Happy Solemnity of St George

Today is the Solemnity of St George, patron of England, here is an icon I have of this great martyr Saint.

The Great and Holy Martyr St George, Conqueror of Sin and Death, Defender of the Pure, Victor over Heresy and Slayer of Disease and Suffering, pray for us!

God bless you on this Feast of great Saint George.

Low Sunday

On Low Sunday, Quasi Modo Sunday, Divine Mercy Sunday, the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass was offered for the people of the parish.

As Catholicism.org says:

The Sunday that began this week is called Low Sunday. It is also called Quasi Modo Sunday, after the Latin words of the Introit, and yes, this is the same as the given name of the “Hunchback of Notre Dame,” who received it from the priest who adopted him, having found the deformed Gypsy baby on that particular Sunday.

On account of the newly-Baptized neophytes taking off their white garments on this Sunday, it is anciently called Dominica in albis depositis. Lastly, and more recently, it is named Divine Mercy Sunday.

These various names can be related to each other. The words of the Introit come from I Peter 2:2: Quasi modo géniti infántes, allelúja: rationabiles, sine dolo lac concupíscite, allelúja, allelúja allelúja. (As newborn babes, alleluia, long for pure spiritual milk, alleluia, alleluia, alleluia.) They refer to the newly baptized, who are just taking off their baptismal garments (which, anciently, they had worn all week) on this day, and are encouraged to desire the rational milk of grace without guile. In addition to Baptism of the neophytes, the “second plank” of Penance traditionally has a place in the Sunday’s Gospel, and is directly relevant to the Divine Mercy revelations and the promise for Mercy Sunday.

Why the Sunday is called “Low” has been only surmised, but it is probably in relation to the comparatively “High” Sunday, the week before, of Easter.

Mass was today offered for you all. Hope you are all safe and well, God bless and keep you.

O Truly Blessed Night!

A Happy, holy and blessed Easter to you all, the Holy Mass of the Vigil of Easter 
was offered for the people of this parish.

May God bless you all on this Easter Day!

The Lord's Descent into the Underworld

From an ancient homily for Holy Saturday

Something strange is happening – there is a great silence on earth today, a great silence and stillness. The whole earth keeps silence because the King is asleep. The earth trembled and is still because God has fallen asleep in the flesh and he has raised up all who have slept ever since the world began. God has died in the flesh and hell trembles with fear.

He has gone to search for our first parent, as for a lost sheep. Greatly desiring to visit those who live in darkness and in the shadow of death, he has gone to free from sorrow the captives Adam and Eve, he who is both God and the son of Eve. The Lord approached them bearing the cross, the weapon that had won him the victory. At the sight of him Adam, the first man he had created, struck his breast in terror and cried out to everyone: “My Lord be with you all.” Christ answered him: “And with your spirit.” He took him by the hand and raised him up, saying: “Awake, O sleeper, and rise from the dead, and Christ will give you light.”

I am your God, who for your sake have become your son. Out of love for you and for your descendants I now by my own authority command all who are held in bondage to come forth, all who are in darkness to be enlightened, all who are sleeping to arise. I order you, O sleeper, to awake. I did not create you to be held a prisoner in hell. Rise from the dead, for I am the life of the dead. Rise up, work of my hands, you who were created in my image. Rise, let us leave this place, for you are in me and I am in you; together we form only one person and we cannot be separated. For your sake I, your God, became your son; I, the Lord, took the form of a slave; I, whose home is above the heavens, descended to the earth and beneath the earth. For your sake, for the sake of man, I became like a man without help, free among the dead. For the sake of you, who left a garden, I was betrayed to the Jews in a garden, and I was crucified in a garden.

See on my face the spittle I received in order to restore to you the life I once breathed into you. See there the marks of the blows I received in order to refashion your warped nature in my image. On my back see the marks of the scourging I endured to remove the burden of sin that weighs upon your back. See my hands, nailed firmly to a tree, for you who once wickedly stretched out your hand to a tree.

I slept on the cross and a sword pierced my side for you who slept in paradise and brought forth Eve from your side. My side has healed the pain in yours. My sleep will rouse you from your sleep in hell. The sword that pierced me has sheathed the sword that was turned against you.

