Saint Benedict the Black, 1526-1589
Benedict’s parents became Christians after they were brought from Africa to Sicily as slaves. Benedict was a slave until he was eighteen years old. Benedict was given his freedom at age eighteen, but he still worked in the fields for his former master. A hermit named Lanzi told those who mocked Benedict that they would hear great things of Benedict.
Lanzi invited Benedict to join the group of hermits. Benedict decided to sell what little he had and give the money to the poor. Then he joined the group. Later Benedict joined a friary and was given the role of cook.
Benedict’s convent wanted to make changes to follow the Franciscan ideal more closely. Benedict was chosen as the one to oversee the reforms. Benedict was not happy with this new role. He could not read or write and was not even a priest, but he chose to obey. Benedict led wisely.
In the end, Benedict wanted only to return to the kitchen. He spent the rest of his days cooking for his brothers and sharing the love of Christ. Many people came to the kitchen to meet with Benedict. The holy man listened and responded to the poor and the sick. Benedict died at the friary. Upon his death, King Philip III of Spain paid for a special tomb for the simple friar. Known as Saint Benedict the Black, he is the patron of African Americans in the United States.
Discuss: Why do you think Saint Benedict wanted to return to the kitchen?
When Saint Benedict was allowed to return to his duties in the kitchen at the friary, one of his most important ministries was listening. Lead a discussion about the importance of listening. Ask the young people to describe how they feel when someone listens to them.