Saturday, February 08, 2020
A Saint Called 'Fortunate'
Today is the memorial of St. Josephine Bakhita. She was born in the Sudan in the late nineteenth century, but around the age of seven or so was kidnapped by slave traders. We do not know her name before that time because after several years of hard slavery, she herself could not remember it. The slave traders had given her the nickname, Bakhita, which means something like 'Lucky' or 'Fortunate'. She was bought by the Italian Vice Consul, who eventually had to flee the country due to a revolution, which brought her to Italy. They had Bakhita stay at the convent of the Canossian Sisters until they could make some arrangements, but when they tried to reclaim her, she refused to leave. The case went to court, but the court ruled for her: slavery was illegal in Italy, and although it had been common in the Sudan, strictly speaking it had been illegal there, too, so she was free. Bakhita chose to stay with the Canossians; she was baptized and took the name Josephine Margaret Fortunata, and was eventually assigned to the convent at Schio, just north of Vicenza. She was their cook and porter for several decades, where the convent was located. She died on February 8, 1947. The Italian locals took up her canonization cause almost immediately, and she was eventually canonized in 2000.