Rise, let us leave this place. The enemy led you out of the earthly paradise. I will not restore you to that paradise, but I will enthrone you in heaven. I forbade you the tree that was only a symbol of life, but see, I who am life itself am now one with you. I appointed cherubim to guard you as slaves are guarded, but now I make them worship you as God. The throne formed by cherubim awaits you, its bearers swift and eager. The bridal chamber is adorned, the banquet is ready, the eternal dwelling places are prepared, the treasure houses of all good things lie open. The kingdom of heaven has been prepared for you from all eternity.

Hail, Holy Cross, Our Strength!

I just finished the Sacred Liturgy, I followed the Old Rite, hence black vestments and I used our relic of the True Cross to be venerated, I left it on the altar between candles where it will stay during Matins and Lauds tomorrow.

"...and there they stripped him of his clothes"

At the Solemn Liturgy today, I was struck by your absence and yet of the mysterious presence of the whole Church.

Today. we who are not poor during this time of pandemic have suddenly discovered how poor we really are, and how fragile we and our world are.

We have been stripped of so much which a month ago we felt could never be taken away; liberty, friends, community, some of us live with death or sickness a little too close for comfort,
especially those in the healthcare services, but also others who have to work at this time so we can eat. and, if necessary, travel.

Still, we are in a far, far better place than many people; refugees and migrants are an obvious example.

But we have been stripped of something so very important to us, the sacraments and the Sacred Liturgy and the consolation of our brothers and sisters in the faith.

We are in similar position to those saints who left everything to become solitaries in the desert or the forests far from other human beings.

The word 'monachus' from which we get 'monk' means 'one alone'. For us Catholics the desert and the experience of the solitary hermit is important.

In the Eastern Rites, the newly baptized receive the monastic tonsure, a reminder that all the baptized share in the contemplative life.

Monastic life is important, the priest who is ordained to offer Mass alone everyday of his life and to pray alone, has always been regarded as the highest form of Christian living.

Now, for us, even the Sacraments are taken away. How blessed we priests are not only to offer them but to receive them not only for ourselves but on your behalf.

And yet for all Christians the only thing that matters, the most important thing in the Universe the very centre of all being is Cross of Jesus Christ Our Lord.

I pray that when we come out of this experience we will have learnt to be alone and naked before the Crucified who died alone and naked for us.


For by His Cross and by His Cross alone are we saved.

With every blessing,

Fr Ray


Many of you have a devotion to the Divine Mercy. 

The Divine Mercy Novena begins today, Good Friday, and the Novena 
can be prayed here at this website.


Holy Thursday

The Mass of the Lord's Supper was offered for the people of this parish

The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass was offered by Fr Ray for the people of the parish today on this sacred day, Holy Thursday, marking the first day of the Sacred Triduum. The Mass of the Lord's Supper commemorates that holy day when our Lord Jesus Christ instituted the Mass, the first Mass, in the presence of His Apostles.

Holy Thursday – Our music tonight – St Mary Magdalen Choir Brighton
The Altar of Repose
This day saw the institution of both the Sacred Priesthood and the Holy Eucharist, the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar. Traditionally, during the liturgy, men are taken from the congregation to have their feet washed by the priest in the manner in which Christ Himself washed the feet of His Apostles.

In a very real sense, the vivid recollection of Jesus's arrest and imprisonment is this year something that strikes us all as something altogether even more personal. The reaction to Covid-19 has led our government to place the most stringent safeguards upon Catholics and indeed the whole population of the United Kingdom. Most Catholics around the world are experiencing Christ's imprisonment in a personal way, they are for the most part, especially if vulnerable, shut in, enclosed, isolated, some alone.

The psychological burden of being in 'lockdown' leads us to being reclusive, often introspective, locked away, for most of us against our will, even if we understand that it is not for any real or perceived crime and that precautions for the sake of public health have been strongly advised.

While we may not experience the same harrowing cruelty that Christ experienced in His prison, since many of us still have access to certain comforts which we surround ourselves with, many Catholics will feel this evening a profound anguish and sense of disappointment that they are unable to be where they want to be this evening, at Mass, honouring the Lord's great gifts to His Church, remembering with faith and devotion the events leading up to His Passion and Death. The liturgy on this day in this Mass ends tradtionally with a Procession to the Altar of Repose.

