|Death: ||Sep. 5, 1979|
John Randal Bradburne was born in Skirwith, Cumbria in 1921, the son of an Anglican Clergyman. After secondary school in Norfolk he joined the Army in 1939, and served in Malaya and Burma, before being invalided home. Something in Malaya - a conversion experience, it is said - turned him from adventurer into pilgrim.
He became a Roman Catholic in 1947, when staying at Buckfast Abbey. After some months with the Carthusians, he felt the urge to travel, and for 16 years wandered between England, Italy and the Middle East, living out of a Gladstone bag. Then he wrote to his friend Father John Dove in Zimbabwe asking "Is there a cave in Africa where I can pray?" Soon after his arrival, in 1962, he confided to a Franciscan Priest that he had three wishes: to serve leprosy patients, to die a martyr, and to be buried in the habit of St. Francis.
From 1964, he was caretaker of a new centre near Harare. Then in 1969, he was appointed warden at Mutemwa Leprosy Settlement, in Zimbabwe.
The single-minded loving care he gave the residents eventually brought him into conflict with the management committee. He refused to put number tags around the patients necks and reduce their already small diet, so he was sacked. He then lived in a prefab tin hut, lacking water and sanitation, just outside the leprosy compound. From there he continued to help the lepers as much as he could.
As a lay member of the Third Order of St. Francis, he obeyed its rule, singing the daily office of Our Lady. He lived its hours, rising at dawn for Matins and ending the day with Vespers and Compline. This discipline provides the context for many poems written at the turning-points of the day.
During the Zimbabwean civil war, his efforts to prevent exploitation of the leprosy patients brought local hostility and suspicion. He refused to leave the place for safety and was abducted by guerrillas and on Wednesday, September 5, 1979, he was shot.
The guerrillas set off with John Bradburne and made for the main road. Just before they reached it, in the early hours of Wednesday morning, the security commander ordered Bradburne to walk a few places ahead and then stop and face him. He did so, and fell on his knees and prayed for about three minutes, again showing no sign of fear. Then he rose to his feet, and as he did so, the commander shot him.
At his Requiem Mass, eye-witnesses saw three drops of blood fall from the coffin forming a pool beneath the coffin. John Bradburne had told a Priest that he had three wishes – to serve and live with lepers, to die a martyr and to be buried in his Franciscan habit. In all the excitement over his death, this last wish was not properly fulfilled.
Fr. David Gibbs, who had taken Bradburne's habit from his hut for safe-keeping forgot to dress his body in it, and he turned up with it at the funeral in Salisbury placing it on top of his coffin.
Also on the coffin were three white flowers, placed by a friend of Bradburne's to symbolise his devotion to the Trinity. In the course of the funeral, three drops of fresh blood fell from the bottom of his coffin to the floor. After the funeral the coffin was opened and the body inspected. It was dry and there was no sign of any issue of blood. John Bradburne was at last dressed in his habit, and buried as he wished.
Since his death many unusual events have been reported in relation to his name. His monument at Mutemwa is now place of pilgrimage, and there is a growing movement in support of his Cause for Sainthood.
Plot: Chishawasha Mission Cemetery, Alongside The Dominican Sisters And The Jesuit Priests And Brothers Who Were Also Murdered During The War For Independence.
Created by: Eman Bonnici
Record added: Dec 12, 2010
Find A Grave Memorial# 62822874
Added: Dec. 2, 2012
Added: Nov. 18, 2012
Dear John You Allowed Your Life To Be Guided By The Holy Spirit And By Mary Your Queen And Mother, And With Great Generosity You Searched Unceasingly For God's Will And Love. In So Doing You Pleased Him. We Therefore Ask A Favour Through Your Intercession...(Read more)|
Added: Dec. 12, 2010