Seven Stories of Soul Travel

by  Ariosto José Coelho (2006)


(The name Joseph has it's origin in the Hebrew Bible and means "may God increase".

José [Portuguese], Giuseppe [Italian], Susai [Tamil], Juze [Konkani], Devardhan [Hindi].

Devardhan ananda : God blissfully [ananda] grows and glows as the soul travels.)





















 IN harmony  with

The Rhythm of the Breath


0. Dedicaton

These short stories are dedicated to San Giovanni Melchiorre Bosco [1815-1888], the founder of the Salesians; Fr. Ariosto Xavier Coelho [1861-1923], the vicar forane of Nagapattinam; and to all who worked to make Don Bosco's dream come true in India for a century [1906-2006].


This is a story of soul travel both within and beyond the womb and the tomb. It was written in Spring 2004, the Year of the Monkey in the Chinese tradition. Hanuman, who bears the name of the Monkey-God in Hinduism, offers interfaith and mystical perspectives on life and death in contemporary society.


This is a mythological story based on Professor José Julião de Almeida’s Historia de Aquem e Esquema (Genealogia) da Familia Coelho, (Margão: Boa Imprensa. 1969) and offers a perspective on conversions to Christianity in Goa, India in the sixteenth century.


In this story the soul travels two thousand years and witnesses one of the most significant events that shaped history. The three happy hearts traveled to Jerusalem, the city of Peace, and experienced total surrender.


In this story the soul travels over four thousand years to have an encounter with a man from the banks of the Tigris and Euphrates. Living dreams and unfolding their interpretations through good times and bad times is essential for the soul.


This short story is based on the life of Blessed Joseph Vaz, who was born in Benaulim, Goa in 1651 and died in Kandy, Sri Lanka in 1711. In 1995 Pope John Paul, the Great, beatified him and placed his exemplary life as an example of holiness.


This short story, based on the Archives of the Salesian Province of Madras, a Souvenir from the Parish in Tanjore published in Tamil in 1969 and the Memorie dell’Oratorio, offers a perspective on St. John Bosco, the first Salesians in India and their first institution in Tanjore in 1906.


These four short stories offer insights into the lives of the little, the lowly, the lonely and the lost in a tiny and remote village on the banks of the river Kushavati in Goa, where the author worked from 1978 up to 1987.





Hanuman, a resident of the city by the Bay, considered himself lucky to be among the first to look at the beautiful hearts that will adorn San Francisco throughout Spring and Summer. There were hearts painted in gold, covered with images of eyes, of bicycles and of army camouflage. He liked the flower-covered fiberglass heart. He sensed that the creator of this heart was a happy kind of guy.


As Hanuman walked home he was oblivious of the busy people around Embarcadero. On his left he could occasionally feel the brightness and the warmth of the last rays of the setting sun which appeared and disappeared between the mighty sky scrapers. He seemed lost. His thoughts were thousands of miles away in Rishivan, a little village on the banks of the river Kushavati in south Goa, India. He thought of all the simple but loving hearts that lived there. He recalled the happy people and their poor surroundings. His memory was vivid. He could smell the freshness of recently harvested paddy fields and see the golden coconuts shining on rows of heavenly palms. He felt the irritation of the red dust raised by the water buffaloes as they slowly ambled towards their barns and heard the noisy trucks carrying ferrous manganese ore. He suddenly came to a grinding halt as he heard a bicyclist yell. He moved aside, muttered an inaudible "sorry" and continued towards his apartment.


From the towering window of his studio he glanced outside. He could notice the short and long beams of lights in the distance brighten as they came towards him. He was looking at the upper span of the magnificent Bay Bridge. As was his habit every night, Hanuman moved his gaze from Highway 80 West towards the super highway on the world wide web. He fell into a memory hole where he saw images of flag-draped coffins with casualties from Iraq. His thoughts were now with these military heroes, whose commitment to duty forced them to sacrifice their all, in order to bring democracy and freedom to a people they knew not. Hanuman’s compassionate heart was grieving with their caring families. As he attempted to understand why people engaged in conflict and fought wars, he was transported to an image of the monkey-god on the bureau where he had a few frames with pictures of his dear and near ones. As was his habit before surrendering himself to the gods and goddesses of sleep, he invoked their blessings and prayed for three-fold peace. With great reverence Hanuman cupped his hands, placed them on his forehead just above the eyes and whispered in Konkani, the language of his ancestors, "Om. Ram, Ram. Sita-Ram. Ram, Ram. Om. Xanti, Xanti, Xanti."


The temperature had dropped into the fifties and the noisy wind was moving the swift fog further into the city that never sleeps. Hanuman, like most San Franciscans, was fast asleep. Unlike many of his kind he had a very unusual and lucid dream. Like the Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu at 60 years of age, Hanuman found himself cuddled inside his mother's womb. He felt warm and safe. He experienced nurture, dependence, satisfaction, intimacy, love, life and growth in the womb. He was happy but hesitant about this possible regression. Suddenly, he was transported to a dreary and foreboding darkness. It was cold and devoid of any feeling. He felt very insecure. He realized that he was placed in a silvery casket inside a deathlike tomb. It was Mother Nature's womb, welcoming him at the end of life. Then, all of a sudden, Hanuman found himself embracing another form of life. It was very dynamic. He was sharing the energy, security, intimacy and universality of an infinitely loving and ever-expanding universe.


Hanuman seemed to be awake as his soul traveled beyond the womb and the tomb. As he stretched his real and experiential memory beyond the womb to the moment just prior to his conception, he felt centrifugal forces driving him beyond this existence to eternity. Then, he stretched the power of his imagination beyond this life, he wondered what the future may hold and felt pulled toward the center. As he unfolded the explosion of this moment beyond consciousness in the womb to the reality beyond the fantasy in the tomb he enfolded the implosion of absolute nakedness. He experienced the void of nothingness.


His body was stiff. Hanuman struggled to determine if he was alive or not. When he heard the incessant California mocking bird hoot like an owl, he lay motionless in bed trusting his ears and struggling to make sense of this unusual dream. His attempts to describe for himself the absolute nakedness of non-existence led him to consider the term ‘self-annihilation.’He wondered whether it was a negative experience that had consequences or was the result of karma.