There the Pange Lingua is intoned by the celebrant in darkness as lighted candles are placed before the Altar of Repose created for the Lord and many faithful stay for a long time to make a vigil with Christ, our Eucharistic Lord, the Prisoner of the Tabernacle, bringing their own burdens to Him, offering prayer for themselves and loved ones, in penitence and in atonement for sin, keeping the Lord company and finding consolation in His Eucharistic Presence.

That the Faithful are unable to attend this liturgy this year, nor make these consoling devotions is a cause of grief, anxiety and pain to so many. To the priest, who, like Christ made present on the Altar, is both priest and victim in the Mass, the loss of the presence of the Flock on this sacred day in the Church's year, is a great sadness and every parishioner is in his continued prayers.

The priesthood of the Faithful baptised is important in the Church today, for as ever the lay faithful are called to pray, to offer sacrifice in their lives, to offer themselves to God, to intercede for the Church and the World, to pray for the Salvation of the World. The present emergency situation calls us all to cling more tightly than ever to the Lord Jesus and His Cross, many are struggling with the psychological and spiritual pain that this unexpected season of separation from the liturgical life of the Church has brought upon us as well as the sense that the world is closing in on them more generally. Let us plead with the Lord our God that He will bring to an end this separation and impediment, free captives, end pestilence, grant wisdom to our leaders and bring us all together in worship of God soon.

To learn more about Holy Thursday, a good link can be found here.

All Glory, Laud and Honur, to Thee Redeemer King!

Today, Palm Sunday, marks the beginning of Holy Week, the holiest week in the Church's liturgical calendar. Mass was offered by Fr Ray, as on every Sunday, for the people of the parish. 

Palm Sunday is the final Sunday of Lent, the beginning of Holy Week, and commemorates the triumphant arrival of Christ in Jerusalem, days before he was crucified.

Palm Sunday is known as such because the faithful will often receive palm fronds which they use to participate in the reenactment of Christ's arrival in Jerusalem.

In the Gospels, Jesus entered Jerusalem riding a young donkey, and to the lavish praise of the townspeople who threw clothes, or possibly palms or small branches, in front of him as a sign of homage. This was a customary practice for people of great respect.

Palm branches are widely recognized symbol of peace and victory, hence their preferred use on Palm Sunday. The use of a donkey instead of a horse is highly symbolic, it represents the humble arrival of someone in peace, as opposed to arriving on a steed in war. A week later, Christ would rise from the dead on the first Easter.

During Palm Sunday Mass, palms are usually distributed to parishioners who carry them in a ritual procession into church. The palms are blessed and many people will fashion them into small crosses or other items of personal devotion. These may be returned to the church, or kept for the year. This year, it has sorrowfully come to pass that parishioners were absent from the liturgical celebration of Palm Sunday.

Because the palms are blessed, they may not be discarded. Instead, they are appropriately gathered at the church and incinerated to create the ashes that will be used in the follow year's Ash Wednesday observance.

The colors of the Mass on Palm Sunday are red and white, symbolizing the redemption in blood that Christ paid for the world.

Pray for the restoration of our liturgical life and the return of public Mass, may this be for you a fruitful and blessed Holy Week.

With so many of us self-isolating or being withdrawn from the world, it is an opportunity for us to meditate on the Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ, to draw close to Him on His bitter road to Calvary, to find consolation in His merciful love.

May all of us honour the Passion and Death of the Lord our Saviour so that we may celebrate His rising from the tomb and victory over Satan, death and sin.
This seems very much to be the hour of the Church's Passion and tribulation in darkness. Darkness and gloom pervade our thoughts, but Our Lord Jesus Christ is the light which banishes darkness, fear and sorrow. He is with us until the end of time.

May His triumph over darkness and evil give us all hope and confidence that we may obtain eternal life and liberty to worship God once more in the Eternal Sacrifice of the glorious Son of God to the Eternal Father.

May we overcome our sinfulness and our pride this Holy Week, to rise with Him as we commemorate His Resurrection on Easter Day. The tomb could not hold back the Bridegroom of the Church, the Church also, the Lord's Bride will rise again!

(Some content courtesy of Catholic Online)

The Mass Continues at St Mary Magdalen's

On Sunday, the 5th Sunday of Lent, the Holy Mass was, as usual, offered by Fr Ray for the people of the parish. Despite the severe restrictions which have been placed on public worship in the light of the Covid-19 epidemic, daily Mass is offered at St Mary Magdalen's Church.

