Blessed Benedict Daswa, layman, family man... martyr

The beatification of Tshimangadzo Samuel Benedict Daswa was indeed a historical event. 

On Saturday evening arriving from Manzini (Swaziland) to the lodge where the bishops would stay I asked Bishop Joao Rodrigues (Bishop of Tzaneen) how many people he expected to be there on Sunday. He honestly replied: "We do not know". This was not Pretoria or Johannesburg. This was Thohoyandou in Limpopo Province. It was far. The journey to the place of the beatification included a few kilometres on a dirt road. 

While we were close to the place I read on Whatsapp there was a 7 km traffic jam to the venue. That gave us already a clue of the response of the people.

The South African media spoke of 30.000 people. It was a joyful prayerful crowd who had travelled from all over South Africa and even the neighbouring countries (including of course our Diocese of Manzini). Many had arrived the evening before and spent the night at the venue. Others travelled overnight and arrived in the morning.

Pope Francis "joined us" from Rome. At the end of the prayer of the "angelus" he said (reported by
"Dear brothers and sisters,
Today in South Africa is proclaimed Blessed Samuel Benedict Daswa, a father of a family, killed in 1990 - almost 25 years ago - and was killed for his fidelity to the Gospel.
In his life, he always showed consistency, courageously taking on Christian attitudes and refusing worldly and pagan customs.

May his witness especially help families to spread the truth and charity of Christ, and may his witness, united with the witness of so many of our brothers and sisters - youth, elderly, boys and girls, children - all persecuted, kicked out, and killed for announcing Jesus Christ.

To all these martyrs, to Samuel Benedict Daswa and to all of them, let us thank them for their witness and we ask that they intercede for us."
    Pope Francis Apostolic Letter declaring
    Tshimangadzo Samuel Benedict Daswa
Many would have a long journey back at the end of the celebration but there was a deep sense of joy and excitement at having been part of such a special event in the life of our family, the Catholic Church in Southern Africa.

These are some of the things priests, religious sisters and lay people shared on the way back:
  • "the one line I like from the homily was that Benedict Daswa loved life for his family and his neighbours and died for that", 
  • "the homily was good. Blessed Benedict Daswa was all in one. As family fathers, we need to emulate him. I also liked his involvement in the church"; 
  • "God has chosen a simple soul from dusty Venda to be the first Blessed in Southern Africa. Praised be Jesus Christ. Blessed Benedict Daswa, pray for us sinners"
  • As we return from the beatification one thing stands out for me: a layman, African, not from the big metros, a family person - truly an apostle for truth and life. It is a good start for Southern Africa. Sainthood / blessedhood had been associated with priests and religious..."
  • "I am glad I was part of it. It kind of felt very close to my heart simply because he is someone who lived not so long ago and was able to see his family. It changed the whole concept of sainthood. We live among them".
True. Many times the saints we know and invoke to journey with us are people who lived many years' ago in other continents.

It was already very special for us the day when John Paul II was beatified. We had known and seen him not only on TV but among us. He visited Swaziland in 1988 and South Africa in 1995. 

This time was completely different. Daswa was a lay person, a family man. Not a bishop, a priest or a religious. Not born far away but among us. Not long ago either. His mother, who is 91 years' old, was present at the beatification Mass.

Together with all the others blessed and saints all over the world Blessed Daswa took his faith seriously "even to the shedding of his blood" as Pope Francis wrote naming him blessed. 

Blessed and saints are not for the past but today's companions in our journey of faith. We pray and hope that following this celebration we will come to know him better and better and also ask him to intercede for us daily.

May it also be an opportunity to remember those who walked before us in our own land led by their faith and helping others to do the same; those who might not have been called to be martyrs but certainly like Blessed Daswa took their faith seriously. May their memory be kept alive and their friendship and intercession sustain us in our journey.


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Bishop of the Diocese of Manzini (Swaziland)

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