Jonathan Myrick Daniels vs. Josephine Bakhita

Another day, another heart-wrenching matchup between two saintly souls. Today it's Jonathan Daniels vs. Josephine Bakhita.

Yesterday, Blandina swept past Brendan of Clonfert 59% to 41% to advance to the Elate Eight where she'll face Joanna the Myrrhbearer.

Remember to read the comments and perhaps even comment yourself! There is a wealth of information that gets shared by the Lent Madness Global Voting Public and it's always fun and faithful to see where the conversation goes. Not to mention the occasional limerick, poem, and hymn dedicated to our two competing saints.

Vote now!

Jonathan Myrick Daniels

“We have spent four years in preparation for SOMETHING. What that something is, who we are, we do not know.” 

So began Jonathan Daniel’s valedictory address to the Virginia Military Institute, class of 1961. Jonathan wasn't a natural fit for military school; friends said “Jon was gentle, intellectual, and undisciplined,” known to skip class and get caught smoking. As a Yankee, he was nonplussed by VMI’s annual memorial for Confederate alumni, and his classmates singing “Dixie.” Yet Jonathan admired his father, who served as a military physician. He withstood the hazing and learned to appreciate the grueling training. (He also kept a bottle of J&B scotch in a hollowed-out dictionary of the Civil War). 

In his field education with Episcopal Theological School, Jon saw the realities of racism and poverty up close for the first time. He wrote to his sister, “Christians must learn a little better the way of the cross. Somehow this is where God and life and love are – and where triumphant.” In 1965, after spending a week in Alabama with classmates, Jonathan felt he had to return. “Something had happened to me in Selma, which meant I had to come back,” he wrote. “I could not stand by in benevolent dispassion any longer without compromising everything I know and love and value. The imperative was too clear, the stakes too high, my own identity was called too nakedly into question … I had been blinded by what I saw here (and elsewhere), and the road to Damascus led, for me, back here.”

Working with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, Jonathan registered voters, tutored children, distributed food and clothing, and even drove people to medical appointments. He enjoyed getting to know people, talking, laughing, and learning about their lives. “He had an abundance of strength that came from the inside that he could give to people,” SNCC organizer Stokely Carmichael said. Jon described standing nose-to-nose with a policeman at a protest: “I snarled something at him…that managed to be both defensive and self-righteous. We matched baleful glances and then both looked away. And then came a moment of shattering internal quiet, in which I felt shame, indeed, and a kind of reluctant love for the young policeman.” His friend asked the young man his name (Charlie), and the group sang to him that they loved him. 

With a small group, Jon spent weeks trying to integrate worship at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church. Upon learning that the Bishop of Alabama, Charles Carpenter, supported St. Paul’s, Jon took the lead on crafting a statement. “The Carpenter of Birmingham must not be allowed to forever deny the Carpenter of Nazareth.” 

When a sheriff’s deputy leveled his shotgun at 17-year-old Ruby Sales, Jonathan leapt to push her out of the way. She has spent her life as a human rights advocate, and told NPR “[Jon] walked away from the king’s table. He could have had any benefit he wanted, because he was young, white, brilliant, and male.”

Could he tell us, Jonathan might say he chose to sit at his King’s table. Shortly before he died he wrote, “I lost fear [of Selma] when I began to know in my bones and sinews that I had been truly baptized into the Lord's death and Resurrection, that in the only sense that really matters I am already dead, and my life is hid with Christ in God.”

— Eva Suarez


Josephine Bakhita

Josephine Bakhita was a Sudanese girl who lived much of her life in slavery, but when she finally won her freedom, she used that freedom to embrace a life of Christian service as a nun in Italy.

Josephine was captured as a girl in the Sudan, near what we know as Darfur today. One story told about her suffering during this time is that one enslaver drew patterns on her skin with flour, traced them with a sharp blade, and then rubbed salt into the wounds to cause scars. This sounds incredibly painful—and it also sounds like the traditional practice of scarification which was historically practiced by the tribes of Sudan, until the European Christian missionaries arrived and outlawed it. In reading Josephine’s story, it is difficult to tell if the reason for her scars was meant to be an unholy torture, or a rite of passage in the culture she grew up in, or both. Our world is complex and painted in tones of grey.

Perhaps equally indicative of Josephine’s suffering, however, is the fact that she remained in bondage in the Sudan, and indeed, throughout 7 years in Italy, all while slavery was in fact against the law. And yet no one intervened on her behalf. Particularly when she was transferred to government officials in the Italian colonial government, no one thought enough of her as a human being to notice that she was enslaved, until she asked the nuns for help.

When she was a nun in Italy, however, that seems to have changed. She was so beloved by the locals in her little town, as she worked the door at the abbey that they called her “little brown sister” and attributed their safety through World War II with her prayers and protection (thought at one point she seems to have been mistaken for a spy because of her skin color.) She was especially loved by the children of the village, who called her “Mother Moretta” and “Universal Sister.”

