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Black Catholic Initiative
:: Department of Parish Life and Formation
 Black Saints – August

August 2 – St. Rutilius
(4th century North African martyr).

A martyr mentioned by the apologist Tertullian in his De Fuga in Persecutione. According to this, Rutilius was a Roman African and fled to escape the persecutions under Emperor Trajanus Decius. To ensure his safety, he went so far as to pay money to obtain exemption from making sacrifices to the gods. Finally, however, he was arrested by authorities and went to his death proudly confessing the Christian faith.

August 8 – Blessed Isidore Bakanja
(1909 – A Congolese laborer and catechist martyred for his faith).

Isidore Bakanja, a convert, was baptized May 6, 1909 at age 18 after receiving instruction from Trappist missionaries. Rosary in hand, he used any chance to share his faith; though untrained, many thought of him as a catechist. He left his native village because there were no fellow Christians. He worked as a domestic on a Belgian rubber plantation and was told to discard his scapular by his employer. When he refused to give up his scapular he was flogged with a whip of elephant hides with nails on the end. He managed to escape and hide in the forest.  Isidore Bakanja was cared for by two missionaries who ministered the last sacraments. The missionaries urged Isidore to forgive the man who beat him.  He assured them that he had already forgiven his persecutor. “I pray for him. When I am in heaven, I shall pray for him very much.” After six months of prayer and suffering, he died, rosary in hand and scapular around his neck.

August 21 – Blessed Victoire Rasamanarivo
(1894 – Foundress of the Catholic Action in Madagascar, beatified in 1989).

August 24 – 153 Martyrs of Tica
(c. 260 Thrown into a pit of quicklime in Utica, Tunisia)

August 27 – St. Monica
(387 mother of St. Augustine of Hippo, widowed at age 40)

Monica, a woman of great faith, lived in North Africa. Through Monica’s influence, both her husband and mother-in-law were baptized. Monica had a son named Augustine. In his youth, Augustine led a disgraceful life. For many years Monica prayed constantly for his conversion, and her prayers were finally answered. With God’s help, Augustine turned his life around and became a great bishop, writer, and teacher.

August 27 – St. Poemen
(c. 400 A desert monk known for his holiness, and who encouraged frequent communion).

St. Poemen was the leader of a group of hermits in the desert of Skete in Egypt, living in the abandoned ruins of a pagan temple at Terenuth. Noted for his strong discipline, he permitted himself and his brothers to sleep for only four hours a day, spending the rest of the day working, praying, and studying.

August 28 – St. Augustine of Hippo
(354 – 430, Bishop of Hippo Regius (modern Annaba) on the coast of Algeria, Doctor of the Church).

Historians tell us that there is more intimate knowledge available about St. Augustine than of any other individual in the whole world of antiquity. Augustine the sinner is all too well known. There is knowledge of him as a convert and author of Confessions, but little is known of him as Father of the Church and as a saint.

Augustine was born in the little town of Tegaste, Africa, on November 13, 354. he claimed that he learned the love of God from his mother Monica’s breast, and that her early Christian training influenced his entire life. He was highly educated, having studied at Madura, Africa, the University of Carthage, and Rome. He was brilliant- actually a genius, and he used his great abilities to lead men to love God.

His thousands of letters, sermons and tracts, combined with 232 books, instructed the Early Church and have relevance for the Church today. It is said that Christian scholars through the ages owe much to St. Augustine and that the full impact of his psychology and his embryonic theology will be felt in years to come. Augustine was truly a saint. He lived an austere life, performing great acts of mortification and penance. He wrote, “I pray to God, weeping almost daily.” Two of his most famous books are “Confessions” which is an autobiography and “City of God.”