June 18: Bernard Mizeki, Catechist and Martyr in Mashonaland, 1896

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About this commemoration

Bernard Mizeki


Bernard Mizeki was born about the year 1861 in Portuguese East Africa (Mozambique). In his early teens he escaped from his native land and arrived in Capetown, South Africa, where he was befriended and converted by Anglican missionaries. He was baptized on March 9, 1886.

In 1891 Bernard Mizeki volunteered as a catechist for the pioneer mission in Mashonaland, and was stationed at Nhowe. In June, 1896, during an uprising of the native people against the Europeans and their African friends, Bernard was marked out especially. Though warned to flee, he would not desert his converts at the mission station. He was stabbed to death, but his body was never found, and the exact site of his burial is unknown.

A shrine near Bernard’s place of martyrdom attracts many pilgrims today, and the Anglican Churches of Central and of South Africa honor him as their primary native martyr and witness.


I  Almighty and everlasting God, who didst enkindle the flame of thy love in the heart of thy holy martyr Bernard Mizeki: Grant to us, thy humble servants, a like faith and power of love, that we who rejoice in his triumph may profit by his example; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

II  Almighty and everlasting God, who kindled the flame of your love in the heart of your holy martyr Bernard Mizeki: Grant to us, your humble servants, a like faith and power of love, that we who rejoice in his triumph may profit by his example; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

Psalm  124


Nehemiah 6:6–11

Revelation 7:13–17

Luke 12:2–12

Preface of Holy Week

From Holy, Women, Holy Men: Celebrating the Saints © 2010 by The Church Pension Fund. Used by permission.


16 thoughts on “June 18: Bernard Mizeki, Catechist and Martyr in Mashonaland, 1896

  1. Bio: He needs a ‘Who he is’ and ‘Why he is important’ statement. And, he needs a ‘He died in 1896’ statement.

    This bio seems too short. Isn’t there more than can be said about this martyr?

  2. First paragraph: Did he “escape” Mozambique or merely move? Other online sources only talk of his moving to find work, however Mozambique at that time practiced “forced labor,” which was tantamount to slavery, so perhaps “escape” is correct.

    Second paragraph: After “Mashonaland” insert “a region of Southern Rhodesia (Zimbabwe)”.

    • Yes. This bio is not the place for exhaustive geographical histories, but the list of regional names during the colonial period in this part of Africa is long and confusing. I would suggest just “Mashonaland (a region in what is now northern Zimbabwe).”

      Let’s say “the Anglican Churches of Central and Southern Africa,” “South Africa” is a nation. “The Anglican Church of Southern Africa” is now the name of the Church that includes primarily South Africa but also several other nations.

    • I am not aware that any of the commemorations already in the Calendar are being considered for deletion.
      The purpose of the blog this year, as I have understood it, (July 2010 – June 2011) has been to comment on the Titles, Collects, Readings, Prefaces, and Biographies of commemorations already in the Calandar and those authorized by General Convention 2009 for Trial Use. As most all of the aforementioned commemorations had added readings to bring their number up to four (including the Psalm), nearly every commemoration has had some ‘tinkering’ by action of General Convention 2009.

      And, the task has been fun, in my opinion. I shall be sad to bid adieu to all when the Feast of Saint Irenaeus closes us out at the end of the month.

  3. I find it encouraging and gratifying to find commemorations of baptized Christians who are not necessarily “doing” their Christian faith simply because it is “their job.” (That’s not meant as a slam against those who work within the structures of the church proper — but as an affirmation that it does me good to see the example of those who are living out their baptismal vows in contexts of the workplace, the family, the community — and the pews, too.) Mizeki is one who found a way to be highly active as part of the church’s work of catechesis, and yet was doing it as a baptized believer rather than specifically as an ordained or degreed professional. I’m grateful for this commemoration. I find it touching, uplifting, it carries a great deal of pathos (because many of those same conditions continue to exist in many places) so it stretches my empathy for others. Michael’s observation is correct that the narrative is short, and if more is available it might improve our “take-away.” However, if more is NOT available, the commemoration is worth retaining despite its brevity.

