On Saturday the 1st of February 2020 thousands of the faithful gathered at the Benedict Daswa Shrine Site in Tshitanini, Venda to witness the 30-year celebration of the martyrdom of Blessed Benedict Daswa.
His Eminence Cardinal Wilfrid Napier was the main celebrant, assisted by Bishop Joao Rodrigues and Bishop Emeritus Hugh Slattery of Tzaneen. The Cardinal based his homily on the gospel of the day: 'unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies it remains itself alone, but it if dies it produces many more seeds like itself'.
The Cardinal said the readings chosen for this 30th anniversary of Daswa’s martyrdom were a reminder of how God wants the faithful to understand what happened to Blessed Daswa. He said when the community wanted to raise money to pay a diviner to ‘smell out’ who was responsible for a lightning strike, there were three things that made Daswa react differently. One, he knew that lightning could not be controlled by a human being. Two, he knew that an innocent person was going to be killed. Thirdly, as a Christian, especially as a Catholic, he knew it was wrong to believe in witchcraft, and even worse to practice it.
The Cardinal then referred to the Catholic Bishops' meeting with President Cyril Ramaphosa, where the president told them how privileged he had felt to be part of the Beatification of Blessed Benedict Daswa in September 2015. Audio
Cardinal Napier concluded by saying that like the grain of wheat that has fallen to the ground and died, the fruits of Blessed Benedict Daswa will continue to be realised for a long time to come.
Blessed Benedict Daswa was officially named the country’s first Catholic martyr at his beatification in September 2015 which was witnessed by more than 20 000 people. The beatification moved him a step closer to sainthood. One of the priests at his beatification mentioned that as he was killed Daswa was on his knees praying. Blessed Benedict Daswa remains the first martyr who stood up against witchcraft. He stands out as an example and model for a way of life for all Christians.
Blessed Benedict Daswa was born in 1946 in Mbahe Village near Thohoyandou in Limpopo. He started his way of faith in the Catholic Church as a teenager, and proceeded to become an educator and later a school principal in Nweli. He was married to Evelyn Munyai and together they were blessed with 8 children. He led a very active life in the community and in the church. As an active member of the community, he later formed a soccer team to keep young people around the community out of crime.
Benedict Daswa was a strong believer in Christ and stood against all acts of witchcraft in the community, he believed was a way of enslaving the people and often led to the killing of innocent people as witches, he saw witchcraft as going against his Christian beliefs and values.
In November 1989, heavy rains and lightning strikes plagued the area. When his village suffered strong storms again in January 1990, the elders of the village decided that the lightning occurred due to witchcraft and therefore demanded a sum of R5,00 from all their residents to pay for a witch doctor to "sniff out" the witch who caused the storms. Refusing to believe this, Daswa said they were just a natural phenomenon and refused to pay the money, which led to his untimely death.
On the 2nd of February 1990, Daswa drove his sister-in-law and her sick child to a doctor in Thohoyandou and on the way he picked up a man who asked for his help to take a bag of mealie meal to his home in a town next to Mbahe. At around 7:30pm, he returned to Mbahe where he left his sister-in-law and child near their home. Returning home he met with a mob of people from the village who blocked his route with trees and stones. while he was attempting to clear his route, the villagers chased him and after catching up with him, he was hit with a knobkerrie, and boiling water was poured over his head.
This week we celebrate the 52nd Anniversary of Fr Emil Blaser OP's ordination.
We congratulate him and thank him for his years of dedicated service to the Lord, and the people of South Africa.
O Jesus, our great High Priest, Hear our humble prayers on behalf of your priest, Father Emil. Give him a deep faith, a bright and firm hope and a burning love which will ever increase in the course of his priestly life.
In his loneliness, comfort him. In his sorrows, strengthen him. In his frustrations, point out to him that it is through suffering that the soul is purified, and show him that he is needed by the Church, he is needed by souls, he is needed for the work of redemption.
O loving Mother Mary, Mother of Priests, take to your heart your son who is close to you because of his priestly ordination, and because of the power which he has received to carry on the work of Christ in a world which needs him so much.
Be his comfort, be his joy, be his strength.
RADIO Veritas recently celebrated its 20th birthday with a live transmission from its studios of a Mass celebrated by the Apostolic Nuncio, followed by a braai at St Benedict's College in Bedfordview, Johannesburg.
At the celebration, station director Fr Emil Blaser OP was presented with a special blessing from Pope Francis for the by Archbishop Peter Wells, the Nuncio.
In his annual director's report, Fr Blaser outlined the troubles in the world and in South Africa, and even within the Church which has seen ongoing scandals and "an unprecedented disrespect towards our Holy Father by a small group of right-wing Catholics".
In that context, Radio Veritas is a beacon of hope.
“We broadcast to people living in the world I have described and I know from feedback that we give people hope and joy through the programmes we broadcast," Fr Emil said.
"Our mission is to counter the bad news in the world with the good news of Jesus Christ."
Fr Blaser called on the Catholic community to spread the word about Radio Veritas, which he estimated to have 100000 listeners, locally and abroad.
"Yet there are pockets of people who have still not heard of Radio Veritas," he said. "Some parishes have closed their doors to us for whatever reason."
With monthly expenses of R500000, Fr Blaser noted, "we are really living from hand to mouth".
He said that Radio Veritas needs to increase income "so that we can deliver a quality product and inspiring programmes". in September 2020, Radio Veritas will host a pilgrimage to the Holy Land led by Bishop Duncan Tsoke, auxiliary in Johan nesburg, to help raise funds.
Fr Blaser pointed out that in the past year Radio Veritas had lost five staff members. At present, the full-time staff numbers eight, complemented by 15 volunteers. He made particular mention of the contributions by station manager Khanya Litabe, Tiiso Musoeu and Sheila Pires. He lauded the latter "for her excellent programmes which are regularly broadcast on Vatican Radio. She has truly put us on the international stage."
Fr Blaser also thanked Archbishop William Slattery, recently retired head of Pretoria archdiocese, "who in the midst of his busy schedule presents a weekly hour- and-a-half programme", and the priests who help us with programmes and the celebration of Daily Mass".
He also made mention of the excellent cooperation between The Southern Cross and Radio Veritas. Fr Blaser and his long-time programme director Olinda Orlando have both suffered health problems, and he thanked "all of you who have been praying for us and showing us your love and concern."
(Article courtesy of The Southern Cross)