With great awe and trepidation Hanuman invoked his ancestors, placed his hands gently on his heart and whispered with unprecedented love and devotion:"Om. Ram, Ram. Sita-Ram. Ram, Ram. Om. Xanti, Xanti, Xanti." He thanked the Ground of Being and surrendered whatever this experience may be, may mean or may demand from him. He felt calm and fully awake. He got out of his perilous bed and sat in his favorite chair. As he attempted to understand this lucid dream, he grew with the awareness that this was an experience of soul travel that was neither negative nor positive. He was face to face with an unfathomable experience that defied adequate expression. With unprecedented insight he recalled what Lao Tzu had written many centuries ago: " Those who know don’t speak, and those who speak don’t know." Now, even more confused than before and altogether helpless Hanuman set out to understand his dream with further images from the past. A couplet by Sant Kabirdas, the Hindu-Muslim mystic poet about whom he had learnt during his school days, came to his mind. It was the metaphor of a water-filled pot that falls apart in the ocean of water. "Whether it’s a wave or a drop, it’s all water for the ocean" whispered the serene voices of the sages.


Wiser than before, Hanuman felt in harmony with the concert of the ocean. His heart was painted with happy flowers of tranquility, contentment and freedom. His earthly sojourn was over. His mission was accomplished. His was a legacy of simple submission, silent sacrifice and soulful surrender to the unfathomable mystery of unknowing while knowing directly with the heart. His life was transformed and his soul traveled to another realm of existence where Hanuman decided to create a gift worthy of his legacy on earth. He dipped his creative finger in the ocean and lifted it high for all to see. A fresh drop of water was released, thus initiating its transient journey in the impermanent sky. A bright ray of sunshine struck the drop, it glistened. This watery prism sparkled like a radiant diamond with a billion edges. Hanuman named this zillion-colored drop of transparency, Joseph.





This watery prism sparkled like a radiant diamond with a billion edges as it fell from the raised hand of the priest. Everyone assembled at this baptism was silent with awe and amazement. The cold drop of water gracefully touched the forehead of this seven day-old baby. The gentle sound of the breeze at midday was shattered with a child’s loud cry and everyone wondered what this child’s destiny might be. Unperturbed, the priest continued with his ritual voice: "Joseph, I baptize you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit." Everyone jubilantly responded in unison: "Amen." The bells of the Church rang gayly announcing to the four winds that another heathen had been released form the clutches of Satan. Amidst the exploding sounds of crackers a thunderous blast from a nearby Kozno, Konkani for cannon, rent the air. It was indeed a historical moment but this child knew nothing about destiny, history or his ancestry.


Joseph’s family lived by the side of the caves which, according to tradition, were attributed to his Hindu ancestors, the Pandavas, in a village on the banks of the river Sal in Salcete, Goa. Joseph was all ears whenever his mother narrated stories of Vasco Da Gama, the Portuguese navigator who landed in Cochin in 1498. Joseph was almost seven years old, when he first heard of the exploits of his great ancestor Tipú Santú Naik Sardessai.

According to Joseph’s mother, Alfonso de Albuquerque had wielded the sword and planted the cross in the islands of Goa in 1510, killing some of Tipú’s distant relatives. The young ksatrya (a member of the warrior caste) was ten year’s old. His tender blood boiled with rage within him. He was afraid that his father, too, would be killed by the Portuguese if they happened to come south of the river Zuari. He was determined to assist his father not to surrender his surfdom to the packlés (the Konkani word for the fair skinned Whites).


After Tipú’s father’s premature death at the age of 50, Tipú had to shoulder the responsibilities of a large joined family. He lived his student (bramach~rya) years, married, and raised a family (gruhastya) that was very loyal to him. As the years passed by the courageous warrior became a peace-loving man, and was now ready to spend time in the forest (vanaprasta) and consider the path to freedom beyond structures, signs and symbols (sany~sa).


The sun was high in the sky on February 26, 1560. Tipú completed his morning rituals and rested in the shade of a coconut tree dressed in a loin cloth (casti). He was asleep. When he opened his eyes he saw a black figure standing next to him. He thought he was dreaming when he heard a confident voice speaking in broken Konkani with a heavy Portuguese accent say, "Dev boro dis dium" (may God bless you with a good day). Tipú responded to this salutation with equal goodness from his heart.


Tipú had never met such a creature before. As he wiped his sleepy eyes he realized that the black angel standing in front of him was a white Catholic Priest, who introduced himself as Padre Sebastião. This was Tipú’s first encounter with a Catholic Priest. Padre Sebastião was a holy man but an arrogant priest, whose knowledge of Konkani went no further than the initial salutation. Tipú’s knowledge of Portuguese made the conversation easy for the padre.

"What are you doing here under this palm tree? asked Padre Sebastião.

"Can’t you see? I’m relaxing" retorted Tipú as he gently removed an ant that was taking a brisk walk in his abundant black hair.

"Relaxing? You should be busy working."

"Why? What for?"

"So that you can be educated to accept Christ and belong to His religion."

"Why do I need your faith and religion?"

"Because you don’t want to go to hell after you die!"

"I’m interested in this life."

Well, then, because you want to find favor with the Portuguese."

Why do I need the Portuguese?"

"So that you can be protected from your enemies, and make progress."

"Why do I need progress?"

"To advance in life."

"What does one achieve by advancing in life?"

"Oh, one acquires mastery over oneself and one’s immediate environment."

"Is that really so?"

"Not only that, one learns to live in peace and harmony."

"Is that really the goal of your education and religion?"

"Yes. Harmony before and after death, with the living and the dead."

"Magir (then in Konkani), what?"

"Then, one can take it easy and relax."

"Can’t you see? I’m already relaxing!" and Tipú had a hearty laugh.


Joseph, too, laughed along with his mother, and wanted to know whether Tipú accepted Christianity or not. His mother concluded her narration by telling her young son that Padre Sebastião laughed as he baptized Tipú Santú Naik Sardessai and welcomed him and his clan into the Roman Catholic faith in 1561.


Joseph was proud to belong to Tipú’s clan. He was even more proud to share in the faith of Padre Sebastião. As he continued to grow in age and wisdom he developed a special connection with, nay, a spiritual affinity to this holy priest who was the first to introduce his ancestors in Goa to the ocean of Christ’s love and compassion. He saw a reflection of this priest in every priest that he met.


