8 Feb: St. Josephine Bakhita

St. Josephine Bakhita is a truly amazing saint.  Check out a biography of her hereSt. Josephine Bakhita

Here is a quote from St. Josephine about her life as a slave:

"One day I unwittingly made a mistake that incensed the master’s son. He became furious, snatched me violently from my hiding place, and began to strike me ferociously with the lash and his feet Finally he left me half dead, completely unconscious. Some slaves carried me away and lay me on a straw mat, where I remained for over a month.

A woman skilled in this cruel art [tattooing] came to the general’s house…our mistress stood behind us, whip in hand. The woman had a dish of white flour, a dish of salt and a razor… When she had made her patterns; the woman took the razor and made incisions along the lines. Salt was poured into each of the wounds… My face was spared, but 6 patterns were designed on my breasts, and 60 more on my belly and arms. I thought I would die, especially when salt was poured in the wounds…it was by a miracle of God I didn’t die. He had destined me for better things."

About her tormentors she would say:

"If I were to meet the slave-traders who kidnapped me and even those who tortured me, I would kneel and kiss their hands, for if that did not happen, I would not be a Christian and Religious today…"


Deus, qui beatam Iosephinam a servitute abiecta,
ad dignitatem filiae tuae et Christi sponsae adduxisti,
da nobis, quaesumus, eius exemplo,
Dominum Iesum crucifixum constanti dilectione prosequi
et in caritate ad misericordiam propensos perseverare.

The tricky word here is propensos from propendeo.  If we can’t get this word right, nothing happens correctly in the last part of the prayer.  Propendeo basically means "to hang forth or forward, hang down".  However, it comes also to mean, "to be well disposed, favorable", "to be inclined".  This gives us the adjective prō-pensus , a, um.  This means that we are asking God to make us to be people who are propensi.  This is the tricky part.  We must have here something like "grant to us… (to be) well-disposed (nos esse propensos) to persevere…".   

O God, who brought blessed Josephine out of abject servitude
unto the dignity of Your daughter and a spouse of Christ,
grant us, we beseech You, by her example,
to follow the crucified Lord Jesus with constant love
and to be well disposed to persevere in charity unto mercy.

Our sometime poster "Don Marco" has a good version of his own, which he posted elsewhere on this bog and which I reproduce here:

O God, who led Saint Josephine
from abject slavery
to the dignity of being your daughter and the bride of Christ,
give us, we beseech you, by her example,
to follow after Jesus the Crucified Lord with unremitting love
and, in charity, to persevere in a ready mercy.

I suspect that "Don Marco" didn’t quite get that propensos part, but it is tricky, to be sure. 

If anyone one else wants to jump in on this, feel free to do so.

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About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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4 Responses to 8 Feb: St. Josephine Bakhita

  1. Henry Edwards says:

    The third edition of the Missale Romanum must have an improved collect for St. Josephine, because what I see in today’s Magnificat is

    Lord, hear the prayers of those who recall
    the devoted life of the virgin Josephine Bakhita.
    Guide us on our way and help us to grow
    in love and devotion as long as we live.

    Which certainly has the sound (“help us to grow in love”) of genuine ICEL.

  2. Are you suggesting that there is a different Latin Collect? I don’t think there is.

  3. Don Marco says:

    “Magnificat” does not give the new texts of the the third typical edition of the MR because they are not yet available in English. Pity. The editors fall back on the appropriate texts from the Commons. Don’t hold your breath waiting for “official” translations of the texts of the third typical edition.

    As for “propensos.” Yes, I got it alright but found it frightfully hard to translate. “A ready mercy” gives, I think, the idea (thank you, dear Lewis & Short”) of being well dispose, prompt, or inclined.

  4. Yes, Don Marco, I thought about that one for a while myself. This is just another example of how a concept can be clear in Latin but difficult to put into an English which, in its structure, resembles the Latin’s structure.

    This is good exercise!