St. Benedict The African
St. Benedict the Black
Benedict’s parents were brought from Africa as slaves to Sicily. He was born a slave but was set free in his youth. His temperament was refined and cheerful, despite the racial slurs he suffered from his neighbors. He eventually gave all his possessions to the poor and became a hermit near Palermo, following the rule of Saint Francis.
When Benedict was forty years old, Pius IV decreed that all such hermits should become members of the Franciscan Order. Benedict entered a friary in Palermo as a lay brother. The friars there appointed him as their superior because of his outstanding virtue, even though he was not a priest. As superior he introduced a stricter observance of the Franciscan Rule and was venerated by all his brethren. He asked to be allowed to return to the kitchen when his term as superior ended. People began coming to see him from all over Sicily for spiritual direction. He became famous for his care for the sick and the hungry.
He died after a severe illness, at the hour he had foretold. Years after his death, when his body was exhumed it was found incorrupt. His veneration spread throughout Italy, to Spain and Portugal, and even to Latin America.
His feast day is April 4th.