Readings & Reflections: Thursday of the Fifth Week in Ordinary Time & St. Josephine Bakhita, February 8,2018

Readings & Reflections: Thursday of the Fifth Week in Ordinary Time & St. Josephine Bakhita, February 8,2018

At the age of nine, Josephine Bakhita was kidnapped from her home in Sudan, force-marched for eight days, and sold into slavery. “Bakhita” (Arabic: “fortunate one”) had five masters who treated her with great cruelty. One mistress “tattooed” Bakhita by repeatedly cutting her skin and rubbing salt into the wounds. Finally reaching Venice with a kindly Italian family, Bakhita was entrusted to the Canossian sisters. There she embraced the Faith, ultimately entering the order herself. She served in humble ways, and spent her last years in a wheelchair. “The whole of my life has been God’s gift, men, his instruments; thanks to them for providing me the gift of faith,” she declared. Bakhita died in 1947 A.D. and was canonized in 2000 by Pope John Paul II.


Opening Prayer

Lord Jesus, Just like the Greek woman, a Syrophoenician by birth, all we need is a scrap, not a full meal. Lord, turn us to gold, our spouse to a fruitful vine, our children, be like olive plants. May we all be blessed to sit down at the banquet table of the Father in His heavenly kingdom. In Your Mighty Name, we pray. Amen.

Reading 1
1 Kgs 11: 4-13
When Solomon was old his wives had turned his heart to strange gods,
and his heart was not entirely with the LORD, his God,
as the heart of his father David had been.
By adoring Astarte, the goddess of the Sidonians,
and Milcom, the idol of the Ammonites,
Solomon did evil in the sight of the LORD;
he did not follow him unreservedly as his father David had done.
Solomon then built a high place to Chemosh, the idol of Moab,
and to Molech, the idol of the Ammonites,
on the hill opposite Jerusalem.
He did the same for all his foreign wives
who burned incense and sacrificed to their gods.
The LORD, therefore, became angry with Solomon,
because his heart was turned away from the LORD, the God of Israel, who had appeared to him twice
(for though the LORD had forbidden him
this very act of following strange gods,
Solomon had not obeyed him).

So the LORD said to Solomon: “Since this is what you want,
and you have not kept my covenant and my statutes
which I enjoined on you,
I will deprive you of the kingdom and give it to your servant.
I will not do this during your lifetime, however,
for the sake of your father David;
it is your son whom I will deprive.
Nor will I take away the whole kingdom.
I will leave your son one tribe for the sake of my servant David
and of Jerusalem, which I have chosen.”

The word of the Lord.

Responsorial Psalm
Ps 106:3-4-35-36, 37 and 40
R. (4a) Remember us, O Lord, as you favor your people.
Blessed are they who observe what is right,
who do always what is just.
Remember us, O LORD, as you favor your people;
visit us with your saving help.
R. Remember us, O Lord, as you favor your people.
But they mingled with the nations
and learned their works.
They served their idols,
which became a snare for them.
R. Remember us, O Lord, as you favor your people.
They sacrificed their sons
and their daughters to demons.
And the LORD grew angry with his people,
and abhorred his inheritance.
R. Remember us, O Lord, as you favor your people.

Mk 7:24-30

Jesus went to the district of Tyre.
He entered a house and wanted no one to know about it,
but he could not escape notice.
Soon a woman whose daughter had an unclean spirit heard about him.
She came and fell at his feet.
The woman was a Greek, a Syrophoenician by birth,
and she begged him to drive the demon out of her daughter.
He said to her, “Let the children be fed first.
For it is not right to take the food of the children
and throw it to the dogs.”
She replied and said to him,
“Lord, even the dogs under the table eat the children’s scraps.”
Then he said to her, “For saying this, you may go.
The demon has gone out of your daughter.”
When the woman went home, she found the child lying in bed
and the demon gone.

The Gospel of the Lord.

Reflection 1 – The Syro-Phoenician woman’s faith

‘He said to her, “Let the children be fed first. For it is not right to take the food of the children and throw it to the dogs.” She replied and said to him, “Lord, even the dogs under the table eat the children’s scraps.” Then he said to her, “For saying this, you may go. The demon has gone out of your daughter.”’

