This calendar of saints is drawn from several denominations, sects, and traditions. Although it will no longer be updated daily, the index on the right will guide visitors to a saint celebrated on any day they choose. Additional saints will be added as they present themselves to Major.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

July 25 -- Feast of the Cuncolim Martyrs

Here's the upshot: if you want to be a martyr, and you get other people martyred with you, at least have the decency to record their names.

Cuncolim was in the region of Goa, about half-way down the west coast of India.  After the Portuguese conquered the region in 1510, the Pope gave the Jesuits license to convert the locals.  They tried for a while, offering privileges from the colonial administration to converts.  That netted some results, but not enough, so the Jesuits began destroying Hindu temples.  They also required every native Goan over fifteen years old to attend evangelical sessions or be punished.  Oh, yeah... and all Hindu rituals were prohibited by law.  It was an indefensible policy -- not respectful, not productive, and certainly not popular.  But they were backed up by the Kings' guns -- Sebastiao, Henrique, Filipe all supported the policy. 

The destruction of three hundred Hindu temples was not just an assault on the culture, religion, heritage, artistry, and sovereignty of the Goans.  It was an economic attack as well, though I am not sure the Portuguese understood this.  As in Europe, temples hosted festivals, at which goods were bought and sold, entertainments were hired, and communities drew together.  Contracts were negotiated; marriages were arranged.  No temple, no festival.  Imagine our retail industry without Christmas to drive its calendar.  It would be temporarily thrown into disarray, and cultural conservatives would begin pushing back against the War on Christmas.  Wait, they already do that, and no imperialists have blown up three hundred churches and forbidden worship services.  Yet.  

The Jesuits marched into Cuncolim on July 25, 1583 to find a spot to build a church.  Their problem on that day was that the dominant families in the area were Kshatriyas, the warrior caste in Indian society.  The fertile farmland in the area had long sustained both the warriors and a population of skilled craftsmen.  Those guys had been making guns -- good guns, by sixteenth century standards -- for the Kshatriyas for a while.

A party of twenty went into Cuncolim: five Jesuits, a Portuguese layman named Goncalo Rodrigues, and fourteen Indian Christians.  When he saw the angry locals approaching, Goncalo pulled his gun but one of the priests, Father Alfonsus Pacheco, ordered him to stand down.  The Jesuits had aspirations of martyrdom.  Here's hoping that the other fifteen guys did too.

One of the natives, a seminary student named Dominic, was killed by his own uncle.  Another native, an altar boy named Alfonsus, had his hands cut off for refusing to give up the breviary he was carrying.  They then severed his knees so he couldn't escape and waited until the next day to kill him.  All fourteen natives and six Portuguese were killed.

Okay, but here's where it gets ugly.  When the church beatified the martyrs, they left the natives out.  All were baptized Christians who died for the Faith, but they were deemed to have been incapable of performing spiritual feats.  By that logic, of course, it would have been far better to allow them to continue to practice Hinduism, but logic is not the long suit in this hand.  Nor tact.  Nor wisdom. 

In spite of all this, a festival is held in Cuncolim on July 25 every year to honor the martyrs.  Christians and Hindus alike honor those who stood by their beliefs, and they do this with respect and amity.  Of course, a much bigger festival occurs in January, a five-day celebration of the goddess Shantadurga.   I'd like to think that at the festivals, goods are bought and sold, entertainments are hired, and the community draws together.  I wish that marriages were not arranged, but that might be too much to hope for.


  1. Wasn't this feast celebrated on July 27th?

  2. Walsh's New Dictionary of Saints and New Advent/Catholic Encyclopedia both say July 25, but if you prefer to celebrate them on the 27th, I can't imagine that anyone would object.