“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.” - John R Bradburne

John Bradburne - adventurer into pilgrim

John Bradburne (1921–1979) lived an extraordinary life. He was a reluctant hero of the Second World War, a pilgrim and a hermit, a poet and a musician, a joker and a mystic, and a theologian. After many years travelling and searching, he found the place that God wanted him to be – living alongside men and women suffering with leprosy in Mutemwa, Rhodesia (now known as Zimbabwe), a place he helped transform into a community of peace, joy and love. 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.

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 leprosy patients 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.

Then, during the civil war of 1979, John was kidnapped and murdered. Since his martyrdom, word of his life has spread around the world, and miracles have occurred in association with his name.

1969 -79

The Vagabond of God

Now forty years after John’s death, John Bradburne is perhaps more alive than ever before. Devoted followers travel in their thousands in pilgrimages around the 5th September each year, to spend time at Mutemwa and climb Mount Chigona where John lived with the leprosy patients.

As the pilgrimages continued, a call was slowly heard for the Church to recognise John in a more official way. John’s own wish was for people to “Pray for my sanctification, because it would encourage so many souls if such a wreckage might come to canonisation”. In death as in life, he wanted recognition not for his own sake, but for the sake of others.

The campaign for John’s beatification is well underway and the Vatican has issued a formal decree to begin a process that will conclude with his recognition as a saint.

To read a comprehensive detailed biography of John Bradburne’s life, The Vagabond of God Book by Didier Rance. A shorter biography is the Hornbeam Booklet by JBMS which is a shorter version of John Bradburne’s extraordinary life.


Petition for support for Beatification of John Bradburne.

There are 3 stages for someone to become a Saint with the Catholic Church;

  1. A detailed look at the life work of the candidate leading to them being declared ‘Servant of God’ and then ‘Venerable’.
  2. Investigation of any alleged miracles, leading to Beatification.
  3. Further investigation of miracles, leading to Sainthood and Carnonisation.

A Cause is a lengthy and complicated process, carried out at several levels within the church and can take many years.  Each step involves the involvement and approval of candidate’s home diocese, theologians and Congregation for the Causes of Saints (a panel of cardinals, bishops, and others) before the approval is given by the Pope.

To find out more and show your support for John Bradburne’s beatification

Click here


Enjoy the many videos that commemorate and celebrate John Bradburne and his work, including the “100 Poems for John’s Centenary”.

Watch now

John Bradburne Poetry

John Bradburne breathed poetry. It came out of him like water from a tap- and the tap was always on.

He would often complain that he was unable to write in prose, and always preferred verse- even in his everyday letters to his family and friends. The climax of a remarkable poetic life, which began in his youth, was the decade from 1969, when he wrote some 6,000 poems- sometimes a dozen or more in a day.

The quantity of his work has no precedent- and we have not yet discovered all of it, for much still remains hidden in letter-form in many an attic or drawer. He is the most prolific poet the English language has ever seen. The poetry displays a single-minded enthusiasm and clarity of vision that is compelling in its intensity and endearing in its humanity.

His best work contains lines of great beauty and profound spiritual insight.

View poems written for John Bradburne

Visit johnbradburnepoems.com

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Novena Prayer

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, from the Most Holy Trinity – the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit for whom you laid down your life, that: …

Not our will but His be done:
Our Father… Hail Mary… Glory be…

Thousands gather for the September anniversary