THE FEAST OF ST BAKHITA, FEBRUARY 8
We cannot become distracted: we are all called to leave behind any form of hypocrisy, facing the reality that we are part of the problem. The problem is not in the opposite lane: it involves us. We are not permitted to look elsewhere and declare our ignorance or our innocence. Pope Francis to the participants in the International Forum on Modern Slavery, 7 May 2018.
A common theme runs through everything Pope Francis writes and says. It is the interconnectedness of everything A mystical sensibility that sees God in every grain of dust (Laudato Si’) It is that interconnectedness that compels us to see others as ourselves and to hurt for the poor, the marginalized and the exploited, just as we sometimes hurt for our families and those closest to us.
On the feast of St Bahkita which is celebrated this Friday, let us pray to her for the strength to recognise our complicity, in being part of an economy that perpetuates exploitation and modern day slavery.
St Josephine Bakhita bore 144 scars throughout her life which were received after she was kidnapped at the age of nine and sold into slavery. Such was the trauma experienced that she forgot her birth name and her kidnappers gave her the name Bakhita meaning ‘fortunate’. She experienced the moral and physical humiliations associated with slavery. In 1882 she was bought for the Italian Consul and in this family and subsequently in a second Italian home, she received kindness, respect, peace and joy. A change in her owner’s circumstances meant that she was entrusted to the Canossian Sisters of the Institute of the Catechumens in Venice. There, Bakhita came to know about God whom, ‘she had experienced in her heart without knowing who He was’ since she was a child. She was received into the Catholic Church in 1890, joining the sisters and making final profession in 1896. The next fifty years of her life were spent witnessing to God’s love through cooking, sewing, embroidery and attending to the door. When she was on door duty, she would gently lay her hands on the heads of the children who attended the nearby school and caress them. Her voice was pleasing to the little ones, comforting to the poor and suffering. She was a source of encouragement to many and her constant smile won people’s hearts. She died on 8 February 1947.