The gospel scene for today may somehow bother quite a number of people. Why was the Syro-Phoenician woman compared to the dogs under a family table? Jesus was only trying to convey that the first and foremost concern of every man is to feed his family, in His case the Jewish nation. The woman being Syro-Phoenician and not Jewish therefore did not belong to God’s chosen people. Even with this statement, the woman was not offended but had the faith and the perseverance to claim His blessings even if she and her family were being compared to dogs partaking of children’s scraps under the table. She did not come strongly to defend her race against Jesus but kept a humble and persistent heart.

Her attitude towards Jesus was one of complete submission to Him as God of all Who will not set her aside. She must have considered that if she is this close to God, then she also has a right to the crumbs. I was moved by the attitude of the Syro-Phoenician woman towards Jesus as it was totally different and an exact contrast to that of the Pharisees who were, neither willing to acknowledge Jesus as God, nor even to fellowship with Him at the table of truth.  They found it difficult to associate with Jesus much more have faith in Him.

The woman’s persistence paid off.  Jesus delivered her daughter from the devil. With her persistent faith, Jesus said to her: ‘”The demon has already left your daughter.” When she got home, she found the child lying in bed and the demon gone.’ We have an all-inclusive God. Faith and humility, patience and perseverance can only bring us to partake of God’s table of grace.


This brings into our hearts that we as Christians should be bold with our faith.  We should be patient in bringing our concerns to God and with expectant faith consider all as done in the Name of our Lord. In the same light, Jesus wants us to open our hearts of compassion and mercy to every man and treat everyone as a child of God without concern for social status, color, race and religion.

Heavenly Father, help me when I am desperate. Come to my rescue when I call on You. Be patient with me when I am hopeless as I may lose my composure and reserve and be rude with my persistence. Help me to see You in others who may be different from me. In your grace and blessings, I am fully dependent.  In Jesus, I am complete as I pray. Amen.

Reflection 2 – Invited to sit at the Lord ’s Table

In today’s gospel we see Jesus move out of the territory ruled by Herod and into Tyre, a mixed district consisting of both Greeks and Jews. In Mark’s Gospel, Jesus is a man of his time and place. He saw the descendants of Abraham as chosen by God above all others.

The Syro-Phoenician woman is unique among all the figures in the four Gospels. She is the only one who wins an argument with Jesus. At first he refuses her request to drive the demon out of her daughter. He tells her that he has come first and foremost to the children of Abraham. The woman grovels to the level of comparing herself to a dog that might eat the scraps from the table of the children of Abraham. She falls at the feet of the Lord. Jesus is truly moved by this. He grants the woman’s request.

The woman who begs for healing from the Lord serves as a good model for us as we move into Lent and begin our journey to Easter. We might do well to model ourselves after the persistence and faith of the woman who wins her argument with Jesus.

Some of the people of the covenant in the first century were so arrogant that they dismissed all pagans as unworthy of God’s attention. Gifted as we are in the new covenant, we need to remember that we are made worthy because of the Paschal Mystery in which we were plunged at baptism. We are made worthy because of Christ.

We have an advantage that the Syro-Phoenician woman did not. Because of the death and resurrection of Christ we need not beg for just the crumbs at the table. We have been invited to be seated as guests of honor, not because of our own merit, but because we are baptized in Christ, washed in the blood of the Lamb. If Jesus will feed “the dogs” imagine what he will do for us! (Source: Timothy J. Cronin. Weekday Homily Helps. Ohio: St. Anthony Messenger Press, February 11, 2010).

Reflection 3 – The demon has left your daughter

Do you ever feel “put-off” by the Lord? This passage describes the only occasion in which Jesus ministered outside of Jewish territory. (Tyre and Sidon were fifty miles north of Israel and still exist today in modern Lebanon.) A Gentile woman – an outsider who was not a member of the chosen people – puts Jesus on the spot by pleading with him to show mercy to her daughter who was tormented with an evil spirit. At first Jesus seemed to pay no attention to her, and this made his disciples feel embarrassed. Jesus very likely did this not to put the woman off, but rather to test her sincerity and to awaken faith in her.