In Italy, her name is invoked frequently around projects that serve refugees and migrants. She is the patron saint of the Sudan, and human trafficking survivors. When she was canonized, Pope John Paul II said “The history of her life inspires not passive acceptance but the firm resolve to work effectively to free girls and women from oppression and violence and to return to them their dignity in the full exercise of their rights.”

Megan Castellan



Josephine Bakhita via Flickr


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85 comments on “Jonathan Myrick Daniels vs. Josephine Bakhita”

  1. For Josephine and Jonathan our hearts and voices swell
    Sung to the tune Darwall's 148th Hymnal #625

    Today, for Josephine our hearts and voices swell
    and her opponent worthy Jonathan, as well.
    She was set free;
    then she forgave all those who robbed her dignity.

    For Josephine her heart could never be enslaved
    to bitterness; for she knew well how God had saved
    her life so she could see
    that all her days were meant God's gift to be.

    We honor Jonathan, who died so young for right.
    He gave up privilege, being called to join the fight.
    It was God's call
    he took to heart for justice sake by giving all.

    May we too hear the words from the Magnificat:
    god raises up the poor, the wealthy down are brought.
    And so we pray
    with Josephine and Jonathan: May God be praised.

  2. Both of today’s saints are worthy, but Jonathan Daniel’s story is the one that leaves tears streaming down my face.

  3. I am so glad Eva Suarez brought in a bit of that story about Jonathan Daniels' showdown with the police officer. I read Daniels' account of that incident and how, in the midst of protest against injustice, and a snarky back and forth with that cop, when the group started singing names of people in prayer...and they sang the officer's name... the officer himself was confronted with what loving kindness looks like and it affected his attitude toward the protesters. Jonathan Myrick Daniels is one of my martyred saintly heroes and I have carried his story with me in my heart and into my own ministry. And as a fellow NH native living in the South, I am so hoping this is his year to win the Golden Halo.

  4. Argh! I can’t estimate value on either of these saints! They are both so worthy. I can only go with the most relatable for me.

  5. I really wish I could vote for both. In the UK the language around migration has been deliberately weaponised to sow division and to distract from the woeful poverty experienced by so many. Yet I am personally challenged by the words of Jonathan Daniels, who gave up his innate privilege to serve others. “I could not stand by in benevolent dispassion any longer without compromising everything I know and love and value." I pray that should I ever be in a similar position that I will have the courage to do as Jonathan did. My one vote goes to him.

    1. In an age where the world cries out for people to stand up against hate and division, for Christians to join in the shout for justice, freedom, and peace, even though it may be a hard road to walk, we need to look to those like Jonathan Daniels.

  6. We need more like Jonathan, who can help others to experience Christ's love across the divides, and work to heal the unevenness in life by performing the small tasks that in the end mean so much.

  7. Not a hard choice, but a sad match up of two superior choices, neither of whom were known to me before Lent Madness - So easy expression of gratitude to the supreme committee for introducing such truly luminous saints -

    1. We could also have an Eva Suarez Golden Halo with Johann on the left and Jonathan on the right.

      1. You'd need to tack on last year's Golden Halo winner, José Hernández (who was also repped by Mo. Eva Suarez). A Trinity, if you will....

  8. This is a tough choice. Jonathan recognized the injustices and dehumanization done to others, and eventually sacrificed himself for another, though he was "privileged". Bakhita experienced the dehumanization of slavery, and yet lived a life of care and love for others, including those who treated her as a slave. Extraordinary!

  9. Though I knew who I’d vote for, both of today’s saints are worthy of advancing - thanks to the Lent Madness committee for introducing me to saints I hadn’t known before - one of the blessings of Lent Madness - Thank you!

  10. Jonathan Daniel's story is both timely and timeless; a martyr for our time. My vote today goes for him, and I'm hoping he goes all the way to The Golden Halo.

  11. Both nominees are extremely worthy. My heart went out to Josephine Bakhita for her years of suffering. No one should have to endure what she did. However, Jonathan's story challenged me. He made a choice to give up his privileged life. He was not content to let injustices happen; he did something about it. His selflessness ultimately swung my vote to him.

  12. This was once again quite difficult to choose….it was a toss up for me. Jonathan’s story is equally compelling. I think they both DO wear halos!

    May all find blessings of transformation in Holy Lent

  13. Jonathan Myrick Daniels has been a favorite saint since I read about him years ago in “Holy Women, Holy Men”. Our parish in Dallas took a Civil Rights Pilgrimage in 2019 to Selma, Montgomery, Birmingham, Jackson. But the visit to Haynesville, Alabama, where Jonathan was murdered by a white supremacist deputy sheriff will forever be etched in my memory. Sharing the Eucharist in the town square with 35 Episcopalians was indeed a moment of precious clarity of grief, community, and love. Jonathan Myrick Daniels remains my vision of Christianity today.

    1. Thank you, Sally for sharing this personal story. The image of folks gathering together to hold Eucharist in the town square really expressed to me the power of Daniels' witness. We have so much to learn from him.

