Or, as you may or may not know her as: St. Josephine Bakhita!
It’s her memorial today!
St Bakhita lived a life full of hardship and unspeakable horror…and yet, she had a hope that did not die. Despite the years of torment and slavery that she endured, she still had the strength and hope and fortune to finally reach and hold the shore of safety. And once there, she had the courage to resist those who would rest it from her. Thus she ended her years as a slave, no longer in Africa, but in Italy, in the home of the Cannossian Daughters of Charity. Here she became a sister and member of the community, and lived until her death in 1947. She was so loved and gentle and joyful that she became known as “Madre Moretta,” the “Black Mother” (an unusual sight, I would presume, in Italy in the first half of the 20th century).
Her fortitude and her joy in her faith, her faith in love, is striking:
“I am definitely loved and whatever happens to me—I am awaited by this love. And so my life is good.”
In our modern world and times, especially in the country of her youth, Darfur, there still remains atrocities, degradation, violence….especially for young girls. This saint is a patron for them. She ‘gets it,’ as no one else might. Her ability to forgive and still love, astonishes me. She is an example of dignity, that we can all witness, and wonder, and learn.
Each saint in the canon is unique, helping us see that we all can bring goodness and healing in this world, in our own small but big ripply way. That’s why I love learning about them and thinking about the saints….it’s cool and fascinating, sometimes shocking, sometimes radical, sometimes gentle….but, every time, it enriches the band width of what’s on my radar and in my life.
At her canonization Pope John Paul II said this about St. Josephine Bakhita:
“We find a shining advocate of genuine emancipation. The history of her life inspires not passive acceptance but the firm resolve to work effectively to free girls and women from oppression and violence, and to return them to their dignity in the full exercise of their rights.”
They need this saint. We need this saint, to remind us of inherent human dignity and hope and the possibility of joy.
St. Josephine Bakhita, pray for us.