At the tender age of seven, Joseph was an altar boy. He assisted the local priest at various sacramental celebrations, ritual liturgies and other observances. He was a keen observer and a very eager listener. He payed rapt attention to the priests as they proclaimed the Word of God in season and out of season. He prayed with them as they broke the Bread of God. With great curiosity he often wondered about the various symbols and rituals used during liturgical celebrations. In his childlike simplicity he could not understand why during the Eucharistic Celebration the priest carefully introduced a drop of water into the cup of wine.





The priest took the cruet from Joseph’s hands and carefully let one single drop of water fall into the ceremonial chalice filled with ritualized wine. As this drop of water made its downward descent into the gold goblet, Joseph could faintly hear the words the priest uttered in Latin "By the mystery of this mingling of water in wine, may we come to share in the divinity of Christ, who humbled himself to share in our humanity." Joseph was traveling with this drop of water.


Joseph witnessed this drop as it traveled through a spiral of history into eternity. He saw Hanuman in the company of many Vedic and Upanishadic sages and heard them chant without ceasing in Sanskrit: "Om. That is infinite, this is infinite. What comes from such fullness is truly fulfilling. What remains after perfection is yet perfect. Om." In the ascending and descending spiral of stillness and harmony Joseph also met Tipú Santú Naik Sardessai and heard him laugh joyously along with Padre Sebastião. All of a sudden Padre Sebastião dramatically stretched out his hand. The drop gently found a resting place on the palm of the Padre’s hand. It glistened like a laser beam with a powerful golden glow. Joseph was blinded by this ray of light.


Nestled next to the Padre and his great ancestor Tipú, Joseph was ecstatic. He could not believe his eyes. His body was still warm and spinning from the spiral journey. His ears were eager to hear about this happening. The smell of the ritual wine was still haunting Joseph and his taste buds were toying with intoxication, when the Padre took a deep breath and opened his mouth. With every word that the Padre uttered Joseph was traveling again.


This time Joseph was transported to a humble abode in Nazareth. It was very peaceful. The dew drops were still fresh and the myriad rays of the warm morning sun made them twinkle like tiny stars. The glorious dance of the morning sun on these mud walls was unprecedented. A wooden bench in the distance offered a welcoming signal. As Joseph approached this well crafted piece from a sycamore tree, he could hear the silent whispers of a young Hebrew maiden utter in a tone of complete surrender: "Be it done unto me according to thy will."

Joseph was utterly confused. He couldn’t believe his ears nor the delicate sentiments that welled up in his tender heart as he lovingly looked into her serene face. Their eyes met in a lasting embrace of comfort and silence. He was in love with this beautiful maiden.


The graceful young woman was not surprised to see Joseph. With a sense of confidence and relief and with a captivating voice she gently welcomed him: "I knew you were coming. I dreamed about you. I thank Yahweh who sent you today. Behold I am the handmaid of the Lord. Together we have to prepare for his coming. He is transient like a tiny drop of morning dew on a blade of grass. He is transparent like a distant star in the mighty dome of heaven. He is like the root of Jesse and will sit on David’s throne."


Joseph did not know what to say. In the depth of his silence he felt comfort and found strength in the words of Lao Tzu: "Those who know don’t speak, and those who speak don’t know." He accepted the invitation. He made his abode in Nazareth. He learned the art and mastered the techniques of working with wood as a village carpenter. He lived with this welcoming woman of God and supported her son. Their lives were a legacy of simple submission, silent service and soulful surrender to the unfathomable mystery of unknowing while knowing directly with the heart.


The three happy hearts had traveled to Jerusalem, the city of Peace, to celebrate Passover together. Little did they know that they were on their final pilgrimage on Earth. The eye of heaven was shining brighter than usual that Friday. As Joseph, the Mother and her Son approached the summit of Calvary, the crowd appeared closer and the din sounded louder. Lost in the multitude were their relatives, friends, co-workers, fellow worshipers, religious authorities, government servants, politicians and tourists. There were people from Judea, Samaria, Mesopotamia, Capadocia, Pontus, Ausia, Phrygia, Pamphylia, Egypt, Lybia, Crete, Arabia and Rome. All of a sudden, a dark cloud covered the skies, the mob became restless, and a loud voice pierced the din. Soon the mob picked up the cry: "Crucify them!" In the ensuing frenzy the throng repeated louder than before "Crucify them! Crucify them!"


The senseless authorities, disagreeable on various grounds at first, agreed to pursue common ambitions. They trumped up blasphemous charges against them because it was more convenient to please the crowd than to seek and let the truth prevail. The organizers of this event overcame political and diplomatic barriers in order to condemn the three happy hearts. Three crosses were erected at Golgotha and they were crucified that very afternoon. As the shadows began to lengthen the crowd lessened.


It was nightfall. In the midst of the darkness one could see the full moon rising in the distant horizon behind the walls of the temple. The crowd consisted of a few bystanders and three Roman soldiers. One of the more sensitive bystanders, a man from Syria, shouted: "Good luck! Bad luck! Who knows!" As Joseph heard these three exclamations he turned on the cross. It was very painful for him to move his head toward the woman crucified with him on the extreme left and toward her son in the center. He looked at the woman he loved and knew immediately that it was neither good luck nor bad luck, but the eternal plan of God for them to be hanging from these crosses. He also knew that it was uncommon to crucify a woman, but such was Yahweh’s plan for this handmaid.


The woman’s heart was pierced seven times as she experienced the sorrow and pain of her dying son. She recalled how over thirty three years she had been a significant part of her son’s life. She had experienced much pain, but she also had her moments of glory and her heart was filled with contentment. She had witnessed her son move around and do good among the people. She recalled their last supper in the Upper Room on Thursday. She remembered how special that meal was, for after he had broken bread with them and drank wine from the same cup he washed their feet as a sign of his great love for them and as a fulfilment of the past covenants manifested by God in their lives. She could clearly hear his words: "As often as you do it, do it in remembrance of me."


The nurturing mother remembered the many meals she had prepared for him and his friends. She recalled hearing their conversations especially of their conflicts with the pharisees, lawyers, publicans and tax collectors. She knew the many women, who were fond of him, and heard from them how he uplifted their souls with his parables of the kingdom. She had heard countless stories about him. One by one she recalled these memories.