The Lord shows mercy to those who seek him
What did Jesus mean by the expression “throwing bread to the dogs”? The Jews often spoke of the Gentiles with arrogance and insolence as “unclean dogs” since the Gentiles were excluded from God’s covenant and favor with Israel. For the Greeks the “dog” was a symbol of dishonor and was used to describe a shameless and audacious woman. Matthew’s Gospel records the expression do not give dogs what is holy (Matthew 7:6). Jesus, no doubt, spoke with a smile rather than with an insult because this woman immediately responds with wit and faith – “even the dogs eat the crumbs”.

Love conquers with persistent trust and faith
Jesus praises a Gentile woman for her persistent faith and for her affectionate love. She made the misery of her child her own and she was willing to suffer rebuff in order to obtain healing for her loved one. She also had indomitable persistence. Her faith grew in contact with the person of Jesus. She began with a request and she ended on her knees in worshipful prayer to the living God. No one who ever sought Jesus with faith – whether Jew or Gentile – was refused his help. Do you seek Jesus with expectant faith?

“Lord Jesus, your love and mercy knows no bounds. May I trust you always and never doubt your loving care and mercy. Increase my faith in your saving help and deliver me from all evil and harm.” – Read the source:

Reflection 4 – The One Who Could Not Be Hidden

He entered a house and wanted no one to know it, but He could not be hidden. —Mark 7:24

Attar of Roses, a fragrant oil, is one of the most valuable products of Bulgaria and is heavily taxed for export. A tourist, unwilling to pay the duty, sought to evade customs by concealing two vials of the precious fluid in his suitcase. Apparently a little of the perfume had spilled in his suitcase. By the time he reached the train station, the aroma was emanating from the luggage, declaring the presence of the hidden treasure. The authorities immediately knew what the man had done and confiscated the costly souvenirs.

The Lord Jesus could not be hidden either. Crowds were constantly mobbing Him to hear His words of wisdom, to benefit from His deeds of mercy, and to derive help from His loving compassion.

After He ascended to His Father, Jesus’ influence continued in the lives of His disciples. The populace “realized that they had been with Jesus” (Acts 4:13). Their deportment and their attitude marked them as His true followers.

Are you living completely for Jesus? Is the love of Christ so obvious in your life that those who know you realize that you are a follower of the One who “could not be hidden”? (Mark 7:24). If so, the world will readily see that you are on God’s side. Your influence cannot be hidden.
— Henry G. Bosch

When we’ve been alone with Jesus,
Learning from Him day by day,
Others soon will sense the difference
As we walk along life’s way. —Hess

You cannot hide your influence (Source: Our Daily Bread, RBC Ministries).

Reflection 5 – Tired and worn out?

Are you tired? Burnt out?

This might be a sign that your priorities are wrong. If you’re worn out from ministering to others, perhaps you’re not giving yourself enough time to be ministered to. We cannot give to others what we have not received. Our top priority must be our relationship with God; it’s from this that we receive everything else we need.

Making God our top priority includes letting him nurture us as we take time out to rest in his love.

In today’s Gospel reading, Jesus needs this kind of rest. He’s been busy ministering — healing and preaching — and he has dealt with some very difficult and disapproving Pharisees. Now he enters the home of an unnamed friend, and he hopes no one will find out that he’s here, at least not until he’s finished recuperating.

We all know what that’s like! Just when we can’t handle one more person demanding one more ounce of energy from us, and we’ve settled into the couch to relax, the phone rings and someone else needs our attention.

Jesus had only started to rest when someone came knocking. When she asks for help, we can hear grouchiness in this scripture: He was grumpy because he was tired. Does this surprise you? Remember, Jesus was human like us in every way except sin. But despite his grouchiness, he did not sin, because he still cared. The woman’s needs were AS important as his own — not less, not more important, but the same AS. So instead of selfishly turning the woman away, and without ignoring his own needs, he gave her what she needed and then immediately sent her out the door.

Our grouchiness becomes a sin when we use our bad mood to push others away. Oh how hard it is to remain loving when we’re tired! But guess what? When we make sure our own needs are taken care of and we keep our priorities right, we don’t get so worn out. Then it’s much easier to remain loving.

