While cleaning out my room recently, I came across an essay I wrote in sixth grade!
The sixth grade students of my school participated in a Diocesan wide essay contest. Each student was asked to research a saint or prominent Catholic of African ancestry and compare the person’s values with someone we knew.
Below is my article. I’ll explain why I’m sharing it with you at the end of the post.
St. Benedict the Holy Moor
St. Benedict the Moor was a Negro, and was born in Messina, Italy in 1526. His parents, Christopher and Diana Manasseri, were Christian slaves who worked on a farm in Sicily. Since their master was a good man, he promised them that their first child would be set free when he/she reached eighteen. Their first child was Benedict, which means “Blessed”. When he reached eighteen years of age, Benedict was granted his freedom. As a free man he bought a team of oxen and hired himself as a plowman. Benedict spent three years behind the plow walking the furrow. Most of his pay was given to his parents. Some of the money was given to the needy keeping almost nothing for himself.
Everyone liked his cheerfulness, generosity, and humility. In fact, some started calling him the “Holy Moor”. Many others were disturbed by this man because he was a Negro, and people did not like the Negroes. One day Benedict was seen on the road. A circle was formed around Benedict and people started whipping him. Even though Benedict was bigger and stronger, he would not fight back, for he was a follower of Christ. He could not let his anger out, instead he would stand there and take it. Someone had been watching this episode. It was Jerome, a Holy Hermit. He told people that one day this man will become famous. The whipping then stopped. Then Jerome told Benedict to sell everything and live in the hermitage with the hermits. He accepted and did as Jerome said.
Jerome Lanza was the leader of the hermits. When he died, the other hermits chose Benedict to be their leader. In 1562 Pope Pius IV ordered a new decree for the hermits. They were to enter the regular orders. Benedict then entered the Franciscan Monastery near Palermo. His first assignment was to be a cook, and he was very good at it. When it was time to select a new Superior, Benedict had been chosen. He set a good example for the other brothers because he was hard-working. Benedict was Superior for three years, then became assistant to the new Superior for another three. After that he became a cook again.
At the age of 63 he became severely ill. While he was humble as ever he begged the other brothers to forgive him for all of the faults he had committed. His last words were those of Our Lord himself, “Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit.” He was beatified in 1743 and canonized in 1807. St. Benedict the Moor is the patron of blacks in the United States.
St. Benedict was a man full of cheer, generosity, and humility. My grandmother and grandfather both have qualities like St. Benedict. They are always happy and cheerful. If anyone ever needs help with something or is having trouble they would help in a heartbeat. Both of them are very humble also. They never think they are better than anyone, and they treat everyone equally. My grandfather prays a lot. He takes the time to say the rosary every day and to say other prayers. Most of my family members have these virtues, but my grandma and grandpa stand out the most.
When I discovered this essay, God revealed several meaningful connections:
- I was trying to figure out a schedule for future posts. I knew I wanted to share the essay, so I looked up St. Benedict the Moor’s feast day. I discovered it’s today, April 4th. This just happened to be one of the dates I was trying to schedule. It was the perfect fit!
- As many of you know, my Grandpa passed away in February. It’s interesting to read what I wrote about him twenty years ago because it’s similar to my recent post — My Grandpa: a Devoted Child of God and the Blessed Mother. It’s comforting to know that I recognized his virtues at such a young age.
- Side note: I was referring to my maternal grandmother in the article. My paternal grandmother passed away two years earlier; and since I wrote in the present tense, it seems I was referring to my grandmother who was alive at the time. My paternal grandmother also possessed many virtues. I’m grateful for my holy grandparents!
- It’s interesting that I chose a saint named Benedict. The name has significance in my life now, but it didn’t when I wrote the essay. I’m curious how I decided upon this saint since other African saints are more widely recognized, e.g. St. Monica, St. Augustine, St. Felicity, St. Perpetua.
God works in mysterious ways…
St. Benedict the Moor, pray for us!
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.