Oil Dedicated to Blessed Isidore Bakanja
In April 1994, Pope John Paul II gave to Zaire, the African republic, a notable saint of its own: Blessed Isidore Bakanja, a modern black martyr.
Called Belgian Congo in its colonial days. Somehow Isidore Bakanja, a young Congolese, fell under the happy influence of some Belgian Trappist missionaries, and received baptism when he was about 18. At that time he was working for some white colonizers as an assistant mason.
A mild person, respectful and industrious, Isidore became a devout Catholic. On the recommendation of his Trappist teachers he always carried his rosary and wore a scapular. (“Mary’s habit” called in Congolese.) They were tokens of his Catholic identity.
Since Isidore was lonely as the only Catholic in his village, he yearned to live in a more Christian region. He therefore left his village for a larger settlement. There he obtained a job with the white agent of a Belgian company that operated the local rubber plantations.
Now, many of the agents of these Belgian companies were atheists and oppressive of the Congolese natives. They hated Catholic missionaries because they taught a religion of equality and defended the rights of the blacks.
Isidore soon felt the effects of this form of colonial pressure. When he asked permission to return home, he refused. Furthermore, he was ordered to stop teaching his fellow workers how to pray. As one agent said, “You’ll have the whole village praying and no one will want to work!” The agent told him to throw away his scapular. When Isidore refused to do so, he had him flogged, twice.