Have you ever heard the saying that J-O-Y means “Jesus-Others-You” as a priority list? Well, be careful! It can cause burn-out. In truth, we experience joy when we stay closely connected to Jesus and let no one come between him and us. We need times of solitude with him. We need times of nurturing ourselves in his presence. We must continually fill up on his love so that we have enough love to pour into others without becoming drained.

Are you worn out from giving yourself to others? Take time to balance the equation. Your needs are as important as their needs. Give yourself time to receive what you need so that you will once again have an abundance to give to others joyfully! – Read the source:

Reflection 6 – When your prayers hit a brick wall

I’ve always enjoyed the story in today’s Gospel passage because of the Greek woman’s response to Jesus in the face of an impossibility. She’s a sign of hope for all of us when we’re up against a wall and there seems to be no door through it. Her persistence and her confidence in Jesus, who was known to be a barrier-breaker, are traits that we should copy.

At first, Jesus seemed to be saying “no” to the woman’s prayer request. And for good reason (according to the culture of the day), for she was not Jewish, and everyone “knew” that non-Jews were second-rate. Not only that, but she was a woman! “Inferior” to Jesus in not just one but two ways!

However, Jesus had already begun to teach that the kingdom of God surpasses all human limitations. He was already treating women with equal dignity, raising them to the same level of importance as men. He had already preached about new wineskins. He had already broken Sabbath laws in order to minister to people, breaking from old traditions that were used without compassion. So why did he say no to this desperate mother?

Think about the barriers that you seem to be up against. When it seems like our prayers are hitting a hard wall, it’s time to assess why. Is Jesus really saying no? Did he put up the wall? Sometimes he does, but only for our protection, because it would be harmful for us to proceed ahead with our plans.

At other times, Jesus wants to help us break through the barriers, but we just stand there staring at the thick bricks, feeling their roughness, and that’s all we think about. We need to be like the Greek woman who found a clever way around her obstacle. We have to try a new direction, a different tactic, or a deeper reason for getting our prayers answered. Jesus wanted to test her persistence, for her sake. He does the same with us.

The Book of Genesis (2:18-25) speaks of the permanence of the unitive bond of marriage. When we’re up against a wall in marriage and it seems like our unity is being dissolved, it’s God’s intention to keep the marriage together. If he joined the husband and wife together, then the two have indeed become one. No wall, no division in that relationship is stronger than God. But the husband and wife must both choose to “cling” to each other, especially when it feels like healing is impossible. They cling to each other as they wait at the wall for Jesus to lead them into a breakthrough.

The kingdom of God surpasses all human limitations. No prayer bounces off a brick wall forever. Find a new angle and keep hitting that wall with more prayers. And when you get tired, take a rest in the Father’s lap. You will reach the breakthrough you need. I guarantee it. I speak from experience. – Read the source:

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Reflection 7 – St. Josephine Bakhita (c. 1868-1947 A.D.)

For many years, Josephine Bakhita was a slave but her spirit was always free and eventually that spirit prevailed.

Born in Olgossa in the Darfur region of southern Sudan, Josephine was kidnapped at the age of seven, sold into slavery and given the name Bakhita, which means fortunate. She was re-sold several times, finally in 1883 to Callisto Legnani, Italian consul in Khartoum, Sudan.

Two years later he took Josephine to Italy and gave her to his friend Augusto Michieli. Bakhita became babysitter to Mimmina Michieli, whom she accompanied to Venice’s Institute of the Catechumens, run by the Canossian Sisters. While Mimmina was being instructed, Josephine felt drawn to the Catholic Church. She was baptized and confirmed in 1890, taking the name Josephine.

When the Michielis returned from Africa and wanted to take Mimmina and Josephine back with them, the future saint refused to go. During the ensuing court case, the Canossian sisters and the patriarch of Venice intervened on Josephine’s behalf. The judge concluded that since slavery was illegal in Italy, she had actually been free since 1885.

Josephine entered the Institute of St. Magdalene of Canossa in 1893 and made her profession three years later. In 1902, she was transferred to the city of Schio (northeast of Verona), where she assisted her religious community through cooking, sewing, embroidery and welcoming visitors at the door. She soon became well loved by the children attending the sisters’ school and the local citizens. She once said, “Be good, love the Lord, pray for those who do not know Him. What a great grace it is to know God!”

