Blessed Isidore Bakanja (c. 1887 at Bokendela in Congo Free State – 15 August 1909 at Busira, Belgian Congo) was beatified on 24 April 1994 by Pope John Paul II. His feast day is 12 August on the Carmelite Calendar of Saints, and 15 August in the general Church calendar. Isidore Bakanja is considered a strong witness to the grace of reconciliation that can be experienced between peoples of different races.
Bokendela, Congo Free State
|Died||15 August 1909|
Busira, Belgian Congo
|Venerated in||Roman Catholicism|
|Beatified||24 April 1994 by Pope John Paul II|
Bakanja accepted the Christian faith at eighteen years of age through the ministry of Cistercian missionaries in what is today the Democratic Republic of the Congo (formerly known as the "Congo Free State" Belgian Congo). He was a very devout convert and catechist. Bakanja had a great love for the Blessed Virgin Mary that he expressed through recitation of the Rosary and by being invested in the Brown Scapular of Our Lady of Mount Carmel. His employers had ordered him to cease sharing the Gospel as well as remove the scapular that he wore as a witness to his faith. Isidore's refusal to comply with the demands of his supervisor resulted in his being brutally beaten and chained.
As a result of the beating and persistent ill treatment he received, Isidore's wounds became severely infected. As his condition worsened his supervisor sought to keep him from the view of the plantation's inspector. However, Isidore was discovered and taken to the inspector's home for treatment. His condition had deteriorated so severely, however, that no further medical attention could help him.
At this point Isidore told the inspector "tell them that I am dying because I am a Christian." Missionaries in the area visited Isidore and urged him to forgive the supervisor. He assured them that he already had, declaring "When I am in heaven, I shall pray for him very much."
The National Shrine of Saint Jude, Faversham, United Kingdom contains an icon of Isidore. In 2004 a fire broke out in the Shrine Chapel which destroyed the murals which hung there, and it damaged much of the other artwork. The decision was made to install icons depicting saints inspired by the Carmelite Rule of Saint Albert, and in commemoration of the 8th centenary of the Carmelite Rule in 2007. The icons were written by Sister Petra Clare, a Benedictine hermit living in Scotland, United Kingdom.