8 February: St. Josephine Bakhita

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

Let’s get right into a primary text.

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…"

Can we know what God has in mind for us through the sufferings he permits us to endure?  From the fall of our first parents we were given a Redeemer who would not only take our human nature into a bond with His divinity, who would not only teach us His images who we are by His words and deeds among us, but would also die upon the Cross and then rise gloriously to new life. 

Some of you might not have access to the proper prayer for this wonderful modern saint.  Here is the …

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 prayer is clearly a modern composition and lacks the austere concision of ancient collects.  It is still a nice prayer. 

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 pro-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" had his version, posted elsewhere on this blog:

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.

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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3 Responses to 8 February: St. Josephine Bakhita

  1. Diane says:

    Thanks so much for this Fr. Z.

    I had read a little on her about two weeks ago.

    All saints are great role models for their own unique reasons.

  2. Geometricus says:

    Though I had merely heard the name before, I really looked into this wonderful saint this year because I like to start all my math classes with prayer. I added a page to my powerpoint “prayers for class” with a nice picture and a prayer I found at some other website. Before I had the class pray the prayer, I told them a little about her background, and that she came from the Sudan, where Christians are being persecuted. I encouraged them to pray for the intercession of Josephine Bakhita for our brothers and sisters suffering now in Sudan.

    By far, though, Fr. Z, you have the best pictures and the most interesting quotes and info I could not find anywhere else. I will direct my students to your website.

  3. Where can I get a print of St Josephine Bakhita to frame for my room?
    I have been unable to locate a medal, statue, or print in Philadelphia. She is my daily inspiration for work.
    Thank you,
    Shirley A. Morrell-Calton

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