The first steps toward her beatification began in 1959. She was beatified in 1992 and canonized eight years later.


Josephine’s body was mutilated by those who enslaved her, but they could not touch her inner spirit. Her Baptism set her on an eventual path toward asserting her civic freedom and then service to God’s people as a Canossian sister.

She who worked under many “masters” was finally happy to address God as “master” and carry out everything that she believed to be God’s will for her.


During his homily at her canonization Mass in St. Peter’s Square, Pope John Paul II said that in 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.”

Related St. Anthony Messenger article(s) 

Josephine Bakhita: She Thirsted for the Creator of All Beauty, by Lawrence S. Cunningham

Read the source:

Catholic saints are holy people and human people who lived extraordinary lives. Each saint the Church honors responded to God’s invitation to use his or her unique gifts. God calls each one of us to be a saint. Click here to receive Saint of the Day in your email.

St. Josephine Bakhita: From Slave of Man to Handmaiden of God

Saint Josephine Bakhita, model of Christian joy, pray for us!

Saint Josephine Bakhita, whose memorial we celebrate on Feb. 8, is one of those saints who provides humanity with hope in the midst of an age repeatedly marked by acrimony, vindictiveness, vengeance and retribution. If you believe that obscene words and actions, mean-spiritedness and the degradation of the soul rule the day in the 21st century, then you must take some time to examine the life of Saint Josephine Bakhita. We can thus consider how her example can only draw us closer to Christ.

Josephine (which was actually not her real first name) was born in Sudan in 1869. She was of the Daju tribe, and her father was the local chief. Josephine’s early life was relatively carefree. However, when she was around only 7 years old, she was kidnapped by slave traders. For over a decade, she was bought and sold numerous times, and endured such a horrendous experience — including beatings (sometimes daily) so severe that she was permanently scarred, periodic deprivations of food, and other abuses — that she even forgot the name that her parents had given her at birth. In 1883, Josephine was eventually taken to Italy, where she served a family as a maid. While in Italy, she came to know the Canossian Sisters of Venice.

It was during Josephine’s time around the Canossian Sisters that she began to learn about God and Catholicism. This was an experience during which she learned about the Gospel and the love of Jesus Christ. When the Italian family who had entrusted Josephine to the Canossian Sisters while they were away returned and attempted to convince Josephine to remain in service to them, she opted to stay with the Canossian Sisters instead. There arose some contention, but the Canossian Sisters advocating on Josephine’s behalf prevailed, and she was able to continue as part of their community.

Josephine was baptized into the Catholic faith on Jan. 9, 1890, at 30 years old, taking the name of “Josephine Margaret,” receiving the other two sacraments of initiation that same day. Josephine formally entered religious life with the Canossian Sisters, and spent over 40 years administering to the needs of her fellow sisters within the convent. Josephine had a legendary kindness and humility that never reflected the harshness that she underwent during the first few decades of her life. Even in her elderly years, Josephine was steadfastly cheerful, despite her increasing ailments and subsequent physical discomfort. Josephine’s warm demeanor persisted up until her death on Feb. 8, 1947. She was canonized by Pope Saint John Paul II on Oct. 1, 2000.

Life is replete with suffering, and Josephine began enduring it at a relatively young age. She went from practical bliss as a young girl to relentless enslavement to comparably willful – although hardly ideal – domestic servitude to entry into the Church and handmaid to the Lord in light of the Gospel, which we are all called to emulate. Josephine was already a grown woman when she came to learn about the Good News, and she received it with zeal and eagerness. Before coming to know truly Christian love via the model of the Canossian Sisters, Josephine had experienced hatred, defilement, indignity and destitution; yet, with a Job-like resoluteness, she allowed the Good News of Jesus Christ to penetrate her heart when she encountered it: “Oh, that today you would hear his voice, ‘harden not your hearts…’” (Hebrews 3:7, cf. Psalms 95:7-8). One can deduce with confidence that Josephine prayed ardently for the conversion of, and God’s mercy upon, her former captors. Would that we do likewise for those who have wronged us in some category.

