Reflect on the topic of each day and then pray the following Novena Prayer:
O Blessed Trinity,
I believe that you dwell in me through my baptism.
I love You, I adore You and I worship You.
I give you thanks for Blessed Benedict,
Whom you chose to bear witness unto death for his faith
In Jesus Christ, my Saviour and my Lord.
Almighty Father, you filled the heart of Blessed Benedict,
With great love and zeal in building up your kingdom.
You gave him the courage and the strength to stand up for his faith without fear, even the fear of death.
Loving God, keep me free from all deeds of darkness.
Protect me from evil spirits and the powers of evil.
Make me a true apostle of life in my family and in society.
May your light, O Lord, shine upon me and through me.
Lord Jesus, through the intercession of Blessed Benedict,
I ask that I may follow his example of always being ready to forgive in a Christian spirit. You know all about my many problems and worries
and my great fears when I look to the future. I draw strength and courage from the life of Blessed Benedict.
I come to you now, Lord, and through his intercession
I ask for this very special favour….. ( mention the need you wish God to answer)…. if it is according to your will.
Help me always to follow the good example of Blessed Benedict.
By daily prayer and regular attendance at Church,
Help me to love You, O Lord, above all things and to love others as you love me. Amen.
DAY 1 BAPTISED IN CHRIST
The eldest of five children, Tshimangadzo Samuel Benedict Daswa was born on 16 June 1946, in the village of Mbahe near Thohoyandou. Growing up in the African Traditional Religion, he belonged to the Bakali clan of the Lemba tribe, who regard themselves as descendants of the Jews. They live mainly among the Venda tribe but are also found among the Northern Sotho and Tsonga tribes in the Province of
Limpopo, South Africa. As a high school student Tshimangadzo took instruction in the Catholic faith from his catechist, the late Father Benedict Risimati. He was greatly influenced by this man of deep faith and as a result chose Benedict for his baptismal name. He made his own the motto of St Benedict, “Pray and Work”, which inspired his
whole life as a Christian. On 21 April 1963 he was baptised by Father Augustine O’Brien MSC and received his First Holy Communion. Three months later he was confirmed by Rt Rev Abbot/Bishop F C Van Hoeck OSB, Bishop of Pietersburg Diocese. After completing High School, Benedict trained as a Primary School teacher.
DAY 2 A MAN OF WORK
True to his motto, “Pray and Work”, Benedict believed in honest, hard work as a way of glorifying God and helping people in the community. As Principal of Nweli Primary school, Benedict was wholly dedicated to the work of education. One day a teacher tried to skip his lesson preparation for the following week by going to the bank in Sibasa
to withdraw his salary. On noticing his absence, Benedict got in his car, chased after him, stopped the taxi and made the teacher return with him to school to complete his preparation. That done, Benedict then drove the teacher to the bank. In his relationship with his learners, Benedict was always motivated by love. He encouraged them to be diligent, independent and self-reliant. Those unable to pay school fees were invited to work in his garden to earn their school fees. Benedict would visit the families of absentees to find out the reason and to see if he could offer help. With his own children, he worked in his vegetable garden and planted trees – something quite unusual for school teachers, headmasters, or educated people in general.
Benedict exercised good stewardship by using his money wisely and well. He was the first in his village to build a brick house with savings from his salary and from selling vegetables and fruit from his garden and orchard. Through careful budgeting, he purchased a car, TV set and telephone, but because of envy, some people suspected him of making use of zombies (corpses supposedly brought back to life by witchcraft).
DAY 3 A TRUE FAMILY MAN
In 1980, Benedict married Shadi Eveline Monyai, a Lutheran who was then received into full communion with the Catholic Church. They had eight children, the last being born four months after his death. Benedict believed that helping his wife with the children and doing household chores were part of his marriage commitment. He told
people, “You should assist your wife with her household chores”, and taught his children to help in the home. He also trained them to work hard, both at school and in his orchard. The family prayed together each evening. This family prayer time, which included the reading of Scripture as well as family prayer, was a true “domestic Church”. As family, they always attended the Sunday liturgical celebrations. Benedict instituted the “Daswa Day” around the Feast of Christmas. The family and all their close relatives used to spend the day together during which as Christmas gifts, each child received useful school materials for the coming year.
DAY 4 A MAN COMMITTED TO THE COMMUNITY
Benedict was highly respected in the community. He was a natural leader and a confidant of the headman who chose him as the secretary of his council. Always guided by his Christian principles, Benedict was never afraid to speak his mind. He was greatly respected for his honesty and integrity as also for his truthfulness and humility. On one
occasion, falsely accused of using school funds to build his house, Benedict’s innocence and good stewardship were upheld after the headman had ordered an enquiry. As Benedict believed strongly in character formation through sporting activities for young people, he started soccer clubs for the youth. He wanted them to be busy,
disciplined, and off the streets. During a drought in the Venda area in the eighties, Benedict used his contacts and persuasive skills to obtain food supplies for the children in his school.