We must, all of us, unite ourselves to the Sacred Liturgy being offered in our land and throughout the whole world for the world's Salvation, for the good of the Church, for the Church's liberty and exaltation, for the Pope, the Cardinals, the Bishops, the clergy and the whole people of God.

As you can see from the image above, the Most Holy Sacrifice continues, even in the absence of dear parishioners and while St Mary Magdalen's Church does not yet offer livestreaming of Masses, there are many churches which are offering this service.

Locally, Fr Alexander Lucie-Smith livestreams Mass and Adoration of the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar on St Peter's Hove's Facebook page which you can join here.

The Diocese of Arundel and Brighton also has a list of Masses which are being livestreamed and details of these can be found here.

Fr Ray prayed the Act of Entrustment of our land to Our Lady of Walsingham on Sunday.
The Catholic National Shrine of Walsingham offers a livestream Mass for those who have internet and are able to join their prayer to the prayer of the Sacred Liturgy. On Sunday, this nation was re-dedicated to Our Lady of Walsingham, do continue to plead with Our Lady of Walsingham that the Church may enjoy liberty in Her worship and that public Masses and other essential freedoms may once more flourish in our country, and that the scourge of illness and death brought by the Coronavirus may be cast out from our land.

For those who have a devotion to the Traditional Latin Mass, the Priestly Fraternity of Saint Peter (FSSP) in Warrington are offering a livestream schedule of the Extraordinary Form of the Mass and you can click the link here for these Masses when they take place. General times of the livestreamed Mass from Warrington can be found here.

In this time of sorrow, when the Faithful are separated from being physically present from the Sacrifice of Calvary offered by the spotless Lamb to the Eternal Father for our Salvation, it is important that we as faithful Catholics unite our sufferings and sorrows to the Cross of Our Lord Jesus. None of us could have predicted that a time such as this would come upon us, the shock of the cessation of public worship and the fear generated by the presence of pestilence has greatly shaken all of us.

The Lord Jesus tells us not to allow fear to dominate our lives, to place all our hope and all our trust in Him in every circumstance of our lives. It is important to remember that, even when Confession is not readily available to us, that the Lord is close to all who sincerely repent. While nobody has yet died of the illness in Brighton and Hove, we should, as we always should, do our best to be prepared for that day, that moment when the Lord calls us from this life into eternity. Mindful of our sins and our mortality and of the account that we shall have to render to the Lord, let us each evening, before we go to bed, make, as well as we can, an Act of Perfect Contrition, so that whether we live or whether we die, we live in the Lord and we die in the Lord.

Living and Dying in Christ

If you have fallen into a particular sin, especially if it is mortal, first, before a Crucifix, spend some time contemplating the sacrificial death Our Lord underwent in order to gain us Heaven which we have lost by our sin. Consider the punishment that we should receive for our offense and the infinite goodness of God who desires to take away our sin as the innocent Lamb slain for us sinners. Then recite the Act of Contrition as follows:

Reflection 165: The Perfect Contrition - Daily Reflections on ...
Oh, my God,
I am heartily sorry for
having offended Thee,
and I detest all my sins,
because I dread the loss of heaven,
and the pains of hell;
but most of all because
they offend Thee, my God,
Who are all good and
deserving of all my love.
I firmly resolve,
with the help of Thy grace,
to confess my sins,
to do penance,
and to amend my life.
Jesus loves us and has promised to forgive our sins, pardon us, take our faults away and heal us. It is for this that He came to rescue us as our Saviour. Resolve not to sin again and make time for prayer where we can receive grace to overcome sinful habits and tendencies. When there is an opportunity to confess your sins to a priest, do so at the earliest opportunity. Take up a devotion like the Holy Rosary and the Chaplet of the Divine Mercy. Spend time in personal prayer. Call upon the Saints of God to help you. Use this time of isolation from the world to increase your prayer life and grow closer to Jesus and Mary whose love for us knows no limits. Such a time as this should not be wasted: let us use this time, given by the Providence of God, to become Saints.

Whether we live alone or with family, this Passiontide remains a sacred time to draw closer to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, the Heart of Jesus pierced with a lance out of His love for us and all mankind. We, like the Blessed Virgin Mary, place ourselves beneath the Cross of Jesus and plead with Him for the healing and salvation of the whole world, deliverance from every evil, including plague and sorrow.

