Born and baptized on 8 June 1676 in the parish church of Our Lady of Grace, Chorao, Goa. Eldest son of Thomas Gonsalves and Mariana de Abreu, living in the parish of Our Lady of Pity (Piedade), Divar, Goa. His family had been Christians for 2 or 3 generations, being among the first converts at the beginning of Portuguese rule in Goa.
Gonsalves studied at the Jesuit College of Goa. He enrolled in the University of Goa [probably the Collegio Sao Paolo], and obtained the degree of Bachelor of Arts. In 1696 he began theological studies at the Academy of St Thomas Aquinas in Goa, where he also held the post of organist. This seems to have led him to develop a taste for poetry, prose and music.
He decided to enter the Oratorian Congregation of Goa. He was appointed to the chair of philosophy at the University of St Paul's in Goa [probably the Collegio Sao Paolo]. He took up his post in January 1705, but relinquished it the same year to go to Sri Lanka.
He left Goa on 9 May 1705 and reached Sri Lanka on 30 August 1705, arriving at Talaimannar. At the time, he knew Konkani, Portuguese, Latin and Spanish. During the long journey he studied Tamil. He mastered this language during his first assignment on the islands of Mannar, Arippu, Musali and other places in the Munnar district. He also learnt Dutch.
Fr Jose Vaz sent him to Kandy to learn Sinhala. Fr Gonsalves studied with the Buddhist monks at the Malwatta Chapter, known for their high and elegant Sinhala.
He wrote many of his works at Bolawatta, near Negombo. Since there was no printing press, he employed 12 Sinhala clerks to copy his works.
He is called the Father of Sinhala Catholic literature.
He died on 17 July 1742.
- Deva Veda Puranaya. [or: Deva Arulveda Puranam.] Part I: Purantima Kandam, pp. 197. Part II: Paccima Kandam, pp. 130. [Compendium of the Bible in 2 parts. 400 printed pages. Undoubtedly influenced by Thomas Stephens' Khristapurana. The description of the Garden of Eden includes local trees: jackfruit, sugar cane, king coconut, timbiri, sandalwood, blue lotus.] Written 1725. 1886. [Dr. Pieris.]
- Veda Kavyaya.
- Suvisesha Viriturai. [Explanation of the Gospels for Sundays.] Written 1728, printed 1848.
- Viyakula Pirasangam. [Sermons on the Passion.] Written 1730, printed 1844. Nine sermons on the passion; the most popular of Fr Gonsalves' works. Catholics in Ceylon still use them during passion week or at Passion plays.] [Dr. Pieris.]
- Gnana Unartchy. [Spiritual Exhortation.] Written 1734, printed 1844. 14 exhortations dealing with the soul, the end of man, the malice of sin, vanity of life, death, judgment, hell and heaven. [Dr Pieris.]
- Sukirta Tarpanam. [Mirror of Virtues.] Written 1735, printed 1914. 15 chapters, meant to lead the repentant soul in the path of virtue. [Dr Pieris.]
- Sattiya Vedagama Sanshpam. [Summary of Biblical History.] Written 1736, printed Madras, 1875. A summary of the Deva Arulveda Puranam divided into 8 eras or Yugams, the last yugam being that of Christ.
- Trilingual dictionary. [Portuguese, Tamil, Sinhala.]
- Christiyana Alayam. [The Christian Treasure House.] MS, 1725 [ACT 1:74]. Possibly the oldest prayer book in Tamil now extant. Apart from the prayers, it contains a short Catechism of Christian Doctrine and a few meditations. [Dr. Pieris]
- Matara Pratyaksaya. [Enlightenment of the kingdom of the mature.] Octavo, 1733.
- Fernandopulle, Anthony. Father Jacome Gonsalves: Sinhala Christian Literary Hero: A Study of the Sinhala Literary Works of Fr Jacome Gonsalves (1676-1742). Colombo: St Peter's College, 2000.
- Perera, S.G. The Life of Fr Jacome Gonsalves. 1945.
- Boudens, R. The Catholic Church in Ceylon under Dutch Rule. Rome, 1957.
- Peter, W.L.A. Don. Historical Gleanings. Colombo, n.p., 1992.
- Peter, W.L.A. Don. Star in the East. 1995.
- Pieris, Edmund. Sinhalese Christian Literature of the XVII and XVIII centuries. 1943.
- Pieris, Edmund. "Tamil Catholic Literature in Ceylon." Tamil Culture, 2:237ff.
- Perniola, V. The Catholic Church in Sri Lanka: The Dutch Period. 2 vols. Dehiwala: Tissara Prakasakayo, 1983.
- Peter, W.L.A. Don. Studies in Ceylon Church History. Colombo: Catholic Press, 1963.
- Goonetileke, H.A.I. A Bibliography of Ceylon. 5 vols. Zug: Switzerland, 1975-1983.
- Perera, S.G., ed. The Oratorian Mission in Ceylon: Historical Documents relating to the Life and Labours of the Venerable Father Joseph Vaz, his Companions and Successors. Colombo: Caxton Printing Works, 1936.
- Perniola, V., tr. The Catholic Church in Sri Lanka. The Portuguese Period: Original Documents. Ceylon Historical Journal monograph series 15-16. Dehiwala: Tissara Prakasakayo 1989-(1991). [1:77.]
- Wickremasinghe, Martin. Landmarks of Sinhalese Literature. Colombo: Gunasena, 1948/1963.