Litany of St. Josephine Bakhita

(Feast Day - February 8)
To honor the 60th anniversary of her death.

Biography as the Call to Holiness (Lumen Gentium p. 39)

It is assumed that she was born in the small Darfur village of Olgossa in today's Southern Sudan in 1869. There, she grew up with her parents, her three brothers and two sisters. As a little girl she witnessed the abduction of her sister by slave raiders. At this time Darfur nominally belonged to the British-Egyptian Dominion of Sudan, where the slave trade had been forbidden since 1856.

At age nine she was abducted and given the name "Bakhita" which means "fortunate one." She was taken to the Kordofan town of El Obeid and held as a slave for a few years. She was traded on the slave markets five times. A total of 114 marks were cut into her body and treated for one month pouring salt into the wounds. Her fifth and final buyer was an Italian Consul who treated her well. She fled Khartoum in 1884 and found protection with her patrons. Their journey brought them to Venice where she served as the nanny for the daughter (Minnina) of her new patron, Augusto Michieli.

When Mr. & Mrs. Michieli returned to Sudan, Bakhita and Mimmina were sent to the Institute for Catechumens in Venice. It was then run by the Canossian Sisters. Here Bakhita learned to know and embrace the Christian God. She was baptized on January 9, 1890 and made her first communion and confirmation by the Cardinal Patriarch of Venice. On this occasion she is known to have kissed the baptismal font while saying, "Here I became one of the daughters of God!"

When Mrs. Michieli returned from Sudan, she came to claim her daughter and Bakhita and take them to Africa. With unrelenting courage, Bakhita refused. Following an appeal to the Cardinal and the Royal Governor, since slavery was illegal in Italy, she was free to make her own choice. She remained in the Institute where her vocation to become a religious was realized on December 8, 1896.

She served as a Canossian Sister for 40 years working as a cook, sacristan and taking care of the poor. After her biography was released in 1930 Bakhita became famous all over Italy and began traveling, sharing the wonders God had worked in her life and collecting donations for the missions of her order. In her final years she was forced to use a wheelchair. When she died on February 8, 1947 her last words were, "Madonna! Madonna!" Thousands paid their respects during three days of mourning.

She was once asked what she would do if she met the slave traffickers who abducted her? She replied, "I'd kneel down and kiss their hands because if it wasn't for them, I wouldn't be a Christian now or a religious." Pope John Paul II canonized her a saint on October 1, 2000. Her path of liberation, her spirituality and endurance makes her "Our Universal Sister," as the Pope called her.


God the creator, source of all life..................................Have mercy on us
Son of God, freedom from our slavery to sin.................Have mercy on us
Spirit of God, healer of our enslaved hearts..................Have mercy on us

Bakhita, born into a loving family in Sudan---------------nurture love in us.
Bakhita, abducted into slavery------------------help us with our slavery to sin.
Bakhita, traumatized by her abduction-----------------heal us of our traumas.
Bakhita, sold on the slave market----inspire us how to stop enslaving others.
Bakhita, subjected to humiliations------show us how to accept humiliations.

Bakhita, fled Khartoum for Italy ---------------------------------- companion us.
Bakhita, a nanny to Minnina Michieli ------------------------------- befriend us.
Bakhita, educated by the Canossian Sisters --------------------------- mentor us.
Bakhita, baptized a daughter of God -------------------------------------affirm us.
Josefina, your new Christian name ------------------------------------- center us.

St. Josephine, called to a religious vocation ------------ We magnify the Lord.
St. Josephine, care giver of the poor --------------------- We magnify the Lord.
St. Josephine, modest in practicing your faith---------- We magnify the Lord.
St. Josephine, haunted by memories of slavery--------- We magnify the Lord.
St. Josephine, intercessor for the victims of Darfur---- We magnify the Lord.

Let us pray,
Compassionate God, you gave Josephine Bakhita a new destiny beyond the life of slavery in Sudan. As she embraced it, her humble faith and holiness of life was a powerful witness to her service of the poor. Her call to sainthood releases rays of light and hope to all who seek a path of liberation from many kinds of slavery. Her spirituality and endurance makes her the model of "Our Universal Sister." We beseech her to intercede for the victims of Darfur and all who hunger for inner freedom. We ask this prayer in the name of your son, Jesus Christ, the only true liberator of enslaved hearts. He lives and reigns as the divine lover of this holy woman and a symbol of honor of African Christianity. Amen.

Composed by: Rev. Paul G. Mast
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