Thursday, 8 February 2007

St Josephine Bakhita

The last revision of the Roman Missal a few years ago gave us some more saints in the Roman calendar, one of them being St Josephine Bakhita. It is her feast day today. Her story has really impressed me and I find her a real model for young people, for she came from slavery to find true freedom in friendship with Christ.

Briefly, she was born in Darfur in Sudan. She was kidnapped at the age of seven, and sold into slavery, having various masters, until she was 'bought' by an Italian consul. He passed her on to another Italian friend, who took her into his home in order to look after his daughter. When the daughter went to the convent school, our saint felt called to become a Catholic. And so she was instructed and was baptised and confirmed at the age of 22. She expressed a wish to join the sisters, but her 'owner' wanted her to return to Africa with his family. However, the Patriarch of Venice intervened, and in a court case it was held that as, in Italy, slavery was illegal, Josephine was free and had been since arriving in Italy. So she entered the convent of the Institute of St Magdalene of Canossa, and made her profession three years later. Her duties in the convent were the usual activities of household work, but her love for the children was returned by them. She was well known for encouraging them to love the Lord and to pray for those who do not yet know him. She herself said "What a great grace it is to be a friend of the Lord". She died in 1947 and was beatified in 1992 and canonised in the great year of jubilee by the Great Servant of God Pope John Paul II.

What strikes me about this saint is how she went from slavery to true freedom in Christ. Her slavery was a literal slavery. Today young people often live in other slaveries - drugs, drink, gambling, poor self-image, self-hate, despair, sex. St Josephine is a sign that friendship with Christ, which she exemplified, has the power to release us from the slavery to anything. This is really what our Holy Father meant when he said, at the beginning of his Pontificate:

"If we let Christ into our lives, we lose nothing, nothing, absolutely nothing of what makes life free, beautiful and great. No! Only in this friendship are the doors of life opened wide. Only in this friendship is the great potential of human existence truly revealed. Only in this friendship do we experience beauty and liberation. And so, today, with great strength and great conviction, on the basis of long personal experience of life, I say to you, dear young people: Do not be afraid of Christ! He takes nothing away, and he gives you everything. When we give ourselves to him, we receive a hundredfold in return. Yes, open, open wide the doors to Christ and you will find true life. Amen"

1 comment:

John Paul said...

I saw a documentary on EWTN about her. It was a remarkable life.