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St Josephine Bakhita
(entered heaven on this day, 1947)
I had a feeling it would come to this. This gives new meaning to the old term “sophomore slump”. Do you realize your last note was the first one you wrote to me THE ENTIRE ACADEMIC YEAR! Here’s your poor lonely uncle chomping his nails and barely keeping his sanity as he dodges ravenous ideological wolves during interrogation after interrogation, and you just keep staying aloof, refusing even to communicate. No wonder your faith has taken a nosedive and you feel lost and confused. Well, nothing doing. We’ll just have to rebuild, that’s all. Back to basics. You can do it, my dear and intelligent niece, and you’ll be even stronger after getting back to where you should be – storms make the strong stronger, you know. So back to basics. And today’s saint can help.
She is thought to be the only native Sudanese saint. That’s right, she was born to a wealthy Sudanese family but was kidnapped and sold into slavery as a young girl. She was bought and sold multiple times, and she doesn’t even remember what her real name was (the slavers called her “Bakhita” or “fortunate one”). Then an Italian businessman took her in, intending to free her eventually. He was a good man, and she began to experience a peaceful life working for the family. When they returned to Italy, she asked to come along, and they took her. Soon she became the babysitter and fast friend of her masters’ daughter, and when the parents had to go to Suez for an extended business trip, Bakhita and the little girl went together to the Canossian Sister’s Institute in Venice.
As boarders there, they were taught the Catechism, and Bakhita learned it well. She was amazed to have finally met the God she had long believed in, the one she “had experienced in my heart without knowing who He was” ever since she was a child. “Seeing the sun, the moon and the stars, I said to myself: Who could be the Master of these beautiful things? And I felt a great desire to see Him, to know Him and to pay Him homage…”
She was received for baptism, the happiest day of her life. Afterward, she could often be seen kissing the baptismal font and saying, “Here I became a daughter of God.” Her love grew so much that when her masters returned, she firmly and courageous asserted her desire to stay with the Canossian Sisters and dedicate her life to serving the God whom she had come to love. Since she had come of age, Italian law granted her freedom, and so she stayed at the convent and spent the remaining fifty years of her life as a religious sister. There she edified and encouraged everyone by her inextinguishable joy, her sweetness and humility of manner, and her eagerness to serve always and everywhere.
Sometimes we forget the basics, my dear niece, like what a gift it really is to have faith in the one true God, to have been adopted by him in baptism, to have received the Sacraments and be able to receive them whenever we wish… The list goes on. Only by turning to Christ can you turn around your sophomore slump, and I hope you do, because one year out of four is a lot to lose. Count on my prayers.
Your devoted uncle,