Saturday, February 8, 2014

St. Josephine Bakhita

Today, February 8, is the feast day of St. Josephine Bakhita, who is one of my two favorites saints, the other being St. Martin de Porres. I don't have much time to write, so I was going to link to a review that I wrote of her biography, Bakhita: From Slave to Saint, by Robert Italo Zanini, which I read a couple of months ago; however, I find that I did not ever write the review, so I will just say a few words. 

Bakhita was born in Darfur in 1869. When she was about 8--she didn't really know how old she was--she was kidnapped by slave traders. Not only do we not know her exact age, we don't know her real name either. Bakhita, Lucky, was the name that was given to her by the slave traders.

After having belonged to several masters, some who treated her kindly and some who tortured her mercilessly, she found herself in a Canossian convent in Italy where she was accompanying the daughter of her current master, and where she heard the gospel for the first time. She was baptized and because slavery was illegal in Italy, she was allowed to stay and join the order. She was given the name Josephine in religious life.

She never seems to have worked any miracles except for being unfailingly kind to all who wanted her help in any way. She just lived a simple, holy life in gratitude for all that the Lord had done for her. She became quite well-known in her lifetime because of her dramatic history and travelled widely in Italy telling her story, which she did very simply and briefly. She died in 1947 when she about 80 years old and was canonized by Pope John Paul II on October 1, 2000.

One story about St. Josephine Bakhita that I love is that when she was fairly old, she heard that there was another black sister in another order. They were able to meet and they determined that the other sister was her older sister who had been kidnapped a short time before Bakhita. I can't imagine the joy they must have felt meeting again after having been separated from their family for so many years.

Zanini's book is based for the most part on the testimony given during the investigation that led to her canonization. It's very factual and he includes some information about the political situation of the time to help the reader understand her story better. I'd recommended it if you have any interest in Bakhita because there is so much more than I can write here.

Several years ago, shortly after her canonization I think, a retreat master told us Bakhita's story briefly and gave us a holy card with a relic. I don't know why, but the minute I saw this woman's face, I fell in love with her. There doesn't seem to have been any reason for this. I just did. Since then, I have made a friend, a woman who escaped from persecution in the Sudan, who now lives in Memphis. I haven't seen her in about a year, but I always felt that she me helped to know Bakhita a bit better. And then, Bakhita was the doorkeeper of the convent, which, as I mentioned in a previous post, is basically my current job in the parish, where I hope to grow to be as kind and grateful as she was, but I have to admit it's an uphill climb.



  1. What a beautiful blog entry! I love stories, especially the finely-woven tapestries.

  2. Thanks! And thank you for your comment. I see you write about a lot of saints on your blog. You might be interested in reading the series we are doing here.

  3. The first miracle I ever witnessed in my life was when I attended her cannonization. I was there for the cannonization of St. Katherine Drexel, but I will never forget what Josephine Bekitha did on that day at the Vatican. It is very surprising to me that no one else has written about what happened at her beatification. It was a rainy day and the sky was overcast. The rain accompanied all the hymns from all the choirs representing the saints they came to beautify, but the rain stopped and the sun came out making it very hot every time her choir sang hymns for her. It started raining again as soon as our or the other choir began singing. This happened over five times. This woman is the Real deal. They say that she didn't perform miracles of have supernatural power in her life, but that day she most certainly communicated with her people.