10 Ways to live a more contented life

“I am definitively loved and whatever happens to me—I am awaited by this Love. And so my life is good.”

These are the words of Saint Josephine Bakhita, who as a young girl had been sold into slavery in the Sudan and had suffered indescribable suffering, torture, physical and psychological abuse.

In her earliest years, Bakhita was surrounded by a loving family of three brothers and three sisters, living a very happy and carefree life. However when she was 7 or 8 years old, she was abducted by Arab slave traders. She who had never known suffering in her life, was forced to walk 600 miles to El-Obeid barefoot. Twice on the way she was sold and bought by a new master. She was forcibly converted to Islam. In the next twelve years she would be sold three more times before she would finally be given her freedom.

In El-Obeid, Bakhita was bought by a rich Arab who used her as a maid for her two daughters. She was treated relatively well until one day, she accidentally broke a vase, and the son of her owner beat her so severely that she spent a month unable to move from her straw bed.

She once recalled one of her most terrifying experiences when she along with other slaves were marked by a process resembling tattooing. With a razor patterns were cut into her belly, breasts, and right arm, and the wounds filled with salt. Throughout the ordeal, Bakhita would recall, she felt a mysterious strength sustaining her.

Finally at the end of 1882, Joseph Bahkita was bought by the Italian Vice Consul Callisto Legnani. For the first time since the day she was kidnapped she was treated in a loving and cordial way. In the Consul’s residence, Bakhita experienced peace, warmth and moments of joy. When political situations forced the Consul to leave for Italy, Bakhita made the trip with him and with a friend of his, Augusto Michieli. On arrival in Genoa, she was left with Mr. Michieli’s wife and eventually became their daughter’s nanny.

In 1988 Mr. Michielli returned to Sudan to take possession of a large hotel he had acquired, followed later by his wife. She left Bakhita with her daughter in the care of the Canossian Sisters in Venice. It was here, under the care and instruction of the Sisters, that Bakhita encountered Christianity. Here she  came to know the God she had experienced in her heart as a child without knowing who he was. “Seeing the sun, the moon and the stars, I said to myself: Who could be the Master of these beautiful things? And I felt a great desire to see him, to know Him and to pay Him homage….”

When her owners returned for her in Italy, she refused to leave the sisters, and the Italian court ruled that because Italian Law had never recognized slavery as legal, Bakhita had never legally been a slave.

Bakhita remained with the Canossians, embraced Catholicism, and was baptized, taking the full name of Josephine Margaret Fortunata (the Latin translation of Bakhita). She was confirmed and received Communion on the same day, entered the novitiate of the Canossian sisters the following year and pronounced her vows in 1986 in the presence of Archbishop Guiseppe Sarto, the future Pope Saint Pius X.

During her 42 years of religious life, immensely happy years for her, Bakhita carried out the roles of cook, sacristan, and doorkeeper. She was known for her gentleness, calming voice, and her ever-present smile. She became known for her holiness by the local townspeople and among her own sisters. The first publication of her story in 1931 made her famous in Italy.

A young student once asked Bakhita: “What would you do, if you were to meet your captors?” Without hesitation, she replied: “If I were to meet those who kidnapped me, and even those who tortured me, I would kneel and kiss their hands. For, if these things had not happened, I would not have been a Christian and a religious today.”

In 2000, she was declared a saint, the first Black woman to receive the honor in the modern era.

“I am definitively loved and whatever happens to me—I am awaited by this Love. And so my life is good.”

Josephine Bakhita

Knowing that she was loved and always had been loved through her whole life led to great happiness for Bakhita. Knowing ourselves to be loved we can surrender ourselves to Love even in the unfairness of life because we are certain that Love is with us. “I am awaited by this Love.” This Love is a person who deeply cares about me. His love alone is what makes my life good.

Once Josephine Bakhita discovered this love radiating within her, she began to radiate this love to others. The simplest roles of service were assigned her: cook, doorkeeper, sacristan, and in these simple tasks she was able to give to those around her an extraordinary love.

We most probably will not live through as destructive an experience as slavery and human trafficking as did Bakhita, and yet trauma does touch in many ways our spirits and sear our souls. For some of us more than others. But all of us in some way bear wounds that bring tears to our eyes.

Often it can take many years, often well into our adult life, until we can settle into a deep awareness of being loved. Like Bakhita, it may be the kindness of others that begins that journey to discovering the ever-present surrounding love of God in our lives. Encountering Jesus in the sacraments chips away at our fears and heals our wounds so that we can so gradually begin to sense that our spirits live on the very Breath of God. Let these words from the hymn Nothing Is Lost on the Breath of God by Colin Gibson wash over you:

Nothing is lost on the breath of God,
nothing is lost forever,
God’s breath is love,
and that love will remain,
holding the world forever.
No feather too light,
no hair too fine,
no flower too brief in its glory,
no drop in the ocean,
no dust in the air,
but is counted and told in God’s story.

Nothing is lost to the eyes of God,
nothing is lost forever,
God sees with love,
and that love will remain,
holding the world forever.
No journey too far,
no distance too great,
no valley of darkness too blinding;
no creature too humble,
no child too small for God to be seeking and finding.

Nothing is lost to the heart of God,
nothing is lost for ever;
God’s heart is love,
and that love will remain,
holding the world forever.
No impulse of love,
no office of care,
no moment of life in its fullness;
no beginning too late,
no ending too soon,
but is gathered and known in its goodness. (Words © 1996 Hope Publishing Company, 380 S Main Pl, Carol Stream, IL 60188)

Josephine Bakhita shows us that when we are loved we are content, and we are able to become love for others. Here are 10 simple ways to live a more contented life and radiate love to those around you that are easy enough to work into your everyday rhythm:

  • Gratitude: Deliver a letter of gratitude in writing or email to a person you are grateful to, but have not thanked appropriately.
  • Counting kindness: Count the acts of kindness you receive every day.
  • Three good things: Write down three things that have gone well for you this week and offer a prayer of thanks to God.
  • Surrender: Release one thing over which you have no control. In your imagination wrap it in a box and hand it to Jesus. Watch what he does with it.
  • Gift of contentment: Find five things you are already content with about your life, your appearance, your relationships, your work and family. Now try to find something you are discontent with. How can you become more content with this thing?
  • Offer compliments: It’s easy to criticize and complain. Rise above criticism, and see how many compliments you can offer in a day.
  • Shift your expectations: Write down five positive outcomes that you’re expecting throughout the day. Making these positive outcomes part of the fabric of your life is a key to combating fear and depression.
  • Count your blessings before your sleep: Keep a gratitude journal by your bed. Each night write at least three blessings for which you are grateful before you turn out the lights.
  • Let it go: See how many small things during the day you can just let go.
  • Love unconditionally: See others and events through gentle eyes, focus on the person and their feelings and needs rather than situations and issues.

Image Credit: Public Domain via Rawpixel

3 thoughts on “10 Ways to live a more contented life

  1. Hello
    Thank you for your beautiful ministry. I’m confused by the timing in the above article. It says she was bought in 1882, but then the timeline switches to 1988. Is one of those a typo?
    Thank you.


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