Fr Ray Blake remains available for spiritual and pastoral advice in this time of great difficulty, is available on the phone on 01273 326793 and can be contacted by email at frrayblake@googlemail.com or stmarymagoffice@googlemail.com.

It is a time of confusion and distress for the Catholics of this parish and every Catholic in the land. Fr Ray keeps all parishioners in his prayers continually and reminds his people to keep hope in the Lord, always trusting in His goodness and mercy. The painful separation that we all are experiencing and the sense of isolation we are feeling can be brought to the Lord who is our healer and our Saviour. Reach out to family, friends and loved ones, to those more isolated than you, by phone and do what you can to bring peace and consolation to the afflicted. Be generous to the poor, pray for those you are seprated from and for all who need our prayers.

The Lord our God is with us in this time of trial, He will not abandon us, He loves us and has redeemed us. We may not be able to attend Mass, but He is attentive to us and is close to us. Let us strive to live always for Him and to pray for the deliverance of the People of God and all people in our land and the world, from sickness and self-isolation.

St Mary Magdalen, pray for us.
Our Lady of Walsingham, pray for us.

Covid-19 Annoncement Concerning Public Worship

The unprecedented global situation concerning COVID-19 has led to an unprecedented new set of restrictions concerning public worship in the United Kingdom. During the cessation of public Masses, the Bishops of England and Wales have asked that churches will be open for private prayer.

St Mary Magdalen's Catholic Church will therefore be open for private prayer on Sundays from 8am until midday.

During the week the church will be open for private prayer from Tuesday to Saturday from 9.30am until 11am.

Confessions will be heard and the Sacrament of the sick given by prior arrangement in the Sacristy.

Anyone using the Church must follow Government hygiene recommendations.

We ask parishioners and all Catholics, and all of goodwill, to pray for the full restoration of public worship to the Catholic Churches in this land, so that all the baptised may be present at the public offering of the perfect Sacrifice of the Son to the Eternal Father, for the Salvation of the world.

Image result for crucifixion of jesus

Come and pray in our church, pray for the sick, the dying, the poor, friends, families, relatives, all at risk, our political leaders, for the Pope, for our bishops, our priests, our health workers and all those who attend to the health of the public both in body in hospitals and in soul in the church.

Unite the sufferings you experience in this time of crisis to the Cross of Our Lord Jesus Christ and find consolation in His Passion, Death and Resurrection. Pray the Rosary and stay close to the Blessed Mother of God.

Ways to Donate

Many have asked how they can donate to our church at a time when offertories will be down and less income will be found for the day to day maintenance of our church.

  • Cheques can be made out to 'St Mary Magdalen Church' and sent to St Mary Magdalen Church, 55 Upper North Street, Brighton BN1 3FH.
  • If you wish to set up a Standing Order, email us at the office at stmarymagoffice@googlemail.com and make a request to do so.
  • Weekly envelopes for donations and offertories, including gift aid envelopes, can be put through the front door of the Presbytery.
  • Inside the Church we have a machine for donating to the Church contactlessly between different amounts up to £30.
  •  If you wish to make a BACS donation online from your account, please contact us by email at stmarymagoffice@googlemail.com
  •  We will try to set up a Dona webpage for our website so that electronic payments can be made.
  • Many will be also very concerned about ways in which to support our church's mission to feed the poor and homeless of the city, should you wish to donate to our poor fund, contact us at stmarymagoffice@googlemail.com

Pastoral Advice and Support

For those parishioners troubled by the distress caused by our country's situation and the impact it is having on our daily life and ability to worship God in liberty, Fr Ray Blake is available on the telephone or alternatively email the office at stmarymagoffice@googlemail.com, this will be forwarded to Fr Ray's email.

Lourdes: Healing and the Renewal of Baptismal Vows

Today’s Second Collection is for the Diocesan Lourdes Fund. Lourdes remains one of the most popular sites of Pilgrimage in all of Europe. Despite the reputation of Lourdes as a place of miracles, there have only been 70 healings verified by Rome in the entire history of the site, so few if any pilgrims could go to Lourdes in the expectation of a dramatic physical healing.

