Blessed Isidore Bakanja was born in 1887 in Belgian Congo in Africa, which is now called Democratic Republic of Congo. He was baptized on 6th May 1906 at age 18 after receiving instruction from Trappists missionaries. Isidore worked on a Belgian rubber plantation, but was subjected to brutal treatment from his supervisors, many of whom were very anti-Catholic.
Isidore had a great love for the Blessed Virgin Mary. Much to their surprise, his fellow workers would see him constantly with rosary beads in his hands, and the Brown Scapular of Our Lady of Mount Carmel around his neck – I guess these symbols of his faith gave him the strength to endure the harsh treatment on the plantation. Even though he had no formal education, Isidore spent hours teaching his fellow workers about the Catholic faith, and he became known by all as ‘the catechist’.
During one confrontation with a supervisor on the plantation, Isidore was told that he had to stop teaching the workers how to pray, and was ordered to remove his scapular. When he refused, he was beaten over 100 times with a whip of elephant hide with nails on the end. He was then chained to a single spot for 24 hours a day. Isidore was eventually discovered by an inspector visiting the site, who, as you can imagine, was horrified by his injuries. The inspector took Isidore into his home to heal, but Isidore knew his time had come, and he asked the inspector to pass on this message: "If you see my mother, or if you go to the judge, or if you meet a priest, tell them that I am dying because I am a Christian."
Before he died, Isidore forgave the man who killed him, saying, “When I am in heaven, I shall pray for him very much." He died in 1909 at the age of 21, with his rosary beads in his hands and the scapular around his neck.
That with the example of your faith we will be strengthened against the adversities of life and be protected by Mary, our Mother. Amen