On February 8, the Church celebrates the life of St. Josephine Bakhita, a model of love and forgiveness.
St. Josephine Bakhita was born in Sudan in 1869. At seven years old, she was sold into slavery and re-traded many times. Her captures were so abusive that she forgot even her own name and was given the name Bakhita in mean-spiritedly, meaning “fortunate one.”
As a young woman, Bakhita was owned by an Italian family and served as nanny to a girl who was being educated by Catholic nuns. Bakhita felt drawn to the faith and under the freedom granted by Italy’s laws, eventually received the sacraments and chose to enter the Institute of St. Magdalene of Canossa rather than return to her native Sudan.
Josephine Bakhita spent the next fifty years of her life carrying out humble service with the sisters doing housework and warmly receiving visitors at the door. She was loved for her faithful, cheerful, quiet service to those she lived with and served.
At the end of her life she battled a long sickness and was eventually taken to her eternal reward in 1947.
She was known to have said, “If I were to meet the slave traders who kidnapped me and even those who tortured me, I would kneel and kiss their hands, for if that did not happen, I would not be a Christian and Religious today.”
As a mom to an almost seven-year-old girl, it’s enormously painful to imagine the horrors this little girl was subjected to that would result in her forgetting even her own name. And as a grown woman, St. Josephine Bakhita’s life causes me to examine my own conscience: how do I respond to the problem of evil? What affect do the big and small injustices in my day have on my heart? Do they spur me to turn to the Lord in prayer for the situation and those involved? Or do I rather close in on myself and dwell on my hurt?
When I feel the latter is the case, I hope that I remember to turn to St. Josephine Bakhita, a true patroness of interior freedom, to pray for me that I trust in God’s goodness no matter the trying circumstances around me and that I, like St. Josephine Bakhita, receive everyone in my home as I would Jesus Himself.
“I am definitely loved and whatever happens to me-I am awaited by this Love. And so my life is good.”-St. Josephine Bakhita
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