Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Martyr of the Brown Scapular


Meet Blessed Isidore Bakanja, a convert to Catholicism, back when missionaries work to preach the Gospel and bring people to the One True Faith.

He was baptized at the age of 18.  He worked for the white colonizers as an assistant mason. He never forgot the lessons taught him by the Trappist missionaries;  a Christian must be recognized by the rosary and scapular (Mary's habit, as it was rendered in Isidore's native tongue).

And this he kept all his life.

He found employment in a Belgian company that controlled the rubber plantations in the region as a house boy. Many of the agents were Christian-hating atheists.  The missionaries' defense of the natives' rights and their denouncing of injustices perpetrated against them earned the ire of these atheists.

Isidore soon experienced this hatred. He was told to stop teaching his fellow workers how to pray: "You'll have the whole village praying and no one will want to work", one agent shouted at him.

Isidore was also ordered to take away his scapular. When he did not, he was twice flogged. The second time, the agent tore the scapular from around Isidore's neck and threw him to the ground. He had two servant boys hold Isidore by his hands and feet and a third one flogged him. The whip was made of elephant hide with nails protruding at the end.

Isidore asked for mercy. "My God, I'm dying".  Isidore bore all the blows patiently.

After the beatings, the bones on Isidore's back were exposed.  After the scourging, his legs were chained, and he was thrown into into a hut for processing rubber.   He was severely beaten he could barely move.

When an inspector was about to visit the plant, Isidore was moved to another village. Unable to walk, he fell by the wayside and hid in the forest.

When he heard the inspector, he dragged himself before the inspector.

The inspector himself left a written account of his impression: "I saw a man come from the forest with his back torn apart by deep, festering, malodorous wounds, covered with filth, assaulted by flies. He leaned on two sticks in order to get near me -he wasn't walking; he was dragging himself".

The agent, responsible for the beating, appeared on the scene and tried to kill "that animal". He was restrained by the inspector.

He took Isidore to his own settlement, hoping to help him heal.  But the beating was so severe, that the wounds have become infected.  Isidore felt death nearing.

He told someone who had pity on him: "if you see my mother, or if you go to the judge, or if you meet the priest, tell them that I am dying because I am a Christian".

Two missionaries spent several days with him and gave him the last sacraments.

He told them the reason for his beating: "The white man did not like Christians.... He did not want me to wear the scapular.... He yelled at me when I said my prayers".

The missionaries urged Isidore to forgive the agent.  Isidore assured the missionaries that he had already forgiven them, that he nursed no hatred for him. The missionaries urged Isidore to pray for the agent. "Certainly I shall pray for him. When I am in heaven, I shall pray for him very much". His agony - more painful than the actual flogging - lasted six months. He died on either 8 or 15 august 1909, rosary in hand and the scapular of Our Lady of Mt Carmel around his neck.

He was a convert for two and a half years but lived his life since his Baptism like he was a Christian all his life.

He was beatified by St. John Paul II in April 24, 1994 along with St. Gianna Beretta Molla and St. Elisabeth Canori Mora

His feastday is celebrated in his native country and in the Carmelite community every August 15.


May we follow his example of boldly proclaiming the Faith.

May the Christian martyrs of the Middle East bring about the fall of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria and all jihadists and Muslim extremists.

May the blood of the martyrs bring these people towards conversion.


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