St. Josephine Bakhita

So first of all, I need to say that our favorite Danish brick toy company has a severe shortage of women of color, especially those without glowing eyes or alien face paint.

St. Bakhita's later forgiveness for -- nay, appreciation of -- her captors truly demonstrates the power of God to forgive all things.

Lifetime: 1868 to 1947
Region: Sudan; Italy
Patronages: Sudan; Victims of human trafficking
Iconograpy: Simple habit and head wrap; Broken chain
Feast Day: February 8

Bakhita forgot the name she was born with. That's because, when she was 7 or 8, she was enslaved by slavers and the trauma of her capture caused her to lose that memory. Her captors are the ones who gave her the name Bahkita, which means "lucky". They also made her convert to their religion.

Before she was taken, Bakhita was part of a loving family, with three brothers and three sisters. Her uncle was the chief of her village. A year before Bakhita's enslavement, one of her older sisters was taken by the same group that kidnapped young Bakhita.

As a slave, Bakhita was forced to walk barefoot the six hundred miles to a larger city to be sold, though she was also sold several times on the way there. Once in the city, she was sold again and again over twelve years before finally being allowed to settle for a time in a rich man's house. However, even that relative respite was short-lived, as Bakhita eventually received the enmity of the man's son, who beat her so badly she was in bed for a month recovering. Even after she was mobile again, he took to whipping her regularly, so that she couldn't recall a single day where she wasn't abused.

Some of the abuses Bakhita endured here were also more lasting: she was forcibly marked by ritual scarification using a razor and salting the wounds to create permanent designs on parts of her body.
"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."

St. Josephine Bakhita

Fortunately, Bakhita was eventually sold again, this time to an Italian consul, who treated her much better than her previous masters, though he still made her work for him. Eventually, he returned to his homeland, bringing Bakhita with him. The journey to Italy was long and dangerous, but they eventually arrived. The consul gifted her to a friend of his, where she had to work as a nanny to the family's young daughter.

Eventually this new family needed to travel, so during their trip they placed Bakhita in the care of a local monastery, the Canossian Sisters. Living with the Sisters, Bakhita learned about the Christian God for the first time, though as she learned more about him she became sure that she had always known Him in her heart, even without knowing who He was.

When her masters returned and attempted to collect Bakhita, she refused to join them. She had discerned a call to join the Sisters and dedicate her life to God. Her masters tried to lean on the law to force her to return to them, but the court ruled that because slavery was not legally recognized in Italy, she could not be forced to return.

For the first time since she was a young child, Bakhita was free. 

She chose to join the monastery that had cared for her, and was soon baptized, confirmed, and received her first Communion. (Interestingly, the bishop who received her would later go on to become Pope Pius X.)

Bakhita took the confirmation names Josephina Margaret, and Fortunata (the Latin version of Bakhita).


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