She was proud of him when at a wedding in Cana, he changed water into wine. She was frightened when all those with him in the boat were sleeping during a storm at sea, but he was calm and pacified the stormy sea. She couldn’t believe Peter when he narrated to her about the miraculous catch of fish that sank his boat. She had met the ten lepers whom he had cleansed and healed, and she knew first hand how much they enjoyed his energizing company. She was at the house of Mary and Martha and when he raised Lazarus from the grave, she couldn’t believe her own eyes. She could hear the cries of bewilderment on the lips of the blind man as her son opened his eyes and restored him his physical sight.


The mother could barely feel the soothing fingers touch her toes as the woman, whom her son had saved from being stoned for committing adultery, stood by her beneath the cross. She could faintly hear him utter these powerful words to her: "Woman, has no one condemned you, neither will I. Go in peace and sin no more."


Joseph’s pain knew no bounds as the woman he loved breathed her last. His heart missed a beat and he recalled telling her and her son that life was not measured by the number of breaths one took, but by those moments that took one’s breath away. He was happy to recall that this woman had many such breath-taking moments during her earthly life. Then, he struggled and, in the midst of excruciating pain, turned his eyes toward her son. He could not see, but he could faintly hear him whisper while exhaling slowly: "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they are doing. ... Into your hands I commend my spirit."


It was nearing midnight at Golgotha. The full moon was smiling with winsome freshness. One of the three Roman soldiers, who was still there, took a spear and pierced his side to make sure that he was really dead. There was no blood, but only water flowed from his heart.


It was midnight in Jerusalem. As one of the last drops of fluid from his right side oozed out and left on its downward thrust towards the earth, a single ray of moonlight pierced it. It’s silvery glow brightened the horizon and illumined Joseph’s path of mingling the drop of water in wine. Joseph realized divinity as he humbled himself to share in the pains and joys of humanity. He joined the drop on its journey and his soul was traveling once again in the ascending and descending spiral of stillness and harmony.





There was an invisible splash as the drop touched the dry bottom of an empty cistern. Joseph opened his eyes and found himself surrounded by dreary and damp darkness. He felt lonely and tired. Nothing was more welcome in that lonely hole than the company of lady sleep. Joseph was dreaming again and his soul was traveling to remote areas in past eras.

In his dream Joseph was enjoying the company of a man who had traveled from the banks of the Tigris and Euphrates in Babylonia. This man was a wanderer and had many wonderful stories to share. He talked about his family and narrated the most gruesome story about his son, whom he was called to sacrifice to his God. Joseph couldn’t help recall the scene of the crucifixion at Calvary and the death of the woman from Nazareth and her dying son.


"Did your son’s mother accept your decision to sacrifice her only son?" asked Joseph curiously.

"She had no say in this. This request was from God" replied the man who believed more in God than in his son’s mother.

"How did you know it was God, who asked for this cruel massacre of your son."

"I knew it deep in my heart, because only God can create life in the womb and take it away."

"How did you know that such a God is a true one?"

"This God alone could give me a heart, that could make it possible for me, to surrender our most precious possession, my only son" and tears began to flow from his watery eyes.

"Did you kill him?" quickly retorted an anxious and angry Joseph.

"No. God in his infinite goodness provided a sacrificial ram." As he wiped away his tears he declared, "if it wasn’t for this ram, you would not have been born, and there would not have been a Hebrew people."

"What are you saying?" asked a puzzled and confused Joseph. "Who are you? Who am I? And how do you know all this?"

"I’m not sure if you have heard of me. They call me Abraham. I’ve been called the originator of the dualistic faith traditions. Aren’t you my great grandson Joseph, the most-beloved son of Jacob and of his much-loved wife Rachel, who led my people into Egypt? By the way, what are you doing in this empty water cistern?"


Joseph was awakened to silence. He could now clearly hear the voice of Abraham, who continued narrating the concluding stories in the book of Genesis. He told him of the merchant who pulled Joseph out from the cistern, where his jealous brothers had placed him because he told them his dreams - dreams in which he lorded over the rest of his family. He was led as a slave and sold to Potiphar, an important official of the Pharoah of Egypt. He was soon made a steward of the household. But Potiphar’s wife cast longing eyes on him. When he refused her attempts to seduce him she cried rape, and Joseph was thrown into prison. In prison Joseph soon won the jailor’s trust. He excelled himself by explaining the dreams of two of Pharaohs officials imprisoned with him. The Egyptians believed strongly in dreams as a key to future events.


The butler, whose dream he interpreted, was soon released and he suddenly remembered Joseph when Pharaoh had a dream that no one could understand. Joseph was quickly taken from prison and made fit to appear in Pharaoh’s presence. He interpreted Pharaoh’s dreams, readily acknowledging God as the source of his amazing insight: there would be seven yeas of plenty followed by seven years of terrible famine. Pharaoh, impressed, put Joseph in charge of all food storage and distribution.


So, by a quirk or fate - or, as Joseph believed, by God’s plan - his unsuspecting brothers one day came to him to beg for food, for the famine had reached their land too. For sometime Joseph kept his identity a secret, but at last he broke down and told them to bring the elderly Jacob and their families to settle in Egypt, where there was food for them all. Before he died, Joseph gave instructions that when the extended family -as he was certain they would- they were to take his bones with them. He wanted to rest at last in the land of God’s promise.


After the death of Joseph, his family and extended family flourished and multiplied in Egypt. At the end of some 300-400 years the sheer number of the descendants of Joseph posed a threat to the native Egyptians. The Pharoah tried to suppress them by using the Hebrews as slave labor for his ambitious building projects. But their numbers still grew, so he issued an edict that all Hebrew babies were to be killed at birth. One baby, whose parents defied this command, was found in a waterproof basket on the river Nile and was adopted by Pharoah’s daughter. He was named Moses and was brought up and educated at the Egyptian court. Despite his royal upbringing, Moses’ sympathies were all with his own downtrodden people, the Hebrews. In his passion for justice, Moses killed an Egyptian foreman who was beating up a Hebrew and had to flee the country. Moses spent forty years as a shepherd, when he obtained a message from God in a burning bush. The God of the hebrews commanded him to set his people free from the slavery of Egypt and to take the mortal remains of his ancestor Joseph with him so that the land where his bones rested would flow with milk and honey.


