Raimundo Floriano Feliciano Barreto’s Sam Fransisku Xaviera, Arranged by Micael Martins & Fr. Joe Rodrigues, Performed by His Voices

A hymn to St. Francis Xavier, whose feast we celebrate, in the Konkani language of Goa. The story, unedited:

Each year on 3rd December, marks the anniverssary of St. Francis Xavier’s death, when thousands gather at the Basilica of Bom Jesus to celebrate the feast of St. Francis Xavier- The patron saint of Goa.

This annual festival, known as the feast of St.Francis Xavier or “Goenchea Saibache fest”, is one of the biggest festivals in Goa. Lakhs of people from all around the world pour in for this yearly feast.

Here we have before you by far the best known konkani hymn “Sam Fransisku Xaviera, tuji kuddu Goeam Xara…” Behind the hymn is a gripping tail.

Raimundo Floriano Feliciano Barreto (16 Feb 1837-23 July 1906) was a Gaunkar (landowner) of Loutolim, settled in Divar. He was also known as the “Mestre De Capela” of the Se Cathedral, Goa. He scripted, set to music, and conducted the firts public rendition of the “Sam Fransisku Xaviera…”

In addition, he was entrusted with the task of collecting rent from the properties of the Cathedral, maintain accounts and disburse salaries. One evening while the choir master was returning back to the island during the monsoons, fed by rains and roiled by stormy weather the waters of the river Mandovi turned choppy. The choir master carrying the rent collection and the salaries cowered inside as the canoe tossed in the unruly waters. Before the canoe could touch the wharf it capsized. As Raimundo sunk to the riverbed, sure end within sight, he prayed to St.Francis Xavier (1506-1552), vowing that if saved, he’d pay with his best talents a tribute in the saints honour, at this point fisherman on the river bank, saw the struggling man in the water, set out the outrigger and managed to rescue him but not his treasure.

The choir master was immediately accused of having “organised” the canoe mishap to misappropriate the funds of the Cathedral. To save his honour Raimundo hurriedly sold his single storeyed mansion in Divar and paid off the dubious claim of the church. But then, he also had a genuine debt to pay. So he burnt the midnight oil, composed a hymn, set it to music and quietly practiced for weeks. He worked on this silently. The result was kept a closely guarded secret by the composer,conductor and his choir, until the next December 3rd (1890), at the feast mass of the saint at the Basilica of Bom Jesus, where it was unveiled. The entire congregation, led by the Archbishop-Patriarch and clergy, were awestruck. Never had such a hymn-so Goan, so magical-been heard before. The hymn reverberates every December 3, to this day.

During the ongoing global pandemic, lets keep our faith rooted in St.Francis Xavier through the Liturgical theme: “By walking in the footsteps of St.Francis Xavier let us bear witness to Christ” We Goans have always entrusted our love in St. Francis Xavier as we share a strong belief that the state is protected from all the calamities due to the presence of the Saint’s relics.

Here’ wishing everyone a Happy Feast of St. Francis Xavier.

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