Dispatches from Central Africa

John Bradburne at St. Mary's Church

John Bradburne

2019 is the fortieth anniversary of the death of John Bradburne.

 

The John Bradburne Memorial Society summarises his life as follows:

 

"Third Order Franciscan, mystic, poet and friend of lepers. Born in England in 1921, he served with the Gurkhas in Malaya and Burma during World War II. A Pauline-like conversion led him to become a pilgrim seeker, first with the Benedictines, then the Carthusians, but [he] remained a layman to the end. His search for God's will led him through England, Europe and the Holy Land, mostly on foot. In 1962 he went to 'seek a cave' in Zimbabwe. Instead he found Mutemwa Leprosy Settlement. There he tended a flock of 80 leprosy patients with loving care, laying down his life for them on September 5th, 1979.

"At his funeral, a pool of blood was seen beneath his coffin. On opening it, there was no evidence where the blood had come from. However, an oversight was revealed: John had not been clothed in the habit of St. Francis, as is the privilege of members of the Third Order, and had been John's wish. The habit was found and John was clothed in it.

"Since his death there have been many signs of his sanctity: reports of miracles, claims of cures, as well as many answers to prayer. More important, many have turned to God through John's extraordinary example."

 

There is a longer account here.

 

Fr. John Dove's vita of his friend, Strange Vagabond of God (2001), is a work of pellucid beauty and a compelling argument for John Bradburne not only as poet and servant of the poorest of God's poor but also as saint.

The cause for John Bradburne's beatification has been adopted by the Episcopal Conference of Zimbabwe and accepted by the Congregation for the Causes of Saints.

It opened formally at Mutemwa, Zimbabwe, on 5th September, 2019: the fortieth anniversary of his death. If successful, John Bradburne will become the first Zimbabwean saint and the second post-Reformation English saint (after John Henry Newman).

 

There is further information in the Newsletter (.pdf) of the John Bradburne Memorial Society.

 

Prayers for John Bradburne's intercession and cause are available here.

Strange Vagabond

 

"God's love within you is your native land.
So search none other, never more depart.
For you are homeless save God keeps your heart"

 

Prof. David Crystal has published a searchable database of John Bradburne's poetry here.

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St. Mary's Church

2019 is also the tenth anniversary of completion of work to build a new church at St. Mary's Outstation, Chiphaso Parish, Archdiocese of Lilongwe (just outside the gates of Kamuzu Academy in Mtunthama Trading Centre).

 

The church is decorated with carvings by artists of Kungoni Centre of Culture  and Art (Mua Mission). They include a door, which depicts scenes recreated from John Bradburne's life.

 

Fr. Paul Nampota O.C.D. celebrated the first Mass at St. Mary's Church on 6th December, 2009. Over the years a small community of Third Order Franciscans has emerged.

 

St. Mary's Choir recorded the ordinary of a Malawi Mass in celebration of the completion of the church.  Click here to watch an illustrated version of the work.

Forty (and Ten) Years On

It seems appropriate to mark the double anniversary of John Bradburne and St. Mary's Church by reproducing on these pages the Church Guide.