The now extinct Church of Our Lady of Light (Nossa Senhora da Luz) was one of the first Churches built in the city of Goa (Old Goa) within few years after the Portuguese conquest on 1510. In 1543, it was raised as a parish church and in its height, it had almost 30,000 parishioners. After a deadly plague struck Old Goa and its environs, many Churches were abandoned and consequentially, this Church got decayed by 1831.
From historical sources, we know that a great devotion to Our Lady of Light existed in Old Goa. Here is one of the miracles attributed to Our Lady of Light of Old Goa.
In the Catholic Church, a canonical visitation is the act of an ecclesiastical superior who in the discharge of his office visits persons or places with a view to maintaining faith and discipline and of correcting abuses. A person delegated to carry out such a visitation is called a visitor. The first ever visitor to the Jesuits in Goa was Padre Gonçalo Alvarez. He along with the new Viceroy of Goa namely D. Luis de Athaide (1568–1571) also came to Goa in the Ship named ‘Chagas’ to Goa.
However, when the ship came to the Cape of Good Hope, Africa on May 23, 1568, the ship was caught in a terrible storm, and everyone was terrified. During that time, the Captain of the Rachol fort namely Damião de Soufa Falcão was also travelling with them. He was descended from Vikings and his great ancestor D. Gonçalo Anes de Abreu was a great friend of the Carmelite saint D. Nuno Alvares Pereira, Saint - Constable of Portugal and ancestor of the Royal house of Portugal. The wife of this captain built the Chapel of St Antony in Rachol. His brother was a poet.
Captain Damião de Soufa Falcão carried with him a blessed prayer to Our Lady of Light of Old Goa along with him. During the tempest, he calmed down the passengers and encouraged them to recite the prayer. A miracle happened - the storm subsided and the whole crew cheered. They also collected hundred thousand reis as alms to the Church of Our Lady of Light. On September 10, 1568, they reached Old Goa. In gratitude they went in procession to the Church carrying the alms and lot of wax to be offered to Our Lady. We should mark here that Our Lady of Light is associated with Purification and Candles were offered to her.
Memorial dedicated to the extint parish
On the entrance to the St Joseph Vaz Retreat Centre one can still see a memorial dedicated to the extinct parish of Our Lady of Light. The front cross of the Church seems to have existed in a ruined form and unfortunately, it was demolished during the road widening and the stones were also used in paving the road.
The cultus of Our Lady of Light is definitely a part of Goan Catholic heritage whose story need to be remembered in preserving the unique Catholic heritage of Goa.
(The author is a researcher based on the Carmelite congregation)