaning ‘to measure’, are chords of protection and good luck. These cords are measured to the size of Menino Jesus, touched to the miraculous statue, and carried away by almost all devotees as souvenirs.

Jose Venancio Machado, who wrote the ‘Fama of Menino Jesus of Colva Goa, Faith and Festivity across History’, says that the description of the legend was first written by Leonardo Paes in his book ‘Promptuario das Deffinicoens Indicas’.

The legend: It is said that this holy Image was found on the shores of Sena in the following way: The boat in which Fr Bento Ferreira of the Society of Jesus was travelling in from Mozambique to Sena was shipwrecked compelling the travellers to continue their journey on the mainland. Arriving at a beach, they saw at a distance a figure on a stone and many birds flying over. As some of the travellers were fond of hunting they walked closer to the stone and found the Menino seated on it. Fr Ferreira took the Image with reverence and carried it to Sena and from there to Goa. When he was transferred to Colva as vicar, he carried the Image with him and kept it in a trunk. He realised that the ceiling seemed to open for the sunlight to enter and illuminate the place where the statue was stored. As this was also noticed by others, he decided to place the statuette on the main altar of the church, and thereafter in one of the side altars, from where it is bestowing innumerable miracles, which are recorded in a book kept in the cofre (chest) of the said church; and its feast is performed in the fourth Thursday of the month of October, being attended by many people, both Christians and pagans; and all Thursdays of the week a mass is celebrated and the curtain of the Child Jesus’ niche is opened that day, with great devotion of the faithful.

Long before Machado wrote the book in 2013, Antonio Barbosa Barreto had written ‘O Menino Jesus de Colva’, and had more or else the same legend. However, there is a queer sequence to this happening. The Jesuits were banned from Portugal and her provinces by D Maria, the queen of Portugal in 1834.

The Rector of Rachol Seminary took the Menino Jesus from the Church, claiming that the Menino was found by a Jesuit priest. This happened on September 11, before the then vicar Fr Jose Figueiredo left the church. He not only took the Menino, but all the jewellery that adorned the Image, and the money from the treasury. However, a gold diamond ring, which adorned one of the Infant’s fingers, fell into the niche of the altar and remained there.

The saddened people of Colva sent a letter to the Superior of the Jesuit Order. However, he replied that the Image was found by a Jesuit priest and as such it belonged to the Order. Not satisfied with the answer the devotees referred to the viceroy Francisco Jose Sampaio who advised them to write to the king of Portugal, D Joao V, who on April 18, 1835, ordered the Jesuits to return the Image. Since the king’s orders were not honoured the devotees decided to have a new Image installed. So on May 2, 1836 a new Image was installed and the ring belonging to the original Image was placed on the Infant.

It is important to note that while the original Image existing in the Rachol Seminary does not affect miracles, the new one continues to perform miracles.

The people of Colva believe that the Miraculous Menino was theirs, that even when taken away by force, He chose to leave behind for them all His virtues and powers in the ring He dropped.