Neither are the souls of the pious dead separated from the Church which even now is the kingdom of Christ. Otherwise there would be no remembrance of them at the altar of God in the communication of the Body of Christ. -- Saint Augustine of Hippo from “The City of God

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Saint Josephine Bakhita

Sudan like many countries had a troubled history, and as in most cases it is the poor who pay the heavier price. It was in the year 1820 that Sudan found itself at war with Egypt; it was eventually taken over and placed under the leadership of Mehmet Ali this invasion would lead to many rebellions and uprisings for the Sudanese peoples.

During one of the uprisings the famous British Statesman General Gordon was killed, and in 1898 under the leadership of Lord Kitchener both British and Egyptian forces divided Sudan into two provinces, Southern Sudan and northern Sudan. This division of the country would stay like this for many years to come, which brought much hardship for the Sudanese people.

But it was in the year 1869 that a little baby girl would be born, in the village of Olgossa, her family were considered upper middle class as her uncle was the Chief of Olgossa.

But tragedy would strike the family very early when Josephine was kidnapped by slave traders, and because of the political turmoil of the times her family was unable to find where their beloved little daughter had been taken.

Josephine was only nine years old when she was brutally torn from the bosom of her beloved family and thrown into the gruesome and torturous slave trade, this so traumatised this sweet natured girl that during the course of time, she would forget her original name.

This poor girl would be sold off to numerous owners and few showed her any mercy as many brutally whipped and tortured her on a daily basis. During one beating poor little Josephine was unable to rise from her bed as she recovered from the terrible bruising and pain.

But this was not the end of her torture for it was another owner who had poor Josephine tattooed which was a terribly painful procedure. As a knife was used to cut a pattern on the young girl’s skin and then to have salt placed in the wounded region, one can only imagine the horror of it all.

Even though Josephine bore such daily brutalities she never allowed this treatment to brutalise her inner being, as she longed for her freedom with all her heart. So it was in 1885 that she was bought by an Italian, Callisto Legnani, who in turn gave her to his friend Augusto Michieli, who was in need of a nanny for his children.

Josephine would find that the Italians treated her kindly though in her heart of hearts she still longed for the freedom to be herself. But it would be in Italy under the guidance of the Michieli family that Josephine learnt about the Catholic Faith. So when the daughter of the Michieli family Mimmina went to board at the Daughters of Charity, Josephine as her nanny accompanied her there.

This would also give Josephine the opportunity to learn even more about the Catholic Faith as she alongside her charge began taking instruction. The more Josephine learnt of this wondrous and loving God the more her heart was set on fire as she also longed to become Catholic and receive her beloved Jesus in the Eucharist.

For though Josephine suffered much brutality she did not allow this to embitter her heart nor did she long for vengeance, she simply longed for God. The more Josephine learned about this awesome God the more she longed to love only Him, as she opened her heart to the overwhelming power of God's Love.

So it was with distress that when Madame Michieli came to the Daughters of Charity to once again take Josephine back to Africa, poor Josephine did not wish to leave. For during her time with the Sisters she had come to love the Order of the Daughters of Charity and felt a calling to join them in their mission.

So it was with the help of the Sisters that Josephine was able to defy the very angry Madame Michieli and in 1890 Josephine was baptized into the Catholic Church, this filled her heart with such rejoicing that she thought her heart would surely burst with joy!

And so with much prayer Josephine felt the calling of her beloved Lord to enter the Religious life, so she entered the Daughters of Charity and took her vows in 1896. She was to serve her Religious community as seamstress, sacristan, cook and other sundry duties. But at the heart of Josephine was her deep prayer life, as she prayed for her fellow Sisters, the Church and those suffering oppression as she had had to endure.

Though Josephine suffered much, she never once allowed any thoughts of hatred to enter her heart and through her brutal experiences; she kept her humility and her humanity. What a courageous heart this woman had, who even under the most brutal of circumstances, discovered this truth, that love overcomes all manner of evil.

Josephine Bakhita died in 1947.

Saint Josephine was canonised in the year 2000 by Pope John Paul ll.

Peace of Christ to ALL

Copyright © 2005 Marie Smith. All rights reserved.
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