Moses treasured Joseph’s mortal remains and placed them close to the tent he built for God. At the time of Joshua the remains of the man, who was God’s instrument to provide them with food and sustenance at a difficult time in the history of this wondering people, were transformed into twelve loaves of bread and were placed on the table in the outer room of the Tent of Worship along with a lampstand with seven lamps and an altar for incense. The inner room held the Covenant Box and the copy of God’s law. Whenever and wherever the Hebrew people set up camp, God’s tent would be erected at the center.


With Solomon’s rise to the throne of David the Tent of Worship was converted into the two inner rooms and placed inside the Temple at Jerusalem. Along with the other significant symbols inside the temple the table of showbread was a permanent sign of God’s presence and providence. Though a history of the temple at Jerusalem reveals various builders and destructions in 587 BC, 63 BC and 70 CE the tent as a place for the meeting between God and man continues in the lives of the descendants of Joseph. With a keen ear to God’s messages and through planned administration Joseph continues to touch the lives of his people through years of plenty and years of famine.


No one knows what happened to the mortal remains of Joseph. His memory continues in the land of promise as well as in the memory of those who live the promises of God. Many children to this day bear his name.


Joseph was still silent. He enjoyed the stories narrated by Abraham. He was filled with a powerful sense of connectedness with the history and mystery of a people whom Abraham was chosen to father. Joseph grew curious and wanted to know if he ever communicated to his wife Sarah his struggle over sacrificing Isaac. There was a long silence. Then, tears of joy mingled with pain began to roll down Abraham’s cheeks. A ray of the morning sun that penetrated into the cistern pierced one of the tear drops on Abraham’s right cheek, Joseph was blinded by the glow and transported to another realm.





Joseph was eleven years old when he decided to share with his parents, brothers and sisters his stories of soul travel. He narrated of his encounters with Tipú Santú Naik Sardessai and Padre Sebastião. He transported them to Nazareth and they were all ears as he talked about the Mother and her crucified Son. When they heard of his meeting with Abraham and of their teary farewell everyone was teary eyed. In the midst of sadness they praised God who raised a Joseph in Egypt and invoked his assistance. His mother suggested they visit a nearby shrine dedicated to Joseph, the husband of Mary.


It was January 16, 1961. The rays of the morning sun danced through the palm leaves as the gentle cool breeze hastened their determined steps. As they entered the shrine they were astonished to see a huge number of devotees assembled for and participating in a liturgical celebration. By the time they found a comfortable place on a pew, the homilist had ascended to the pulpit. There were no amplifiers and speakers. Every word, that the priest uttered loudly in Latin, was like a thunder bolt that pierced Joseph’s tender heart: "Querite primum regnum Dei et justitia ejus, et omnia adicietur vobis." Then, the priest continued in flawless Konkani, "My dear brothers and sisters, ‘Seek ye first the kingdom of God and all the rest will be granted unto you. What does it matter if you gain the whole world and suffer the loss of your soul?’ These words from the New Testament had a lasting and transforming effect on the life of St. Francis Xavier, the Jesuit missionary who was God’s instrument in converting many to Christ in the Islands of Goa and throughout India, China and Japan." He made a dramatic pause and there was a hush in the congregation of over three hundred faithful.


The priest continuing his sermon, thundered again: "Today, we recall the 250th death anniversary of one of us, who like many of us was born in Goa. He took to heart the words from today’s gospel passage, ‘Seek ye first the kingdom of God and all the rest will be granted unto you.’ He followed the example of St. Francis Xavier and understood personally the power of the words, ‘What does it matter if you gain the whole world and suffer the loss of your soul?’ He disciplined himself, became a priest, left home and country, crossed geographical and territorial boundaries and faced trials and persecutions to preach Christ’s love and compassion to the little, the lowly, the lonely and the lost in a predominantly Hindu Kanara and a Buddhist Ceylon (today Sri Lanka). His name and title is familiar to us all, Venerable Juze Vaz. May God, who has already ranked him among the Blessed in His Kingdom, grant that our prayers for his Beatification and Canonization be heard at the Vatican."


Throughout the rest of the liturgy Joseph was restless. On the one hand he was inspired by the zeal of Venerable Juze Vaz and St. Francis Xavier, but on the other hand he had too many questions unanswered. He had heard a lot about St. Francis Xavier and remembered visiting his incorrupt mortal remains in the Basilica of Bom Jesu in Old Goa. He also remembered that after reciting the Angelus twice daily he had prayed for many years along with his father and other family members for the Beatification and Canonization of Venerable Juze Vaz. Today, Joseph’s curiosity was aroused.


Joseph wanted to know who was Juze Vaz, why he was called Venerable and why he prayed along with others for his Beatification and Canonization. Confident that his all-knowing father would have the answers he sought, Joseph approached his father and manifested his eagerness to know more about this man, who was born just two miles from where he lived. His learned father went to his personal library and pulled out a copy of Vida do Venerável Padre José Vaz, a few pamphlets, that he had accumulated over the years, and a note book with hand-written summaries in Portuguese. He quickly glanced through hundreds of pages. The sun was setting when his father summoned all the children to the living room and began his narration in Portuguese. Occasionally, he consulted his sources. Joseph and his brothers and sisters were silently impressed with their father’s memory and ability to tell stories with exactitude and accuracy. This is what he had to say as they listened with rapt attention.


Juze Vaz was born on 21st April, 1651, in the village of Benaulim in the territory of Goa, then the capital of the Portuguese colonies in the Far East. He received his basic education within the family, but then went to college – to the Jesuits to study humanities; to the Dominicans to study theology. Joseph was ordained priest in 1676 and after a period of almost free-lance work, was invited by the Patriarch of Goa to work at Kanara, where he remained for some years, distinguishing himself by his pastoral zeal.


He returned to Goa, and in 1686, with some other priests, started an Oratory, receiving the necessary information and help from the Congregations in Portugal. In April, 1687, however, he went as a missionary to the island of Ceylon (today Sri Lanka). He arrived incognito at Jaffna and remained on the island for 24 years, fulfilling his apostolate in very difficult circumstances – having to travel and celebrate the sacraments at night, always in disguise, and being constantly pursued by the Dutch Calvinist authorities, who sought to put an end to his single-handed attempt to keep the Catholic faith alive on the island. His work was blessed with success and he succeeded in strengthening the faith of many, comforting the suffering and the persecuted.


