Teacher, Husband, Father, and Martyr: 1946-1990
+ Tshimangadzo Samuel Daswa was born in Mbahe, South Africa. A member of the Lemba tribe, called “Black Jews” because they followed Jewish laws and traditions, he converted to the Catholic faith in 1963, receiving the name “Benedict” at his baptism.
+ Benedict was trained as a teacher and his first assignment was in a small village school. He successfully completed his studies and training certificate via correspondence. He served his students and the broader community as both teacher and catechist, showing special care for poor families.
+ In the late 1970s, Benedict settled in Nweli. He became the school’s first principal and also helped build the village’s first church.
+ Benedict married Shadi Eveline Monyai in 1980 and the couple would go on to have eight children. He caused scandal among the local people because of his willingness to help his wife with household chores.
+ In November 1989, heavy rains caused flooding and extreme damage in the region. When storms struck again in 1990, village leaders decided that the weather was being caused by dark magic. They demanded that a traditional healer be hired to identify the witch who was responsible.
+ Benedict opposed their plans and refused to contribute his money, trying to convince the group that the weather was a natural phenomenon. He was especially worried because of their embrace of old traditions and violent attitudes. Some saw his unwillingness to support the plan as an attack on traditional beliefs and decided that Benedict should be killed.
+ On February 2, as Benedict was making his way home, he was ambushed by a group of young men and beaten to death. His final words were, “God, into your hands receive my spirit.” Blessed Benedict Daswa was beatified in 2015.
February 2 is the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord. This ancient and important feast recalls that day when the infant Jesus was presented to God in the Temple in Jerusalem on the fortieth day after his birth. Candles are traditionally blessed on this day, recalling that this infant is the “light of revelation to the Gentiles” and “the glory of Israel” (Luke 2:32). Today is also the World Day for Consecrated Life, a time set aside each year to pray for and give thanks for priests, brothers, monks, nuns, and sisters who serve the Church in religious life.
“Benedict Daswa was really an ordinary man and we are not celebrating him for national achievement, but he was a man of great faith. And that is the wonderful thing… he was one of us but deeply committed to Jesus Christ, deeply committed in his family life, in his work life, in his community life”—Bishop Jaoa Noe Rodriguez of Tzaneen, South Africa
Almighty and merciful God, who brought your Martyr blessed Benedict to overcome the torments of his passion, grant that we, who celebrate the day of his triumph, may remain invincible under your protection against the snares of the enemy. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
(from The Roman Missal: Common of Martyrs)