Her name, Bakhita, means “fortunate one.”
She is a woman who suffered extreme abuse, and continual torture. She was was kidnapped at age 7, shackled and enslaved, bought and sold at least five times, and yet, she carried with her a name that implied optimism and good luck.
Born in southern Sudan to a noble family, Josephine knew what it was to be free. But, in the peak of her childhood, she was kidnapped and enslaved. Yet, instead of recoiling towards despair she still found beauty. “Upon seeing the sun, the moon and the stars,” she asked herself, “who could be the Master of these beautiful things? I felt a great desire to see him, to know him, and to pay him homage.”
By age 19, Josephine Bakhita, was given to a kind Italian family, where she first saw and fell in love with the crucifix.
With the help of the Italian courts, she became fully emancipated. Legally free for the first time since her capture, she gave herself entirely to Christ, in service of others. Upon her death in 1947 she became a saint, and upon her canonization in 2000 she became the Patron to end human trafficking.
Each time I contemplate Josephine Bakhita I cannot help but marvel at the “how.” How does a person suffer so much and still remain hopeful, resilient, or kind? With so many reasons to be angry, and within the most unlikely circumstances, she somehow found the true meaning of freedom, and the tenderness of God.
Perhaps Josephine knew, even when faced with the most severe forms of physical and psychological abuse, that the only true power that reigned over her came from within her union with God. Long before she ever saw an image of Jesus, Bakhita learned who He is by refusing to yield over to her owners the most precious part about her: her interior freedom.
In a world and in a Church rampant with abuse, especially towards children, Josephine Bakhita is a saint of the times.
She reminds us, that even in the pitch of dark days and horrible deeds, goodness can prevail, and gratitude be made possible. Pray for us, Josephine Bakhita, that we may know the goodness of God!
“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… The Lord has loved me so much: we must love everyone… we must be compassionate!”