Blessed Isidore Bakanja

Date: 
August 12, 2015
August 12, 2016
August 12, 2017
August 12, 2018
August 12, 2019
OCD commemoration: 
Optional Memorial
Classification: 
Martyr

Bl. Isidore Bakanja, a member of the Boangi tribe, was born in Bokendela (Congo) between 1880 and 1890.  He was converted to Christianity in 1906 and took every opportunity to spread his faith amongst his fellow workers.  He prayed the Rosary daily and was devoted to Our Lady of Mount Carmel whose scapular of protection he wore with pride.  He was working in a plantation run by a Belgian colonialist in Ikili and was forbidden by the owner to spread Christianity among his fellow workers. Most of the Colonists were atheists and despised Christianity because it promoted justice and fair treatment for the native workers.  On 22 April 1909, the superintendent tore off the Carmelite Scapular, which Isidore was wearing as an expression of his Christian faith, and had him severely beaten even to drawing blood and had him chained up. He then had Isidore hidden in the jungle so that he would not be spotted by the colony inspector.  However, Isidore crawled from his hiding place and was seen by the inspector who reprimanded the persecutor and personally treated Isidore's wounds.  However his wounds were far too serious and had become infected due to the lack of treatment and he suffered greatly in the remaining 4 months of his life.   He died on 15 August of the same year as a result of the wounds inflicted in "punishment" for his faith and which he bore patiently while forgiving his aggressor. He was beatified by Pope John Paul II on 24 April 1994.

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Homily for the Beatification of Isidore Bakanja, Elisabetta Canori Mora and Gianna Beretta Molla. 

By Pope John Paul II } Sunday, 24 April,1994

"Isidore was faithful to the gift of his Baptism.

You were a man of heroic faith, Isidore Bakanja, young layman of Zaire. As a baptized person, called to spread the Good News, you shared your faith and witness to Christ with such conviction that to your companions you seemed one of those valiant lay faithful, the catechists. Yes, Blessed Isidore, absolutely faithful to your baptismal promises, you were a true catechist, tolling generously for "the Church in Africa and for her evangelizing mission".

During the Special Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, on the day that we are proclaiming your merits, we would like to pay homage to all catechists, those in-dispensable coworkers in building up the Church on the African continent. Catechists precede, accompany and complete the work of priests among their people. In many periods of history, they have enabled the faith to survive persecution. They are able to be true shepherds, who know their sheep and are known by their sheep; and, if necessary, they defend the flock at the cost of their life. Catechists are well aware that a great number of their brothers and sisters are not yet among the flock, and expect from their fraternal care the proclamation of the Good News. In their every action catechists give true witness to Christ, the one Shepherd.

Isidore, your sharing in the paschal mystery of Christ, in the supreme work of his love, was total. Because you desired to be loyal to your baptismal faith whatever the cost, you suffered scourging like your Master. Like your Master on the Cross, you forgave your persecutors; and you showed yourself to be a builder of peace and reconciliation.

In an Africa that is sorely tried by ethnic strife, your shining example is an encouragement to harmony and reconciliation among the children of the same heavenly Father. You showed brotherly love to all, without distinction of race or social class; you earned the esteem and respect of your companions, many of whom were not Christians. Thus you us the necessary way of dialog among men." 

 

 

Carmelite Prayer: 
God of power and mercy, you gave Isidor Bakanja, your martyr, victory over pain and suffering. Strengthen us who celebrate this day of his triumph and help us to be victorious over the evils that threaten us. Through Christ our Lord.