And yet, Lourdes’s popularity with pilgrims does not depend on the site’s miraculous effects on the body. The central appeal of Lourdes is the invisible but no less tangible manifestations of healing which are more often than not spiritual in nature. Catholic pilgrims rediscover their Faith in Lourdes and grow in their devotion to the Blessed Mother of God. Pilgrims in despair are given fresh hope and pilgrims carrying a heavy Cross more often than not are given strength to bear their infirmities. Those saddened by bereavement, grief and loss, separation from loved ones are given consolation. All the heavenly blessings that the Blessed Virgin wants to bestow on her children are bestowed to those who seek them in Lourdes.

For those struggling with sins that afflict them, Lourdes is a destination of water made holy by the Blessed Trinity which offers to pilgrims the opportunity of repentance. The deeply symbolic nature of water reminds us of our Baptism and of our baptismal vows. In our Baptism, we were cleansed from the stain of Original Sin. At Lourdes, pilgrims discover cleansing of their personal sin, something which happens in the Sacrament of Confession, but something that pilgrims experience on perhaps a deeper level, by physical immersion in the holy waters of Our Lady’s grotto. Lourdes is traditionally a place of purity and holiness.

The Diocesan pilgrimage to Lourdes has always been a feature of this Diocese and it is obviously an annual event that Bishop Richard holds dear to his heart. The Diocesan Lourdes Fund enables many who cannot afford to make such a pilgrimage to go and renew their faith. The Diocese enlists the help of many volunteers who care for sick and infirm pilgrims during the pilgrimage. Give generously to the Lourdes fund today, your financial help could change the lives of people in our Diocese and even our parish.

St Josephine Bakhita: 8th February

Courtesy of  Catholic Online

Saint Josephine Margaret Bakhita was born around 1869 in the village of Olgossa in the Darfur region of Sudan. She was a member of the Daju people and her uncle was a tribal chief. Due to her family lineage, she grew up happy and relatively prosperous, saying that as a child, she did not know suffering.

Historians believe that sometime in February 1877, Josephine was kidnapped by Arab slave traders. Although she was just a child, she was forced to walk barefoot over 600 miles to a slave market in El Obeid. She was bought and sold at least twice during the grueling journey.

For the next 12 years she would be bought, sold and given away over a dozen times. She spent so much time in captivity that she forgot her original name.

As a slave, her experiences varied from fair treatment to cruel. Her first owner, a wealthy Arab, gave her to his daughters as a maid. The assignment was easy until she offended her owner's son, possibly for the crime of breaking a vase. As punishment, she was beaten so severely she was incapacitated for a month. After that, she was sold.

One of her owners was a Turkish general who gave her to his wife and mother-in-law who both beat her daily. Josephine wrote that as soon as one wound would heal, they would inflict another.

She told about how the general's wife ordered her to be scarred. As her mistress watched, ready with a whip, another woman drew patterns on her skin with flour, then cut into her flesh with a blade. She rubbed the wounds with salt to make the scars permanent. She would suffer a total of 114 scars from this abuse.

In 1883, the Turkish general sold her to the Italian Vice Consul, Callisto Legani. He was a much kinder master and he did not beat her. When it was time for him to return to Italy, she begged to be taken with him, and he agreed.

After a long and dangerous journey across Sudan, the Red Sea, and the Mediterranean, they arrived in Italy. She was given away to another family as a gift and she served them as a nanny.

Her new family also had dealings in Sudan had when her mistress decided to travel to Sudan without Josephine, she placed her in the custody of the Canossian Sisters in Venice.

While she was in the custody of the sisters, she came to learn about God. According to Josephine, she had always known about God, who created all things, but she did not know who He was. The sisters answered her questions. She was deeply moved by her time with the sisters and discerned a call to follow Christ.

Bakhita: From Slave to Saint
When her mistress returned from Sudan, Josephine refused to leave. Her mistress spent three days trying to persuade her to leave the sisters, but Josephine remained steadfast. This caused the superior of the institute for baptismal candidates among the sisters to complain to Italian authorities on Josephine's behalf.

The case went to court, and the court found that slavery had been outlawed in Sudan before Josephine was born, so she could not be lawfully made slave. She was declared free.

For the first time in her life, Josephine was free and could choose what to do with her life. She chose to remain with the Canossian Sisters.

