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St. Gonsalo Garcia

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Born of a Portuguese father and a Canarese mother in Bassein, East India, about the year 1556 or 1557; d. 5 Feb., 1597. His early training was entrusted to the Jesuits, who brought him up in their college in Bassein Fort. At the age of twenty-four or twenty-five he went to Japan in the company of some Jesuit Fathers who were ordered, in 1580, to leave Bassein, and join their mission in the former country. He quickly acquired a knowledge of the language; and as he was of an amiable disposition he won the hearts of the people and did great service as a catechist for eight years. He then left this kind of work and betook himself to Alacao for trading purposes. His business soon flourished and branches were opened in different places. During his frequent visits to Manila he made the acquaintance of the Franciscans, and being drawn more and more towards them he finally joined the Seraphic Order as a lay brother. He sailed from the Philippine Islands with other companions in religion under Petrus Baptista, 26 May, 1592, on an embassy from the Spanish Governor to the Emperor of Japan. After working zealously for the glory of God for more than four years, the Emperor Taiko-Sama, suspecting the missionaries were aiming at the overthrow of his throne, ordered St. Garcia and his companions to be guarded in their Convent at Miaco on 8 December, 1596. A few days afterwards, when they were singing vespers, they were apprehended and with their hands tied behind their backs were taken to prison. On 3 January, 1597, the extremities of the left ears of twenty-six confessors, St. Garcia amongst the number, were cut off; but were with great respect collected by the Christians. On 5 February of the same year, the day of the martyrdom, St. Garcia was the first to be extended on, and nailed to, the cross, which was then erected in the middle of those of his companions. Two lances piercing the body from one side to the other and passing through the heart, whilst the saint was singing the praises of God during the infliction of the torture, put an end to his sufferings and won for Garcia the martyr's crown. In 1627 these twenty-six servants of God were declared venerable by Urban VIII ; their feast occurs on 5 February, the anniversary of their sufferings; and in 1629 their veneration was permitted throughout the Universal Church. The people of Bassein practiced devotion towards the saint ; after the severe persecution to which Christianity was subjected in that region, from about 1739 he was gradually entirely forgotten until a well-known writer recently undertook to write the history of the place, and drew the attention of the public to St. Garcia Gonsalo. Owing to the praiseworthy endeavors of a secular priest, and the great interest evinced by the present Bishop of Damaun in the promotion of the devotion towards the saint, the feast of St. Garcia is now annually celebrated with great solemnity ; and pilgrims from all parts of Bassein, Salsette, and Bombay flock to the place on that occasion.

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