8 February: St. Josephine Bakhita

St_Josephine_BakhitaSt. Josephine Bakhita is a truly amazing saint.  Check out a biography of her HERE.

Pope Benedict XVI wrote about her at length in his encyclical Spe salvi.

She was sold into slavery as a girl and was eventually ransom, brought to Italy, baptized and entered religious life.

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…”

I am reminded of Tolkein’s concept of eucatastrophe. There are some catastrophic events which produce unexpected blessings.  Usually with a lot of pain along the way.

For years I longed to be able to celebrate St. Josephine’s feast with the Traditional Latin Mass.  Now, because of the 2020 CDF decree Cum sanctissima I can!  I found her Collect in Latin (below).  Also, fittingly, on the traditional calendar, today we celebrate the 12th c. founder of the Trinitarians St. John of Matha, who worked to ransom Christians who had been enslaved by members of the Religion of Peace.  It’s appropriate that they share a day.

Here is her….


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 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.


O God, who led Saint Josephine Bakhita from abject slavery
to the dignity of being your daughter and a bride of Christ,
grant, we pray, that by her example
we may show constant love for the Lord Jesus crucified,
remaining steadfast in charity
and prompt to show compassion.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in Saints: Stories & Symbols and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.


  1. benedetta says:

    Thanks Father. I have a particular devotion to St. Josephine Bakhita. Amazing saint and how refreshing to come back to Spe Salvi.

  2. vetusta ecclesia says:

    I struggled with that Collect today so am somewhat comforted , as well as vindicated, by your post. The last part of an otherwise rather good Collect does seem rather torturous, though.

  3. Tominellay says:

    Thanks for this post! St. Bakhita is one of our favorites; her story is remarkable.

  4. Sid Cundiff in NC says:

    One of my favorites

  5. epr says:

    I love St Josephine. The first time that I saw this picture of her it felt like she was smiling at ME, like she knew something. A few years later I ended up naming my first child after her so maybe she did!

  6. Liz says:

    One of my daughters is named for this beloved, little saint, but I fell even more in love with her many years later. I was angry at particular bishop (not mine! In our diocese we have been very blessed) for what appeared to be bad treatment of a holy priest friend, and I was going to go a mass that this bishop was saying! I was really struggling with my anger towards him but right before mass I read what you posted above: 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…” I was blown away by that and had to alter my view of the bishop and say prayers for him instead. I still struggled but with prayers to St. Bakhita as I did. What a wonderful example she is for us!

Comments are closed.