    2. I also read about Jonathan in "Holy Wowen, Holy Men". His story impressed me and I ponder about his life and ministry. I would like to see him win the Golden Halo.

  14. Jonathan Myrick Daniels’ incredible story has struck a nerve. As part of Black History Month I recently participated in a plaque dedication to another unsung hero, Charles Lee Martin, who in 1966 was the first Black Student to graduate from Osceola High School in Kissimmee, Florida. Jonathan and Charles share a common quiet courage so relevant in today’s complex world.

  15. For the 1st time in the many years I have been here I cried over a history. Please vote for Jonathan.

  16. There is a sculpture of Jonathan Myrick Daniels, with a description of his bravery and sacrifice, in the human rights porch at Washington National Cathedral, along with Rosa Parks, Mother Teresa, and Elie Wiesel.

  17. Oh gosh, that last line of this article from Jonathan Daniels, " I am already dead, and my life is hid with Christ in God.” That got to me.... I had my doubts about who I would vote for in this round, but that last witness... Geesh. I'm nearly in tears over it.

  18. All honor to Josephine Bakhita, but I voted for Jonathan Myrick Daniels, because he's not only a saint, he's a martyr. Also, my brother also went to VMI, graduating in 1963, and probably knew him, or knew who he was. I think my brother would be happy to see his "Brother Rat" win the Golden Halo.

  19. Please pardon this long comment, but I had many thoughts this morning.
    Today's matchup is about two individuals who were touched by slavery. One, a woman who gave her life by choice into the service of God, after her youth was violently damaged by enslavement. One, a privileged white man who gave his life to protect another, as part of this country's violent legacy of slavery. Both saints are clearly more than worthy of their inclusion in this Madness.

    "49.6 million people are enslaved today. According to the latest Global Estimates of Modern Slavery (2022) from Walk Free, the International Labour Organization and the International Organization for Migration: 49.6 million people live in modern slavery – in forced labour and forced marriage. Roughly a quarter of all victims of modern slavery are children." -- according to a quick Google search.
    We should rethink our consumption of Easter chocolate, because much chocolate production is complicit with slavery. There are some companies trying to work against slavery, easy to find with a little research.

    I also wanted to comment, because I went to school at a women's college near VMI in the 1980s (before they admitted women). VMI had problems as an institution, but many of the men it produced had internalized a code of honor. This young Saint and Martyr questioned VMI and its institutional biases, even while striving to give himself more and more to the Lord's use. As a Saint, he is a worthy and laudable model for us to follow. Questioning, investigating, and uncovering the full history of our institutions, including the Episcopal Church, and doing something about what our Church owes, is something every individual parishioner, every parish, every institution, and every Diocese should do. In our diocese of Washington, we are working toward Reparations, and I hope other dioceses and institutions will follow their own paths to Reparations.

  20. Greater love hath no man... stepping between the shotgun and Ruby Sales took amazing courage. Walking away from a very different life was inspired by grace. Jonathan was walking in the steps of Paul, Schindler, others who see the light.

  21. Again, in the venerable tradition of "local" saints, my vote goes to the one from our nation whose life of love and sacrifice addresses our particular struggle with evil and challenges us to walk in his footsteps.

  22. I wish I could give a vote for both Josephine and Jonathan! Thank you to the Lent Madness committee for helping me get to know a little about two amazing people!

  23. Unfair match-up! There are quite a few other pairings that would have made this vote easier. Again, I have to wait for next year.

    1. I do not see this as unfair -- nay, extremely fair. Each candidate is written up and voting takes place privately and after reflection thought, and additional inquiry if wished.

      Difficult to choose, most certainly. The first round winnows out most of the "Really, EC?" nominees and the second round calls for more soul-searching for LM participants.

      However, taking heart, Lent Madness has now been going long enough for us to know that someone who loses early on one year may, several years down the line, go on to receive the Golden Halo.

      1. Thanks, Tessa, for your reflections on fairness. I had a really hard time (and might have used the word "unfair") when Eric Liddell was paired against Josephine Bakhita in round 1. Both had such inspiring stories, I thought we deserved and needed to hear more about both of them in round 2. But you've put a different perspective on things.

  24. Would Jonathan like being called a Saint? Probably not. That's one of the many many many reasons I am voting for him all the way. For me, Jonathan brings all of the Saints' lives into focus.

  25. Jonathan Daniels eloquent honesty on the Gospel call to leave the safety of the privileged life into which (and I) had been born and truly walk the way of the cross is deeply inspiring.

  26. This was a hard vote for me. But in the end, it had to be Jonathan. But I am so sorry that I must choose between these two who I can see in the eye of my spirit already wearing halos. Both are worthy.

  27. So,do I choose the one who suffered and then won her freedom and went on to help other sufferers, or do I choose the one who lived a life of privilege and gave his life to help in a noble cause? No contest really.

  28. Oh my, what a difficult choice. Josephine won out in thanksgiving for marginalized and wounded women who have found their voice and used it for the good of others.