DAY 5 A MAN COMMITTED TO THE CHURCH
As a voluntary catechist, Benedict Daswa helped to build up the Church community, especially by preparing people for baptism. He was a member of the Parish Pastoral Council and was always regular at the meetings. He led the Sunday Service when a priest or a pastoral worker was not available and was very involved in youth ministry,encouraging the young people to live good, productive lives and to be proud of their
faith. Benedict promised his wife that he would start building their house as soon as the new Church of Nweli was finished. This task of building the first Catholic Church in the area was a project so dear to his heart that he not only helped the priest with his own car to
transport the building material for it, but worked tirelessly on it and encouraged others to do likewise. After its completion, true to his promise, he started building his own house.
DAY 6 A MAN OF PRAYER AND CHARITY TO THE END
People who knew Benedict well observed that he was a prayerful person in his daily life, in his family, and in the Church. He had a deep personal relationship with Christ and was guided and strengthened by his faith in every aspect of life. He had special love and concern for the sick, the vulnerable and those in prison and liked to visit them.
He gave freely of his resources to help the poor and the needy in his village, as well the learners in Nweli Primary school. In the afternoon of 2 February 1990, as Benedict was working in his orchard, his sisterin-
law urgently requested him to take her very sick child to the doctor at Makwarela (Sibasa). Before he started his car, he said to her, “Let us first pray”. On his way back to Mbahe, he gave a lift home to a man living in a neighbouring village. The man was carrying a bag of mealie-meal and was unable to get public transport because of unrest
in the area.
DAY 7 A COURAGEOUS WITNESS TO THE TRUTH
On 25 January 1990 during a heavy thunderstorm, several lightning strikes burned a number of thatched rondavels (round huts) in the area. Traditionally when this happens it is not seen as a natural phenomenon, but as the work of a supposed witch. The headman gathered his council and the community to discuss the matter, with the aim of finding out who was responsible. They agreed that a traditional healer be consulted to “sniff out” (identify) the person who was responsible for these burnings. A contribution of R5 per person was agreed on to pay the person. Benedict arrived late at the meeting after this decision had been taken. His explanation that lightning was a natural phenomenon was rejected. He argued strongly against
blaming witches for causing lightning strikes. When the decision was upheld, Benedict refused to pay the contribution, arguing that his Catholic faith prevented him from taking part in anything connected with witchcraft.
DAY 8 A TRUE APOSTLE OF LIFE
After his strong stand against witchcraft at the community meeting on Sunday, 28 January 1990, people started grumbling and said, “He is the one who is influencing people, as he is a leader. Why does he refuse to burn witches? He does not agree with our way”. Many saw him as belittling their traditional beliefs and practices, and as a stumbling
block in the community because of his consistent stance against witchcraft. Because Benedict, as a true disciple of Jesus Christ, was standing firm in his Catholic faith, some people said, “We had better kill him!” They therefore conspired to get rid of him.
DAY 9 A TRUE WITNESS OF FAITH
On 2 February 1990, after dropping home the man with the bag of mealie-meal, Benedict found his way blocked by tree logs across the road. When he got out of the car to remove them, a mob of young boys and men came from behind the bushes and began throwing large stones at him. Bleeding and injured, he left the car and ran across
a soccer field hoping for assistance from a nearby Shebeen (a place where alcoholic drink is sold illegally). Seeing an open door at the rondavel kitchen he ran straight in to hide and save his life.
The mob who quickly chased after him, asked the woman there where Benedict was hiding, threatening to kill her if she did not tell them. Pointing to where Benedict washiding, she pleaded, “Don’t kill me. He is inside”. Two of the mob entered and pulled Benedict out. Hugging one of them, Benedict pleaded, “Please, spare my life!” The youth responded, “OK. Let me go, we’re not going to kill you.” Believing him, Benedict went out. As the mob had now surrounded the rondavel, Benedict could not escape, so seeing one of them coming with a knobkerrie, he knelt and prayed. Things then moved very quickly. The man hit Benedict on the head with his knobkerrie, crushing his skull.
Benedict fell to the ground. Boiling water was then poured over his head, ears, nostrils and other injuries.
The burial Mass was concelebrated on 10 February 1990. At it all the priests wore red vestments because they believed that Benedict had died for his faith. It was his stance against witchcraft which had brought about Benedict’s death.
Please send all information regarding graces and favours received through the intercession of Blessed Tshimangadzo Samuel Benedict Daswa to:
Diocese of Tzaneen, Cause of Benedict Daswa,
P.O.Box 261, Tzaneen 0850, RSA.