‘Make Blessed Mary, the Role Model for Your Family ‘- Bishop of Mangaluru Diocese Rev Dr Peter Paul Saldanha during Monti Festh Mass ( 8 am) at Rosario Cathedral, Mangaluru on 8 September 2020.
Mangaluru: Many churches in Mangaluru and Dakshina Kannada celebrated the BIGGEST Feast of Mangalorean Catholics, the ‘MONTI FESTH’ in sombre , due to the spell of Coronavirus, but no matter what, the tradition and culture of Konkan Catholics still continued with the faithful partaking in the celebration to praise Blessed Virgin Mary on her Birthday. Children came with flowers contained in small baskets, to shower them on Mary during the Mass, and everyone sang the hymn ‘Sakkad Sangatha Meliya…Moriyek Hogalsiya’. At the festal mass in Rosario Cathedral, Mangaluru, the Bishop of Mangaluru diocese Rev Dr Peter Paul Saldanha con-celebrated the Mass, joined by Fr Alfred Pinto-Parish Priest Rosario Church; Fr Victor D’souza- Principal of Rosario PU College; Fr Vinod Lobo- Assistant Parish Priest; and Fr Anil Fernandes- In-Charge of Gladson Home, a Minor Seminary, Bolar-Mangaluru.
Prior to the festive mass, the Bishop blessed the new Corn and statue of Baby Mary, adored with beautiful flowers. In his Homily Bishop Peter Paul highlighted the main features of the Feast and focused on the role of the family in the Church. He also said how Mother Mary is a model for our families and how we can follow in her footsteps by being obedient to God’s will and accept the challenges in upbringing our children as God’s gift. His Homily which was simple, touching and thought provoking, concentrated on ‘togetherness’. He reminded the congregation of the last sentence in the Gospel of Mathews 28:20 “I Am With You Always, Even To The End Of The Age” which is a solemn promise from our Lord Himself that He is together with us eternally. He went on to cite instances from the Bible where Jesus transcended societal norms and shared fellowship meals with His disciples, friends, tax collectors and sinners. Hence he concluded that the celebration of Monti Fest also known as ‘kutmachen fest’, includes the fellowship meal known as ‘Noven Jevan’ which is important in building and maintaining strong bonds of togetherness within families and in the society.
Large gathering of faithful partook in the Mass at Rosario Church, following social distance, and wearing face masks- and while entering the Church, the church volunteers did the temperature check etc. The choir was co-ordinated by Anthony D’silva, and the hymns were sung beautifully by the faithful, including a bevy of nuns. Fr Alfred Pinto, the Parish Priest conveyed his festal message and wished everyone a blessed feast, and urged the faithful to maintain togetherness. Monti Festh this year was not so BIG and GRAND, as it used to be celebrated in the past, but the tradition and devotion was still continued by the devotees -Thanks to Coronavirus, which has totally taken away the fun and frolic of this Mangalorean Catholic feast, enjoyed by children more than the adults.
As per the local history, “Monti Festh” has its origin in 1763 in Farangipet in the outskirts of Mangaluru. Here, Fr. Joachim Miranda, a Goan Catholic priest of secular credentials, who lived around 250 years ago, started this practice on top of a hill, on the northern bank of the Nethravati river where lies an ancient place called Monte Moriano. Though Tippu Sultan destroyed the churches of Canara, he spared Monte Mariano Church in deference to the friendship of his father Hyder Ali with Father Miranda. Oral history goes to state that the Nativity festival of our Lady was first celebrated at Monte Moriano to coincide with the annual feast of the church. The term ‘Monthi’ has been derived from the word ‘Monte’ and over the years has been modified to be known as ‘Monthi Fest’. On this solemn occasion, the Catholics partake in a community feast or a family feast having only vegetarian dishes.
The celebration usually starts nine days in advance with novena prayers to Mother Mary, during which period small children take special pride in offering flowers everyday- and this year the Novena started on 30 August. The grand celebration of Monti Festh is held with traditional gaiety and religious fervour at all the Churches which are decorated tastefully for the occasion, however, this year it will not be decorated like last or earlier. You should know, why? Special masses, feasts, religious ceremonies and a series of festivities in churches, parishes and homes is the order of the day. On this special day, the Catholic community members take the freshly grown paddy stalks to their respective churches as an offering of the first bounty of nature to Mother Mary. Special prayers are offered pleading the Holy Mother to keep the fertility of nature for generations to come and provide all the bounties of nature to the children of the world.
It is a tradition in Mangalore for the families to gather together and share a vegetarian meal consisting of at least of five vegetarian dishes. Sorry, no Dukhra mass and Soro! The dishes, “alu-dento” and “vorn” are the must in every household. The grains taken form blessed paddy stalk or corn is added to the milk or “vorn” and offered to the members of the family in a symbolic gesture of thanksgiving for our Lady’s blessings. The festival has a special relevance in the modern world as it keeps the community together not just in South Canara (Dakshina Kannada) and Mangaluru city but in all different continents where Mangalorean Catholics have settled. They continue to celebrate Monti Festh in whatever way they can in their countries and enjoy the nostalgia connected with their own families and parishes back home.
As a child, I remember gathering flowers from the garden and also from the neighborhood, and carrying them to Church in a dish/plate- but these days children have the privilege of carrying the flowers in fancy baskets, which are sold in various stores. So Monti Festh is also a festival representing the symbol of family unity. This feast is celebrated with joy and happiness as it is the harvest festival as well, a time when the farmer is getting the crop ready for the year. Monti Festh is the celebration of family bonds, filial relationships and a feast which makes us aware that we are very much part of the nature around us bringing us closer to Mother Nature.
The specialty that we venerate and celebrate Mother Mary’s birthday because she is the mother of the Messiah, the savior, redeemer Lord Jesus Christ. So automatically as Jesus is the son of God, She becomes our Heavenly Mother too. It is really amazing to see that all Konkani Catholics unite wherever they are spread across the Globe with one spirit and zeal and make it a point to celebrate this great festival of Monti fest all over the world. Singing of hymns, ‘Sakkad Sangatha Melyam’ and ‘Moriyek Hogolsyam’ has been an inherent part of Monti Festh. The people feel blessed and blissful by paying obeisance to Mother Mary on her birth anniversary.
On behalf of Team Mangalorean, wishing our Konkan Catholic readers a blessed “Monti Festh”! I end this article with the History of Monti Festh on Video, as narrated by Sr Philomena D’souza FMA, Mumbai, originally from Paladka near Moodabidri, belonging to the Salesian Sisters of Don Bosco- she is ex-superior of Auxilium Convent in Mumbai, and present member of Maria Vihar Youth Centre-Nashik.