Joseph decided to make his base in the Kingdom of Kandy, in the island’s interior, but on arrival was arrested as a spy and put in prison. He was released after having prayed for and obtained a miraculous fall of rain, so ending a prolonged drought. After that the King of Kandy gave him his personal protection.


In 1696 the Oratory Fathers of Goa began to arrive on the island and so a properly constituted mission was established. Joseph refused the position of Vicar Apostolic. Preferring to remain a humble missionary, continuing his unstinting work for the people. He translated into Singalese and Tamil, (the local languages), various prayers and a catechism.


On 16th January, 1711, he knew he was dying. He asked for and received the Last Rites and his faithful followers gathered around his bed. 'Always live according to God’s inspiration,' he told them. At midnight, holding a candle in his hand, he pronounced the holy name of 'Jesus' with great clarity and fervour, and, commending his soul into his Saviour’s hands, he died. He left a marvellous legacy: 70,000 Catholics, 15 churches and 400 chapels.


The people called him 'Sammanasu Swam' – the Angelic Priest. Joseph’s character and talents made him an efficacious instrument of Divine Providence at a critical moment in the missionary history of South East Asia. His successes during his lifetime brought him to the attention of the Church authorities in both Portugal and Rome.

After Joseph’s death, his example and methods of apostolic work made him a continuing inspiration for the missionary priests of his adopted island and beyond. The Roman Catholic Church initially declared him to be a ‘Servant of God’ and, later, bestowed on him the title ‘Venerable’. He was now closer than ever before to be inducted into the pantheon of Sainthood in the Catholic Church. 250 years after his death, Venerable Juze Vaz had still to await the miracles necessary to realize the processes of Beatification and Canonization by the Supreme Pontiff, the Pope.


"Miracles?" questioned Joseph as his father concluded his narration. "Yes, my son. Miracles are the final proofs that manifest the approval of God on the virtue and sanctity of a disciple of Christ." "But aren’t the great events in his life enough proof, Pai?" As Joseph made this observation, there was a welcome announcement from Mãe. "Dinner is ready and served. All, please come to the table to partake of sorpotel and sandna on this auspicious death anniversary of our beloved Venerable Juze Vaz."


Everyone held their tiny chalice in their hands and raised a toast to the sanctity of Venerable Juze Vaz. Both Pai and Mãe invited all to raise a toast to the holy men and women they appreciated the most. Mãe lifted her glass filled with Porto, sung the praises of the Blessed Virgin Mary, who gave birth to Christ, and of St. Thomas the Apostle, who brought the Christian faith to the Indian subcontinent, and said loudly "Viva!" To which everyone responded jubilantly "Viva!" and took a sip of the intoxicating drink. Then, Pai raised his half empty glass and recalled all the holy men and women in his family, in particular a priest named Xavier, who like Juze Vaz had left Goa and worked with the Padroado in Tanjore and was buried in Nagapattinam in South India in 1923, and said boldly "Viva!" To which everyone responded jubilantly "Viva!" and drank the last drop of the intoxicating drink to everyone’s saúde (physical, mental and spiritual well being).





That night everyone, including Joseph, went to sleep earlier than usual. The festivities on the occasion of the 250th anniversary of Venerable Juze Vaz left an indelible mark on the mind of young Joseph. He slept peacefully as usual, but his soul was traveling once again. He dreamt that Xavier, the family priest who worked for the Padroado in South India, was traveling with him.


It was January 14, 1906. Young Joseph was accompanying Xavier and other local authorities to the railway station in Tanjore in South India. At half past six in the evening along with the train from Madras a new group of missionaries called Salesians of Don Bosco, who had traveled from Genoa onboard the ‘Rubattin’ to Bombay, arrived in Tanjore, their final destination. They were ceremoniously led to the Sacred Heart Church, where Xavier was Pastor since October 1893. George, the forty two year-old leader of this missionary expedition of six dedicated men who had been expelled from France, was welcomed with many bouquets of flowers and a splendid red garland was placed around his neck. The cheering crowd vigorously clapped their hands over and over again as the Tamil children and orphans expressed their sentiments of joy in song and speech. There was pin drop silence as George addressed the crowd in French and Xavier translated his speech into Tamil so that the 8000 Christians and 52,000 non-Christians living in that town could understand better the good news as expressed by this son of Don Bosco.


Eleven year-old Joseph was excited as he was introduced to George. He was very curious and eager to know about Don Bosco and his spiritual mission to the young and the poor. George became emotional and drawing closer confided partly in French, Italian and English, "Mon cher Joseph, I am enchanted to meet you. I want you know that Don Bosco is here with us in India and he needs you. He loves you very much. He loved me, too. I miss him very much and recall with sadness his solemn burial in the Basilica of Maria Ausiliatrice in Turin in February 1888." He shared with Joseph and others present how over the years he had grown close to Don Bosco and embraced his way of helping others, especially the young and the poor. He recalled how for three years as a teenager he had served Don Bosco’s Mass and then his coffee. Suddenly, he burst into tears of pain and turning towards Joseph whispered, "I will not be able to do you justice, caro Joseph. Let me introduce you to your namesake Giuseppe Cafasso who knew Don Bosco intimately and guided his steps in the direction of holiness. We are all grateful to this saintly Uomo di Dio. Let Giuseppe guide you to understand Don Bosco’s spiritual journey and the relevance of his charism for the marginalized young and poor people."


Giuseppe was a very austere man. He was both gentle and kind. Though he stood apart from the rest, he was very approachable. Joseph gently placed his tiny hand in the reassuring palm of his hand. He felt comfort and solace to be with the man who guided Don Bosco to follow in the steps of Jesus Christ. In all simplicity Joseph requested Giuseppe to tell him the story of Don Bosco. They sat by the cool waters of a stream and Joseph was taking in every word that fell from Giuseppe’s lips.


