February - St Bakhita
Though frost still darkens our lands, the sun is warmer and the days a little longer, spring is on its way. “The desert shall blossom as a rose.” Isaiah says, so our saint of the Month is a desert rose, St Josephine Bakhita.
Born in Sudan, Africa in 1869, Bakhita was part of the Daju Negroid group, which was a powerful tribal dynasty. Bakhita was a happy child, with lots of friends and family around her. Her father was the brother of the chief and Bakhita was treated like a princess. She was a twin and was very pretty, and she attracted a lot of attention because of her beauty.
One day when Bakhita was six years old she went skipping and playing in the meadows which surrounded their village with her friend, Moina. They were picking wild flowers when all of a sudden men appeared. “Dear child” they said to Bakhita, “will you go fetch and parcel which we have left behind.”
Always kind and obedient, Bakhita went to fetch the parcel, and then when she returned they tied her up and carried her away. When they had gone a little way they put her down and asked her “what is your name?” She was so frightened she could not reply, “Well if you can’t tell us your name, you will be called Bakhita, it is a nice name, it means ‘Lucky One’.” So that was what she would to be called from then on.
Bakhita was taken to a Slave Market in El Obeid in Kordofan. There a merchant took a fancy to Bakhita and bought her as a maid for his daughter. Bakhita had a happy life with this family, but the merchant’s children were terribly spoilt and got whatever they wanted. One day when Bakhita was cleaning, one of the son’s toys got broken. He went bright red with rage and had such a tantrum, that he told his father to sell Bakhita, as he never wished to see her again. So Bakhita was taken and sold to a Turkish officer. This man had a horrible wife who was very mean to him, to all the slaves, and Bakhita, this was a very unhappy time for her. Just when there seems to be no hope and nothing to look forward to a wonderful thing happened. The Turkish officer was given leave to return to Turkey so he decided to sell all his slaves. At last Bakhita was free of his wicked wife.
Bakhita was then bought by a very kind and gentle Italian gentlemen who treated her like a daughter. He tried to find Bakhita’s family and when he asked her what her real name was she couldn’t tell him, in all her years of slavery she had forgotten her own name. Now in her new home Bakhita was free to play like a child once more and she became friends with a little girl, whose name was Chiara. When the Italian gentlemen moved to another state the two girls were so sad to leave each other that the gentleman allowed Bakhita to stay with her little friend and be brought up with her.
The two girls where sent to a boarding school with the Canossian sisters in Venice. It was here that Bakhita first learned about Jesus and she fell in love with Him and His Holy Church. When Chiara’s mother came to collect them, Bakhita said with firm conviction “I will not leave, I love you both very dearly, but I will not lose God.”
On the 9th of January 1890 Bakhita became a child of God and was baptised, she took the name of Josephine Margaret Bakhita.
After her baptism Josephine Bakhita announced that she wanted to be a nun and on the 8th December 1896 Sister Josephine Bakhita became a fully professed nun. She had a new master now, Jesus, and He is a very loving and kind master. She became a portress in the convent of Schio, she always smiled at the visitors as she opened the door, and she always had a kind word to say to everyone. She was a good and holy nun and lived her life loving Jesus. When she became sick she was asked “Do you wish to go to heaven?” Sr Josephine Bakhita replied “I neither wish to go nor to stay, God knows where to find me when He wants me.”
On the 8th February 1947 Sr Josephine Bakhita died with a smile on her face , Jesus had come for her at last.
Let us pray to Jesus that we can all be free, like St Josephine Bakhita, free to love Jesus with our whole hearts.