Life is replete with obstacles and with factors that seek to thrust us into despair. No matter what trials await us, may we look to the saintly example of Josephine Bakhita to know the love of the Lord when we behold it, allowing ourselves to be enthralled by the contentment and joy of that stem only from knowing and walking with him, no matter whatever worldly ordeals arise: “By this is my Father glorified, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples. As the Father loves me, so I also love you. Remain in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and your joy may be complete. This is my commandment: love one another as I love you” (John 15:8-12).

To learn more about Saint Josephine Bakhita, you can read about her on the Vatican website here: Josephine Bakhita (1869-1947). Italian writer Roberto Italo Zanini also published a book with Ignatius Press titled Bakhita: From Slave to Saint (2013), and Ignatius Press likewise offers a DVD by the same name. Please share the story of this remarkable saint, especially to those for whom suffering, despair, or resentment are currently separating them from the merciful love of the Lord Jesus Christ, whom Josephine readily allowed to enliven her once she received him in her heart.

Saint Josephine Bakhita, model of Christian joy, pray for us! – Read the source:

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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia:
J Bakhita.jpg
BORN ca. 1869
Olgossa, Darfur, Sudan
DIED 8 February 1947
SchioVenetoRepublic of Italy
VENERATED IN Roman Catholic Church
BEATIFIED 17 May 1992, St. Peter’s BasilicaVatican City, by Pope John Paul II
CANONIZED 1 October 2000, St. Peter’s Basilica, Vatican City, by Pope John Paul II
FEAST 8 February

Josephine Margaret Bakhita, F.D.C.C., (ca. 1869- 8th of February 1947) was a Sudanese-born former slave who became a CanossianReligious Sister in Italy, living and working there for 45 years. In 2000 she was declared a saintby the Catholic Church.

Early Life[edit]

She was born around the year 1869 in the western Sudanese region of Darfur; in the village of Olgossa, west of Nyalaand close to Mount Agilerei.[1] She belonged to the prestigious Daju people;[2][3] her well respected and reasonably prosperous father was brother of the village chief. She was surrounded by a loving family of three brothers and three sisters; as she says in her autobiography: “I lived a very happy and carefree life, without knowing what suffering”.[4]

Sometime between the age of seven to nine, probably in February 1877, she was kidnapped by Arab slave traders, who already had kidnapped her elder sister two years earlier. She was cruelly forced to walk barefoot about 960 kilometers (600 mi) to El Obeid and was already sold and bought twice before she arrived there. Over the course of twelve years (1877–1889) she was resold again three more times and then given away. It is said that the trauma of her abduction caused her to forget her own name; she took one given to her by the slavers, bakhita, Arabic for lucky.[5][6]She was also forcibly converted to Islam.[7]

Life as a Slave[edit]

In El Obeid, Bakhita was bought by a very rich Arab merchant who employed her as a maid in service to his two daughters. They liked her and treated her well. But after offending one of her owner’s sons, possibly for breaking a vase, the son lashed and kicked her so severely that she spent more than a month unable to move from her straw bed. Her fourth owner was a Turkish general and she had to serve his mother-in-law and his wife who both were very cruel to all their slaves. Bakhita says: “During all the years I stayed in that house, I do not recall a day, that passed without some wound or other. When a wound from the whip began to heal, other blows would pour down on me”.[8]

She says that the most terrifying of all her memories there, was when she (in common with other slaves) was marked by a process resembling both scarification andtattooing.[9] As her mistress was watching her with a whip in her hand, a dish of white flour, a dish of salt and a razor were brought by a woman. She used the flour to draw patterns on her skin and then she cut deeply along the lines before filling the wounds with salt to ensure permanent scarring. A total of 114 intricate patterns were cut into her breasts, belly, and into her right arm.[10][11]