Don Bosco or Giovanni Melchiorre Bosco, the third son of Francesco Bosco and the second son of Margherita Occhiena, was born at Murialdo in Castelnuovo d'Asti in the province of Piemont in Northern Italy on August 16, 1815. His parents were poor farmers who worked hard and lived honestly within their means. He was hardly two years old when, at the death of his father on May 12, 1817, he became an orphan and was destined to experience the depth of a mother's balanced love.


When he was your age, Giovanni, too, had dreams. In one such dream he saw himself on a field surrounded by wolves, who were eventually changed into lambs at his request and with the support of two significant personages who were present there. At breakfast that morning, his step-brother seemed to think that he would become the leader of a gang. His mother, however, interpreted this dream to mean that he would someday become a leader and help people to transform their lives and become meek human beings.


On the eve of his sacerdotal ordination Don Bosco was confused and uncertain if he should take this important step. In his weakness and hesitation the Lord led him to me, humbly I accepted this responsibility to be God’s instrument and offered him the assurance he needed. As a newly-ordained priest Don Bosco allowed himself to be constantly guided by the Holy Spirit. Initially, he accepted to substitute his associate-pastor for five months. He enjoyed this ministry. His greatest consolation and delight was to teach catechism to children and to spend his time with them. Along his priestly journey he gave up many lucrative offers and dedicated himself to study morals and homiletics at the Convitto Ecclesiastico from where he was able to minister to young inmates in the jails of Turin. Their sad plight set him thinking seriously, and he began to wonder whether he could start an Oratorio where to assemble these poor youth who were abandoned and exposed to so many dangers.


Once again I was asked to guide his steps in the direction that God had in store for him and advised him to await for God’s confirmation. God offered Don Bosco an indication through a dream one night in October 1844. It was basically the dream of wild wolves converting into lambs. He found himself in a big church where the boys were singing the Mass. The inscription in Latin Hic domus mea, inde gloria mea -This is my house and thence my glory will shine- fascinated him. In this dream he moved from one church to another. On waking up he was all confused. He trusted that God would provide. The events that followed seemed to be pointing in the direction that God had in store for him. With the involvement of the Archbishop of Turin in this common project for the abandoned youth at the Oratorio Don Bosco was walking on sure ground. The Oratorio was shifted to a room at the Rifugio of Marchioness Barolo. Don Bosco was happy because God's Providence had arranged that the first chapel of the Oratorio dedicated to St. Francis de Sales should be at the Rifugio where he was. It did not however last long at that site. Over the months from 1845 to 1846 the Oratorio kept shifting to various places: S. Martino, S. Pietro in Vincoli, Casa Moretta, Prato dei fratelli Filippi and finally to the Pinardi Shed.


As the boys increased in number and in their attachment to their assemblies at the Oratorio, so also did the misunderstandings and difficulties. A number of priests saw Don Bosco's activities on behalf of these urchins as redundant and against the existing norms in the parishes. Quite a few of them considered him either insane, revolutionary or heretical. The Municipality of Turin, too, began to look with hostility at Don Bosco and at the regular assemblies of his boys. On a number of occasions the Marchese Cavour called him and even threatened him with dire consequences if he were not to put an end to this project, that was seen as a politically dangerous movement.


In spite of all this misunderstanding, contrariety and opposition Don Bosco goes on with his work, convinced of the fact that if it is God's work nothing on earth will stop him from carrying out his project to make Christ present to this part of humanity in trouble.


The worst had still to come. God's Spirit who had all this while been preparing Don Bosco puts him to the greatest test of his life. It was the biggest sacrifice that God asked of him. The same God, who asked Abraham to surrender everything including his son, in order to set out on a new journey of faith trusting solely in Him, asks Don Bosco to give up every security that was his up to then in order to prove his real love for the Oratorio.


When the Lord sends a sickness that was considered fatal Don Bosco was happy to sing his nunc dimitis after having given a somewhat stable form to the project of the Oratorio at the Pinardi Shed. His boys were not happy to lose him. They stormed the heavens and were ready to stake themselves and make any lasting sacrifice so that Don Bosco could get well. God listened to their prayers and the boys were besides themselves to see Don Bosco once again with them hale and hearty. Don Bosco is given a new lease of life! A life to be spent fully in communion with God in order to communicate this life and to live it in love in the midst of his boys at the Oratorio at Valdocco. The years of the consolidation at Valdocco from 1846 to 1856 were years of incessant and indefatigable activity. The Oratorio grows from a chapel where the boys can fulfill their ecclesiastical and religious obbligations to a parish for the vagrant youth of Turin; from a Sunday-catechism school it develops into a full-fledged and prestigious daily day-and-night school; from a place of recreation and work it turns into a youth club and a workshop; from an ordinary place of assembly it becomes a night-shelter and, later, a home for the homeless and needy with adequate structures and buildings.


On May 14, 1862 twenty-two young men made private vows to stay with Don Bosco and continue his work of helping the young boys, thus starting the religious congregation, today known as the Salesians of Don Bosco. In 1872, with the assistance of Suora Maria Domenica Mazzarello he established the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians, a religious institute for women to look after girls. In 1875, his followers crossed the frontiers of Italy and reached even as far as South America. In 1876, he established the Union of the Salesian Cooperators for Catholic lay people interested in following his spirit, charism and mission for the young. And today, Joseph, you are beholding the first group of Salesians led by Fr. George arrive in Tanjore establish their missionary activity in India. It is the year 1906.


Joseph was suddenly awakened by a loud yell from Pai, reminding him that it was time to go to Church for the Eucharistic Celebration at 6:30 that morning.





Joseph was dreaming again. This time he found himself in the Salesian Garden. It was January 31, 1988. He was not surprised that Pai, who had died a few months earlier, was there to welcome him. He couldn’t understand what was going on. As Joseph approached the inner circle he was blinded by the dazzling light that emanated from The Most Holy Trinity. The music created by the angelic choirs was unlike anything he had heard on Earth. Pointing to a red figure that was at the head of the choir Pai shouted: "That’s Cardinal Cagliero, the leader of the Salesian missionary expedition to South America." Joseph could hear the angels render Cagliero’s Gloria in excelsis Deo, Pax hominibus bonae voluntatis -Glory to God in Heaven and Peace on Earth to People of Goodwill- and was told that this was a celebration to honor Don Bosco on his death centenary. Joseph could see Don Bosco surrounded by millions of young and old people of every race and color, whose lives he had filled with glory and peace in every continent for over a hundred years. Joseph’s heart was delighted as he enjoyed the glory of heaven. When all of a sudden he felt a gentle finger tap on his right shoulder, Joseph was awakened to his restless mind that longed for peace on Earth. He was immediately transported by Vicenzo Scuderi, the bearer of the finger, to Sulcorna, a tiny and remote village situated on the river Kushavati and nestled among the jungles and hills that border on the Quepem, Sanguem and Canacona talukas (administrative provinces) in Goa.


