Today the Church honors St. Josephine Bakhita (1869-1947), a Sudanese woman who was sold into brutal and abusive slavery as a young girl in the Darfur region of Africa, eventually transported to Italy to work for a friend of her owner’s family, and, when she resisted returning to Africa in favor of joining the religious order who taught the young daughter of the family for whom she worked, was set free because of the dictates of Italian law. After professing eternal vows, she lived out the remainder of her life as a Canossian Sister of the Institute of Catechumens in Venice, Italy. St. Josephine was canonized by Pope John Paul II in 2000 and is recognized as the patron saint of Sudan. According to the existing accounts of her life, there are two prominent bits of biographical history that are attributed to St. Josephine. One is this beautiful quotation: “Be good, love the Lord, pray for those who do not know him. What a great grace it is to know God!” The other is that, amongst the Canossian Sisters in Venice, St. Josephine’s mission was carried out in the services of “cooking, sewing, embroidery and attending the door.”
That is all.
No literary works are attributed to Josephine Bakhita, few quips of theological genius carry her citation, no major religious orders or movements memorialize her earthly existence. In the same vein as the beloved St. Thérèse of Lisieux, Josephine was a saint of the “little way,” even littler still. She is a saint of almost-unnoticed holiness. Almost. Cooking, sewing, embroidering, and attending the door, she carried out joyfully the call of Christ in the small tasks of a menial, yet eternally important life: every child who entered in through that door to be educated by the Canossian Sisters received the warm welcome of St. Josephine, a hearty hug and a kiss on the top of the head, her love overflowing and her spirit carrying Christ to all who crossed that threshold.
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