She was baptized on January 9, 1890 and took the name Josephine Margaret and Fortunata. (Fortunata is the Latin translation for her Arabic name, Bakhita). She also received the sacraments of her first holy communion and confirmation on the same day. These three sacraments are the sacraments of initiation into the Church and were always given together in the early Church. The Archbishop who gave her the sacraments was none other than Giusseppe Sarto, the Cardinal Patriarch of Venice, who would later become Pope Pius X.

Josephine became a novice with the CanossianDaughters of Charity religious order on December 7, 1893, and took her final vows on December 8, 1896. She was eventually assigned to a convent in Schio, Vicenza.

For the next 42 years of her life, she worked as a cook and a doorkeeper at the convent. She also traveled and visited other convents telling her story to other sisters and preparing them for work in Africa.

She was known for her gentle voice and smile. She was gentle and charismatic, and was often referred to lovingly as the "little brown sister" or honorably as the "black mother."

When speaking of her enslavement, she often professed she would thank her kidnappers. For had she not been kidnapped, she might never have come to know Jesus Christ and entered His Church.

During World War II, the people of the village of Schio regarded her as their protector. And although bombs fell on their village, not one citizen died.

In her later years, she began to suffer physical pain and was forced to use a wheelchair. But she always remained cheerful. If anyone asked her how she was, she would reply, "As the master desires."

On the evening of February 8, 1947, Josephine spoke her last words, "Our Lady, Our Lady!" She then died. Her body lay on display for three days afterwards.

In 1958, the process of canonization began for Josephine under Pope John XXIII. On December 1st, 1978, Pope John Paul II declared her venerable. Sadly, the news of her beatification in 1992 was censored in Sudan. But just nine months later, Pope John Paul II visited Sudan and honored her publicly. He canonized her on October 1, 2000.

Saint Josephine Bakhita is the patron saint of Sudan and her feast day is celebrated on February 8.

The amazing story of St Josephine's life and progress in sanctity and heroism was documented in a book called Bakhita: From Slave to Saint and even made into a DVD movie available for £13.99 from Pauline Books and Media.

The trailer for this movie can be viewed below. St Josephine Bakhita, pray for us.

St Paul Miki and Companions, 6th February

From an account of the martyrdom of Saint Paul Miki and his companions, by a contemporary. (From the Office of Readings at http://www.universalis.com)

The crosses were set in place. Father Pasio and Father Rodriguez took turns encouraging the victims. Their steadfast behaviour was wonderful to see.

The Father Bursar stood motionless, his eyes turned heavenward. Brother Martin gave thanks to God’s goodness by singing psalms. Again and again he repeated: “Into your hands, Lord, I entrust my life.”

Brother Francis Branco also thanked God in a loud voice. Brother Gonsalvo in a very loud voice kept saying the Our Father and Hail Mary.

Our brother, Paul Miki, saw himself standing now in the noblest pulpit he had ever filled. To his “congregation” he began by proclaiming himself a Japanese and a Jesuit. He was dying for the Gospel he preached. He gave thanks to God for this wonderful blessing and he ended his “sermon” with these words:

"As I come to this supreme moment of my life, I am sure none of you would suppose I want to deceive you. And so I tell you plainly: there is no way to be saved except the Christian way. My religion teaches me to pardon my enemies and all who have offended me. I do gladly pardon the Emperor and all who have sought my death. I beg them to seek baptism and be Christians themselves.”

Then he looked at his comrades and began to encourage them in their final struggle. Joy glowed in all their faces, and in Louis’ most of all. When a Christian in the crowd cried out to him that he would soon be in heaven, his hands, his whole body strained upward with such joy that every eye was fixed on him.

Anthony, hanging at Louis’ side, looked towards heaven and called upon the holy names – “Jesus, Mary!” He began to sing a psalm: “Praise the Lord, you children!” (He learned it in catechism class in Nagasaki. They take care there to teach the children some psalms to help them learn their catechism).

Others kept repeating “Jesus, Mary!” Their faces were serene. Some of them even took to urging the people standing by to live worthy Christian lives. In these and other ways they showed their readiness to die.
Then, according to Japanese custom, the four executioners began to unsheathe their spears.

At this dreadful sight, all the Christians cried out, “Jesus, Mary!” And the storm of anguished weeping then rose to batter the very skies. The executioners killed them one by one. One thrust of the spear, then a second blow. It was over in a very short time.