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. Have to vote for this young man who died contributing to the greatest American movement forward in spirit, justice and political reform. Although all saints in all countries are important...he walked the walk for our country.

  2. No more than anyone else here am I in favor of useless "martyrdom." But Daniels' story is so compelling because he could have ambled blindly forward forever on a comfortable white-paved path of privilege; instead he grew and changed. He could see Christ in the policeman as he saw Christ in Black people. He chose the carpenter of Nazareth over Carpenter of Alabama. Daniels chose the cross over empire. Empire isn't going away any time soon: the FBI is still targeting social justice activists as it targeted King. (See: The Intercept.) But figures like Daniels are witnesses to our faith that death does not have the final word. His murder by "law enforcement" reminds us why black lives still have to matter and what it really means for "all lives" to matter. Too often it is still the case that the U.S. justice system is, as Richard Pryor said, "just us." From Jonathan to Reparations: Daniels is my choice for the Golden Halo.

    1. Thanks, Celia, your words are better than mine at expressing my feelings. His was not a "useless" martyrdom, because he is remembered and remains an inspiration to many.

  3. I was all set to vote for Jonathan Daniels this morning. But as a woman (and also the mother of a tattoo artist) I felt compelled once again by Josephine's story. My heart reaches out to all those (but especially women and girls) who are held against their wills, and forced into terrible suffering. She gets my vote.

  4. Tough to choose between 2 winners!
    I would like to think I would’ve answered the call as Jonathan did, his story should be in the history books! or that I would’ve been as humble as Josephine, it alas it’s a state I can only aspire to! By default, I’m voting for the lady to get a Jo(anna) & Jo(sephine) Final! Ha! Ha!

  5. As a longtime fan of Jonathan Daniels, I am pleased to see him do so well (and it's not bad for my bracket either). Maybe this is his year to obtain the Golden Halo. This was a sad time in this country. I remember as a child growing up in the Seattle area and seeing the news on television from the South, and being terrified to see such hate on the white people's faces toward children who only wanted to go to a good school and toward people who only wanted to sit at the same lunch counter. Josephine, as a former slave herself, is certainly admirable and the way she overcame her incredibly difficult start in life with such grace and forgiveness puts her high on my list of saints as well. But Jonathan is first in my heart.

  6. Jonathon's story is so pertinent to our time and situation in the United States. I pray I would have such courage and presence of mind. He has my vote all the way to the Golden Halo.

  7. Jonathon's story is so pertinent to our time and situation in the United States. I pray I would have such courage and presence of mind. He has my vote all the way to the Golden Halo.

  8. What strikes me most about Jonathan is the wisdom, insight and eloquence he has in his youth. His letter to Carpenter about The Carpenter is brilliant. His life, while short, was led by spirit, selflessness and real faith. J for the Golden Halo.

    1. Thank you for posting the video link, Betsy. I watched it last night and knew my vote today would be for Jonathan Daniels. Ruby Sales is alive today because of Daniels' selfless act.

  9. Jonathan’s story needs to be more well known. He exemplifies everything Jesus taught us. He is a saint and hero.

  10. So if I hit a button, say the JB one above and it tells me [after hitting the results and then going back to hit the JBakhita like I said above-first line here and clik on the VOTE button] 'NO ANSWER SELECTED'and red rectangle, does that mean the vote is closed?
    B/C today, for the first time, I closed the page and reopened to try again [today's vote is very important to me] it then said 'Thank your for your vote' with a purple rectangle.
    The real question is how early do you close the vote? This is the earliest I've ever voted =) <3 LuvUguys! <3

    1. I believe it's open until late to allow those just east of the International Date Line to vote (ie Hawaii, Alaska, and sundry East Pacific islands).

  11. Oh todays choice is so hard. A Saintly woman that suffered as a slave than became a nun and helped people during WWII. The other attended VMI he lived and died helping US citizens fight for civil rights, A fight we are still fighting. When will it end?

  12. “Christians must learn a little better the way of the cross. Somehow this is where God and life and love are – and we’re triumphant.” How true… this speaks to my heart so loudly.

  13. My vote goes to Jonathan. "I could not stand by ... any longer. ... My own identity was called into question." Without hesitation, he did what was right, filled with the courage of the Lord calling him into action. So much love. Vote for Jonathan! May he win the Golden Halo.

  14. Jonathan Myrick Daniels for the Golden Halo. I found myself weeping for this young man and all the promise he lived out, even over such a short span of years. Time means nothing. What matters is what we do with what is given us.

  15. I was all set to vote for Jonathan, since I had admired his courage and selflessness since my first Lent Madness several years ago.

    Bur re0reading the post on Josephine, her determination, her devotion to others, I voted for her.

  16. Today’s was easier for me than I anticipated, but only because I inadvertently missed reading and voting during Daniel’s original matchup and I’d already voted for Josephine once so it was easy to give in to my desire to vote for Jonathan at least once.

