Benedict the African, Confessor


Benedict was born to freed African slaves in 1526 on the island of Sicily.  Though poor and illiterate, he worked for meager wages until he could by a pair of oxen with which he could work the soil.  As a young man, he joined a group hermits.  When the bishop of Rome ordered all hermits to attach themselves to a religious community, Benedict joined the Franciscan order.  He served as a cook in the friary.  Because he was a confessor (one who heard confessions of sin and granted absolution) who dealt with people in a humble and patient manner, he was named as the Superior of the community.  After his term, he returned to the friary kitchen.  He is a patron saint of African Americans; remembered for his patience and understanding when confronted with racial prejudice and taunts.

He died on April 4, 1589.

Benedict practiced what Martin Luther called the “mutual conversation and consolation of brothers and sisters.”  This may have been based on a monastic practice of mutual confession and absolution given by a neighbor or friend.

In the Smalcald articles, Martin Luther wrote in 1537 concerning the gospel in article 4.

“The gospel gives guidance and help against sin, “first, through the spoken word, in which the forgiveness of sins is preached to the whole world; second, through baptism, through the holy sacrament of the altar; fourth, through the power of the keys and also through the mutual conversation and consolation of brothers and sisters.”  Luther cites Matthew 18 “where two or three are gathered…

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