Benedict was a slave, but he always knew that his only true master was Jesus. Benedict’s parents were taken from their home in Africa and sold into slavery in Messina, Italy. Benedict was given his freedom when he was eighteen.
He worked as a farmer until he had saved enough to buy a pair of oxen. They were the first things he had ever owned. In time, Benedict joined a group of hermits, prayerful men who lived quiet lives devoted to God. They followed the teachings of St. Francis and were called friars. Benedict worked in the friary kitchen.
Benedict was chosen to train the young men who joined the order. Then he was chosen to be the guardian, or superior, of the friars. He had never wanted to be a leader, but he responded to his new role by being a cheerful and humble leader who inspired others to grow in their love for Jesus and service to others. When his term ended, Benedict happily returned to his work in the kitchen.
People in Sicily came to the friary to seek Benedict’s advice and to ask for his prayers. He became so beloved that when he died in 1589, the King of Spain paid for a special tomb to be built for him.
Benedict truly imitated Jesus who “did not come to be served but to serve” (Matthew 20:28). Like St. Benedict the Black, we can find ways to serve others.