    Plus, like many others, his connected with me. In part at least because it wasn’t long ago now that my mother and I watched the movie about Bob Zellner who also was a volunteer/leader with the SNCC during those years… so Daniel’s story was one I could readily visualize and “touch” in that way.

  17. My first time commenting. Both Josephine and Jonathan are worthy of the Golden Halo, in this match up, my vote is for Jonathan. He is a great example of a follower of Jesus, his being willing to give up his education, his past and then eventually his life to save another child of God.

  18. Such a difficult choice!
    When there are two such saints, both entirely worthy of the Golden Halo, one's vote can be swayed by the most inconsequential details.

    Call me crass and superficial (and a Scot) but this was the parenthetical note that secured my vote for Jonathan Myrick Daniels: "(He also kept a bottle of J&B scotch in a hollowed-out dictionary of the Civil War)."

  19. While I greatly admire the commitment Jonathon Myrick Daniels had to his call for Christ, and his decision to help with the civil rights movement, and ultimately his death defending a young girl against a blatant racist, I couldn’t get the story of Josephine Bakhita out of my mind. Imagine spending many years in slavery, used by people, tortured by them, her human rights ignored, and STILL believing in Christ and living a humble life with dignity. When she was finally able to become a nun, she was 27, a year older than Jonathan Daniels. She spent 50 years as a nun. She acted as a missionary to many communities near Schio, and surrounding areas in Italy. During WW II she gave hope to many in those desperate times. A minority in Italy, she was beloved by the people of Italy,
    …”Vicenzans still refer to her as Sor Moretta ("little brown sister") or Madre Moretta ("black mother.”)
    People experienced her gentleness and listened to her words of encouragement and love. In her 70+ years she gave hope to so many people that she is still revered by them, thousands visit her shrine at the Church of the Holy Family in Schio, Italy. Maybe a small woman in history, but one who made a big difference to thousands. So today she gets my vote…

    1. Donna, your words echo mine. I voted for both Jonathan and Josephine in the first round, so now I have to choose. From a global perspective, I feel Josephine’s ministry to the enslaved and tortured is sadly more than relevant in today’s world, especially when considering the horror of child slavery. Not to mention the ever increasing plight of refugees around the world. Josephine gets my vote.

  20. Toughest one yet for me, but this:

    “The Carpenter of Birmingham must not be allowed to forever deny the Carpenter of Nazareth.”

    is what swayed me.

  21. My Daughters of the King Chapter is named in honor of Josephine Bakhita. She endured torture under the threatening eyes and rod of the hateful woman that owned her. It shouldn’t be confused with ritual scarification. The woman saw a pattern on a piece of furniture and had it carved into Bakhita’s body. She suffered daily beatings for years. Upon being kidnapped, she lost the ability to speak for years. Her Arab/Muslim captors mocked her by calling her Bakhita. It means fortunate in Arabic. She and God had the last laugh because she was indeed fortunate in ways her cruel and racist captors didn’t understand. She was blessed and became a blessing to many others. Converting to Catholicism, she fell at the baptismal font and declared, “Truly, I am a daughter of the King.” She is the saint for those trafficked. Watch the movie, “The Two Suitcases.” It’s difficult to watch but powerful. Visit The Museum of the Bible in DC. Upon entering, look up and you’ll see a beautiful stained glass image of this wonderful saint.

    1. Thank you. L

      Both lifted high the cross in their own way, but what you have written has helped me to decide my vote.

  22. Ouch! So far, it appears that my namesake will not be moving on... ah, well, perhaps a few years down the road...

  23. I so vividly remember the 60s and the civil rights marches, the bravery of young men and women leaving their homes of comfort and ease to join the fight for the rights and dignity of people they didn't even know. I'm about the same age as Jonathan and while I struggled over how I could make a difference, he acted through faith to make a difference. Of course, Jonathan Myrick Daniels got my vote.

  24. Originally I planned to vote for Jonathon (and I'm sure he's going to win today) but the write-up and the quote from Pope John Paul II “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.” swayed my vote. Both of today's saint are truly worthy.

  25. Jonathan Myrick Daniels for sure!
    Could I do what he did? I doubt it, although I like to think I would - man, that was Christianity in action for sure!
    Move on up, dear Jonathan!

  26. I voted for both of these dear people in the previous round so am sad I have to chose. In the end I went with Jonathan Daniels because of his selfless act of martyrdom. The willingness to even die for what is good and true

  27. I feel like Jonathan Daniels would have wanted to vote for Josephine Bakhita. So I do it for him.

  28. I thought I knew who I was going to vote for, but as I usually do I read the comments. I changed my
    mind and voted for Jonathan Daniels. He gave up his privileged life, and ended up sacrificing himself on his quest to right the wrongs of that time in our history.