    The collect is in good form, but still raises two questions for me. Referring to myself as “humble” as I pray it, seems ironically boastful, pretentious and dissimulating before a God who really knows! (“Grant to us, your humble servants….”) It feels a little like praying, “Grant to us your idealy handsome servants,” or “Grant to us your incredibly perspicacious servants….” Do we really want to pray this “humble” boast while balancing precariously on our own pedistals?

    Secondly, the “so that” clause seems to take something that was self sacrificing and utterly devoted to God (i.e., faith and love) and (at least in the way it is worded) turnsit in a self-absorbed direction (” …a like faith and power of love, that we who rejoice in his triumph may profit by his example.”) “Profiting” is not exclusively selfish, I realize, but is there ANY chance of bending it back into wording that affirms faithfulness to God, or purity of heart, or dedication to the only one in whose hands we place our very lives, in faith? The present wording reminds me of Acts 8:18-19, where Simon offers to buy the power to bestow the Holy Spirit, and gets condemned for his efforts at commodifying God, profiting from an impulse to manipulate and profane something sacred. I’d love to see that part of the collect freed from its self-interested nuance.

    Finally, for the blog gurus, — this box in which I’m typing alternates in size with every other keystroke from big enough to tiny and too small to hold the text. Literally, half the time I can’t see the line I’m typing because the box changes size with every keystroke. It’s disgusting, annoying, and offensive, not to mention inefficient and distracting. (And did I mention I’m not fond of it?) A second problem is the buttons for “Guest,” and “Log in” (in 3 paces, one with a t, another a head and sholders silhouette, and one with a W) refuse to leave the typing area, so that I can’t read (or edit) mistakes that I might have typed behind those visual obstructions. Somebody needs to bring this blog back into the range of “normal” quality.

    • Blog Guru, part 2 — Since our role here will end in about 10 days, it probably doesn’t matter if “fixes” are made here. But blogging logistics continue elsewhere. I should mention that length of entry matters — the symptoms I described don’t crop up until the entry forces the typing box to expand. So long as the typing remains brief enough to fit within the space allowed in the initial sized box, no problems appear. Good luck! Thanks for the opportunities here!

      • Thank you. I hope some good comes from it. And, thank you (and the other “keepers of the blog” over the months) for making it possible to take part. I’ll second Cynthia’s message, below.

  4. I will miss this group, and wish I had been aware of the opportunity earlier. I’ve learnd a lot from you all. Thanks.

  5. Something is wrong with the system. It has frozen my computer twice and I lost both messages. Now I will keep it short.
    1. Please put in current names for locations since most of us have to look these places up on a map or globe.
    2. Though I have complained about legend in biographies a lot this year, I wonder if the “legend” of Bernard
    Mizeki should be mentioned. After Mr. Mizecki was speared outside his hut/cottage, he crawled to the woods.
    Those that went looking for him or his body, saw a great light and heard a great wind. His body was not found.
    3. The current events in the Anglican Province of Southern Africa is sad. The Diocese is divided and “rebel”
    bishop has control of the Mizeki pilgrimage site. The original diocese has to meet at a fairgrounds some
    distance from the traditional pilgrimage site.

    As an aside, I joined this group almost a year ago now. I know I have learned much this year and I will miss
    the discussions.

  6. Let’s not lose this witness of faithfulness, even unto death. The Anglicans in Tanzania
    look to this man as an ikon as they struggle with oppression under Mugabe !

  7. Line 3, first paragraph: substitute “Cape Town” for “Capetown”.

    Line 2, second paragraph: substitute “on June 18” for “in”.

    Line 2, second paragraph: add “(now part of Zimbabwe)”.

  8. Bernard Mizeki is an inspirational figure to Zimbabwean and other Christians. He is a saint by popular acclamation, and his shrine is a focus of Anglican devotion.
    Today we honoured him in church placing a copy of the Lenz icon in church after a Mass of Bernard Mizeki.

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