Posted by: lrrp | November 2, 2004

‘Sinthathirai Maatha’ feast celebrated in Kayts by S. B. David

The Shrine of Our Lady of Good Voyage is situated in a village called Chatty in Vellanai, Kayts, in the Jaffna. diocese. It is said a Portuguese vessel lost its direction in the Indian Ocean and found it difficult to reach the shore. The Captain of the vessel a firm, believer of Blessed Virgin Mary carried a statue of Blessed Virgin Mary on board and he prayed for their safety and by the miraculous act of Blessed Virgin Mary the ship and its crew safely reached the shores at Chatty.

History records that they took possession of the place and built a fortress in Chatty with a chapel inside and placed the miraculous statue of Mother Mary which was with them on board and venerated her with much piety and devotion and propagated her devotion among the inhabitants.

During Portuguese regime the developments in the area created Vellanai to be a Town and Chatty became the centre of commercial activities with a harbour and many Catholics from other parts of the island settled in Chatty for employment.

Portuguese missionaries came to Jaffna in 1544 to propagate Christianity and built few churches in the peninsula and the church built at Chatty was dedicated to Our Lady of Good Voyage. During the Dutch rule in Ceylon they destroyed all places of worship and churches built by the Portuguese and persecuted the Catholics.

It is believed when the vandals burnt this church the Catholics of the area removed the miraculous statue of Mother Mary and hid it inside a nearby well for safety. After a long period of abandonment a devotee learnt in her dream the presence of the miraculous statue of our Lady of Good Voyage inside the well and informed the other faithful about her dream. By an act of grace they found the statue inside the well and with the help of the other villagers erected a cadjan shelter for worship and placed this statue of Mother Mary and venerated her with piety and homage. The Catholics around the neighbouring villages learnt the presences of the miraculous statue and flocked to pay their homage and devotion Rev Fr. Antony who was much respected with reverence for his religious activities maintained this church with the help of his aide Manuel and conducted Holy Mass and other services to propagate Blessed Virgin’s devotion.

Late Rt. Rev. Dr. Gyomar, the then Bishop of Jaffna rebuild the Chatty church in 1928 with the help of devotees and well wishers near the unique well where the statue was found. The depth of this well cannot be traced and it never goes dry even though bowsers of waters drawn out and distributed for drinking purposes throughout Lyden. Parish Priest was appointed to look after churches at Allaipiddy, Mandaithivu and Chatty.

The late Bishop of Jaffna Rt. Rev. Dr. Emilianus Pillai realizing the accommodation inside the church was inadequate for the congregation during festivals built an extension porch attached to the main entrance with an altar to conduct services.

Opening on to the yard making it possible for the large crow to follow the Holy Mass and services.

Late Rt. Rev. Dr. Deogupillai, Bishop of Jaffna Shepherd with dynamic vision believer in Mother Mary’s protection in all difficulties, propagated her devotion in all the parishes proclaiming Blessed Virgin Mary as the Mother of Refuge and Security when the Catholics were disturbed in their faith by the demands of the situation which prevailed in the country and inspired the Catholics to sustain their faith in Mother Mary.

Present Bishop of Jaffna Rt. Rev. Dr. Savundranayagam son of the soil a believer in Mother Mary followed firm his predecessors in propagating the manifestation of Virgin Mary. He restored the damage caused by the ethnic violence and built huts, water tanks, rosary shops and also provided welfare facilities for the convenience of the devotees and pilgrims who flocked the shrine throughout the year.

The Church of our Lady of Good Voyage is dedicated as a shrine for the pilgrims in the Jaffna diocese with a resident Parish Priest with public transport up to the shrine.

The environment with soft sand calm sea with shallow water and palmyrah palms around enable the pilgrims to spend more days in prayer and relaxation.

Our Lady of Good Voyage is called in Tamil “Sinthathirai Maatha” The statue portrays Blessed Virgin Mary having child Jesus on one hand and a ship on the other. Blessed Mother of Good Voyage is popularly known as the Mother and Protector of Navigators and many invoke her for their safe voyage. The miraculous statue which was treasured and venerated by our ancestors can be seen majestically adorned in gold and placed on a beautifully decorated altar inside the newly renovated church.

The feast of our Lady of Good Voyage “Chatty Sinthathirai Maatha was celebrated an on 24th September or the previous Sunday in a glamorous and jubilant atmosphere.Devotees from all over the island flocked to the shrine during the feast and invoked her blessings. After nine days of vespers and devotions the feast culminate on the
tenth day with solemn festive High Mass celebrations.

After the mass the statue of our Lady of Good Voyage was placed on a gaily decorated chariot and taken round the church in a colourful procession with devotes singing Veruththam in Tamil and reciting players. On its return to the shrine is the final act of prayer a very touching prayer recited by all with wet eyes for all the favors and blessings received through her intercession. The feast ends with the final blessing with the miraculous statue making it the biggest festival of the parish.

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