Born near Messina, on the Italian island of Sicily, Benedict was the son of African slaves who, as their eldest son, was given his freedom. Growing up, he was nicknamed “il moro sante” (“the holy Moor”) for his piety and good works. He became a hermit and then the community’s superior; but, after the pope ordered them to disband in 1562, Benedict became a Franciscan lay brother. He served as cook, but drew many visitors and supplicants with his reputation for holiness and miracles. Despite his illiteracy, Benedict was chosen as superior and also as novice master, before being allowed to return to his kitchen refuge. He is a patron saint of Palermo, Sicily, and of blacks in the United States.