By the end of 1882, El Obeid came under the threat of an attack of Mahdist revolutionaries.[12] The Turkish general began making preparations to return to his homeland. He sold all his slaves but selected ten of them to be sold later, on his way through Khartoum. There in 1883 Bakhita was bought by the Italian Vice Consul Callisto Legnani, who didn’t use the lash when giving orders and treated her in a loving and cordial way.[13] Two years later, when Legnani himself had to return to Italy, Bakhita begged to go with him. By the end of 1884 they escaped from besieged Khartoum with a friend, Augusto Michieli. They traveled a risky 650-kilometer (400 mi) trip on camel back to Suakin, which then was the largest port of Sudan. In March 1885 they left Suakin for Italy and arrived at the Italian port of Genoa in April. They were met there by Augusto Michieli’s wife Signora Maria Turina Michieli. Callisto Legnani gave the enslavement of Bakhita to Turina Michieli as a present. Bakhita’s new masters took her to their family villa at Zianigo, near Mirano Veneto, about 25 km (16 mi) west of Venice.[9] She lived there for three years and became nanny to the Michieli’s daughter Alice, known as Mimmina, born in February 1886. The Michielis brought Bakhita with them to the Sudan for nine months before returning to Italy.

Conversion to Catholicism and Freedom[edit]

Suakin in the Sudan was besieged but remained in Anglo-Egyptian hands. Augusto Michieli acquired a large hotel there. As such, he decided to sell his entire property in Italy and to move his family to the Sudan permanently. Selling his house and lands took much longer than expected. By the end of 1888, Turina wanted to see her husband in the Sudan even though land transactions were not finished. Since the villa in Zianigo was already sold, Bakhita and Mimmina needed a temporary place to stay while Turina went to the Sudan without them. At the advice of their business agent Illuminato Cecchini, on 29 November 1888, Signora Turina Michieli left them in the custody of the Canossian Sisters in Venice. When she returned to take them both to Suakin, though, Bakhita firmly refused to leave. For a full three days Mrs. Michieli tried to force the issue. So, the superior of the institute for baptismal candidates (Catechumenate) that Bakhita attended complained to the Italian authorities. On 29 November 1889 an Italian court ruled that, because Sudan had outlawed slavery before Bakhita’s birth and because Italian law did not recognize slavery, Bakhita had never legally been a slave.[14] For the first time in her life Bakhita found herself in control of her own destiny. She chose to remain with the Canossians.[15] On January 9, 1890 Bakhita was baptised with the names of Josephine Margaret and Fortunata (which is the Latin translation for the Arabic Bakhita). On the same day she was also confirmed and received Holy Communion from Archbishop Giuseppe Sarto, the Cardinal Patriarch of Venice, the future Pope Pius X, himself.[16]

Canossian Sister[edit]

On 7 December 1893 Josephine Bakhita entered the novitiate of the Canossian Sisters and on 8 December 1896 she took her vows, welcomed by Cardinal Sarto. In 1902 she was assigned to the Canossian convent at Schio, in the northern Italian province of Vicenza, where she spent the rest of her life. Her only extended time away was between 1935 and 1939, when she stayed at the Missionary Novitiate in Vimercate (Milan); mostly visiting other Canossian communities in Italy, talking about her experiences and helping to prepare young sisters for work in Africa.[16] A strong missionary drive animated her throughout her entire life – “her mind was always on God, and her heart in Africa”.[17]

During her 42 years in Schio, Bakhita was employed as the cook, sacristan and portress (door keeper) and was in frequent contact with the local community. Her gentleness, calming voice, and ever-present smile became well known and Vicenzans still refer to her as Sor Moretta (“little brown sister”) or Madre Moretta (“black mother”). Her special charisma and reputation for sanctity were noticed by her order; the first publication of her story (Storia Meravigliosa by Ida Zanolini) in 1931, made her famous throughout Italy.[2][18] During the Second World War (1939–1945) she shared the fears and hopes of the town people, who considered her a saint and felt protected by her mere presence. Not quite in vain as the bombs did not spare Schio, but the war passed without one single casualty.

Her last years were marked by pain and sickness. She used a wheelchair, but she retained her cheerfulness, and if asked how she was, she would always smile and answer “as the Master desires”. In the extremity of her last hours her mind was driven back to the years of her slavery and she cried out “The chains are too tight, loosen them a little, please!”. After a while she came round again. Someone asked her: “How are you? Today is Saturday”. “Yes, I am so happy: Our Lady… Our Lady!”. These were her last audible words.[19]

Bakhita died at 8:10 PM on 8 February 1947. For three days her body lay on display while thousands of people arrived to pay their respects.