Susai, a versatile young man who hailed form Tamilnadu in South India, was the driver assigned to show them around this agro-educational complex. As the four-wheeled Jeep climbed to the top of the hill they could see hundreds of fruit bearing cashew plants. Hidden among the trees and bushes Vicenzo noticed a statue and heaved a deep sigh of relief. Susai informed him that Moja had erected this monument to Mary, the Help of Christians and All Believers, in gratitude for her protection since 1962. Vicenzo remembered how in 1948 he was instrumental in obtaining this property for the Pia Sociedade Salesiana de São João Bosco. He threw his arms in the air and exclaimed loudly in Sicilian: "Grazie alla Madonna di Don Bosco!" which means "Thanks to the Madonna of Don Bosco!" and he shared tears of joy. "Who could have imagined this transformation!" and turning towards Susai asked "How did they do it?"


Borrowing words from Tamil and Konkani Susai made an attempt to express his sentiments in English. "Swami, many fathers, brothers, sisters and workers. Moja, Ludvik, and Miranda worked very hard for many years. Joseph knows the history. He can tell you better than I. He worked very hard, too. Dilkush made too many problems for him." Vicenzo thanked Susai for his words of eloquence and turned towards Joseph. Instead of talking about Dilkush or the developments on the land, Joseph decided to tell stories abut the little, the lowly, the lonely and the lost who lived in and around Sulcorna.


Joseph remembered Usheinbi, a Muslim girl. This little girl accompanied her parents who came from Bijapur in Karnataka to harvest sugar cane. Her parents and family decided to stay on after the cane season was over and were employed at the farm. Her illiterate parents resisted sending her to school, but better sense prevailed and she was admitted in the school, where she learned to read, write and speak English. Usheinbi was an outstanding student, was the first in her class and, being the oldest daughter, was responsible to take care of her younger siblings because her parents worked by day or night. Joseph recalled how one day Usheinbi, who was now thirteen, was dressed in a sari and came around distributing candy. Though sad, she spoke with pride: "My parents have given me away in marriage. Tomorrow I’ll be leaving for my future husband’s house in Bijapur." When asked why she was giving up schooling, she replied "My parents think that no one in my village will marry me. I’m over-educated."


Next, Joseph shared how he had to convince a certain Mr. Vellip, a Hindu from the neighboring village of Korla, to accompany him as a witness at the Senior Civil Court about 12 miles away in Quepem. He asked Mrs. Panchu, another Hindu witness from the neighboring village of Pirla, if he should offer long pants to Mr Vellip who had come practically naked wearing only an undershirt and a casti [loin cloth]. She burst into roars of laughter as she remarked in Konkani: "I can’t imagine Mr Vellip wearing long pants. I don’t think he has ever worn pants! He’ll be a spectacle in the Court and his buddies will have great fun at his expense!"


Dark clouds in the sky wore ominous signs of rain that noon when Maruthi, the father of six children who hailed from the Western Ghats and spoke Marathi, had gone to Pirla to deliver milk with the bullock cart. It rained cats and dogs for hours on end. At nightfall one of the bulls returned, but there was neither the cart nor the empty milk cans. As for the driver, Maruthi was nowhere to be found. A million buckets of incessant rain had flooded the rivers and the only bridge that connected the farm to the rest of the world was under four feet of gushing water. That night a dismal messenger brought the news that Maruthi’s footwear was found floating in the nearby village of Kevona, but he was not to be found anywhere. His six children and wife were inconsolable thinking that their father and husband was a victim of the torrential rains. It was a very sad night! Everyone turned to Mary, the Help of All Believers, seeking her protection and a safe return for Maruthi. Along with the morning sun Maruthi walked home to his wife and children but without his footwear. His family and everyone at the farm was overjoyed at his miraculous return.


Joseph also recalled Martin, a Catholic orphan in Savio Boys’ Home. Martin was in a residential facility for the first time. It took him a while to get used to the new members on the staff as well as to the sixty inmates. He had been at the facility for little over a month. On July 6 every youngster at the complex was celebrating the feast day of St. Dominic Savio, the patron saint of youth. Besides the liturgical ceremonies which rendered the occasion solemn, games and other activities made the youngsters happy. What made Martin really happy was the sumptuous meal. After he had enjoyed the vegetable biryani rice, chicken xacuti, cucumber and onion raita and sweet dessert, he came around prancing and dancing and shouted into Joseph’s ears: "Happiness is too much!"


Vicenzo, who had been listening with rapt attention, threw his arms in the air again and shouted with glee: "Per caritá, children are the same all over the world. Yes, they respond to food and love!" Susai, who was thrilled to hear these stories recalled his children and confirmed in Tamil: "Sari [true], and my wife would agree."



First Row Sitting 11th: The Author along with other Salesians of Don Bosco

 and Staff with the little, the lowly and the lost in Sulcorna, Goa in 1986.




with  Impermanence  :

The Rhythm of the Universe






San Giovanni Melchiorre Bosco [1815-1888], the Founder of the Salesians


Fr. Ariosto Xavier Coelho [1861-1923], the Vicar Forane of Nagapattinam


and to  all who worked since January 1906 at Tanjhavur in Tamilnadu



Fr. Ariosto José Coelho, a grand-nephew of Fr. Ariosto Xavier Coelho,

was a professed religious Salesian of Don Bosco for over 25 years (1968-94)

Feb. 12, 1984 (L to R) Fr. G. Moja, Fr. A. Coelho, Fr. A. Alessi, Fr. C. Saldanha,

           Fr. A. Maschio, Fr. E. Dias and Fr. S. Mondini in Matunga-Bombay, India.


Graceful Grateful Peaceful Playful laughter




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