Legacy and Canonization[edit]

A young student once asked Bakhita: “What would you do, if you were to meet your captors?” Without hesitation she responded: “If I were to meet those who kidnapped me, and even those who tortured me, I would kneel and kiss their hands. For, if these things had not happened, I would not have been a Christian and a religious today”.[20]

The petitions for her canonization began immediately, and the process officially commenced by Pope John XXIII in 1959, only twelve years after her death. On 1 December 1978, Pope John Paul II declared Josephine Venerabilis, the first step towards canonization. On 17 May 1992, she was declared Blessed and given February 8 as her feast day. On 1 October 2000, she was canonized and became Saint Josephine Bakhita. She is venerated as a modern African saint, and as a statement against the brutal history of slavery. She has been adopted as the only patron saint of Sudan.

Bakhita’s legacy is that transformation is possible through suffering. Her story of deliverance from physical slavery also symbolizes all those who find meaning and inspiration in her life for their own deliverance from spiritual slavery.[21] On a larger scale, however, Bakhita’s story of a slave who was forced to convert to Islam and later chose Christianity represents a conflict between Christianity and Islam. In May 1992 news of her beatification was banned by Khartoum which Pope John Paul IIthen personally visited only nine months later.[7] On 10 February 1993, facing all risks, surrounded by an immense crowd in the huge Green Square of the capital of Sudan, he solemnly honoured Bakhita on her own soil. “Rejoice, all of Africa!Bakhita has come back to you. The daughter of Sudan sold into slavery as a living piece of merchandise and yet still free. Free with the freedom of the saints.” [22]

Pope Benedict XVI, on 30 November 2007, in the beginning of his second encyclical letter Spe Salvi (In Hope We Were Saved), relates her entire life story as an outstanding example of the Christian hope.[23]


  1. Jump up^ Dagnino, p.10. The map of Sudan here shows the village of Olgossa (Algozney in the Daju tongue) slightly west of the 3,042 m (9,980 feet) Jebel Marrah and of the 785 mJebel AgilereiThough on p. 37 she seems to place Olgossa about 40 km north-east of Nyala.
  2. Jump up to:a b Davis, Cyprian (1986).“Black Catholic Theology: A Historical Perspective”Theological Studies 61 (2000), pp. 656–671.
  3. Jump up^ Dagnino, pp. 23-25.
  4. Jump up^ Bakhita in Dagnino, p. 37
  5. Jump up^ O’Malley, p. 32.
  6. Jump up^ Dagnino, pp. 29-32. Every slave was always given a new name. Bakhita herself never mentions this incident.
  7. Jump up to:a b Hutchison, p. 7
  8. Jump up^ Bakhita in Dagnino, p. 49.
  9. Jump up to:a b Burns and Butler, p. 53.
  10. Jump up^ Dagnino, pp. 52-53
  11. Jump up^ African Online News, 2000 October 14
  12. Jump up^ Mahdist Revolution (1881-1898), was an Islamic revolt against the Ottoman-Egyptian rule of Sudan, begun by Islamic fundamentalist cleric Muhammad AhmadEl Obeidfell on 19 January 1883, Khartoum on 26 January 1885. The Mahdi Ahmad himself died on 1885 June 22.
  13. Jump up^ “St. Josephine Bakhita”, Canossian Daughters of Charity, USA
  14. Jump up^ Wikipedia Italiana
  15. Jump up^ O’Malley, pp. 33-34.
  16. Jump up to:a b Burns and Butler, p. 54.
  17. Jump up^ Dagnino, p. 99
  18. Jump up^ O’Malley, p. 34.
  19. Jump up^ Dagnino, p. 104
  20. Jump up^ Dagnino, p. 113.
  21. Jump up^ African Online News.
  22. Jump up^ John Paul II, Homily at the Eucharistic Concelebration in honour of Josephine Bakhita, Khartoum, 10 February 1993.
  23. Jump up^ Benedict XVI, Encyclical “Spe salvi”, November 30, 2007


Bakhita: From Slave to Saint(2009)

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