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The Catholic Defender: Saint Isidore of Seville

Isidore was literally born into a family of saints in sixth century Spain. Two of his brothers, Leander and Fulgentius, and one of his sisters, Florentina, are revered as saints in Spain. It was also a family of leaders and strong minds with Leander and Fulgentius serving as bishops and Florentina as abbess.

St. Isidore is patron saint of farmers—he lived as a poor and faithful workman in Spain in the 12th century.

He was born in Madrid to a poor family who named him after the great scholar-saint Isidore of Seville. They were not able to provide education for their son, but they raised him with a firm faith and a strong devotion to prayer. As soon as he was old enough to work, Isidore was hired to a wealthy man from Madrid and he worked the rest of his life on the man’s estate outside of the city. He married a poor girl, Maria, and they bore one son.

Isidore’s devotion stretched into adulthood—he rose early every day to attend Mass, and he would commune with God in prayer during his labors throughout the day. He was generous to other poor people, often giving them what food he had and settling for their scraps.

St. Isidore the Farmer (1070-1130) is considered the patron saint of farmers and rural communities. (He is not to be confused with another Spanish saint, St.

The most famous miracle of Saint Isidro is the miracle of the pot. This story tells that Isidro, after a hard work day, went back home to get together with his wife María de la Cabeza and his only child Illán. When he arrived we found his wife crying, totally devastated.

People shouldn't expect you to be just like someone else. God made us each different! Saint Isidore felt the same way you do. He was born into a family of saints—or at least into a family everyone in Spain considered to be saintly.

Miracles were attributed to his prayer—on one occasion, he showed up late to a gathering with a small crowd of beggars. The hosts had saved enough food for him, but could not feed the others. Isidore was confident that there would be enough, and when all were seated and served, there was plenty.

Isidore is also known for a love of animals. During one winter, he was carrying a sack of corn to the mill to be ground to flour. Noticing all the hungry birds around him, he opened the sack and poured half of it on the ground for them. He was ridiculed for the waste, but when he reached the mill, the sack produced double the normal amount of flour.

Isidore realized that if he kept working at his studies, his seemingly small efforts would eventually pay off in great learning. He also may have hoped that his efforts would also wear down the rock of his brother's heart.

The 76 years of Isidore’s life were a time of conflict and growth for the Church in Spain. The Visigoths had invaded the land a century and a half earlier, and shortly before Isidore’s birth they set up their own capital. They were Arians—Christians who said Christ was not God.

Isidore would pray while plowing in the fields, and it's even said that angels would sometimes help him with his work. St. Isidore the Farmer died in 1130. Along with Saints Ignatius of Loyola, Francis Xavier, Teresa of Avila, and Philip Neri, he is known in Spain as one of the “Five Saints.”

Thus, Spain was split in two: One people (Catholic Romans) struggled with another (Arian Goths).Isidore reunited Spain, making it a center of culture and learning. The country served as a teacher and guide for other European countries whose culture was also threatened by barbarian invaders.Born in Cartagena of a family that included three other sibling saints—Leander, Fulgentius and Florentina—he was educated by his elder brother, whom he succeeded as bishop of Seville.

His love of learning made him promote the establishment of a seminary in every diocese of Spain. He didn't limit his own studies and didn't want others to as well. In a unique move, he made sure that all branches of knowledge including the arts and medicine were taught in the seminaries.

Yet another miracle attributed to the saint is that of feeding pigeons with wheat. It was a cold winter day and he was on his way to the grinding mill with a sack of wheat. He passed a flock of woodpigeons that were scratching the hard ground, desperately trying to find food. Taking pity on the poor birds Isidore poured out half of his bag of wheat to feed the animals, despite the mocking of onlookers.

However, upon entering the mill, his bag had miraculously refilled and even produced double the amount of flour that it normally would.

There are many more incredible miracles that the saint performed, including supposedly reviving the dead daughter of his landlord. But, more importantly (I believe), is what we can learn from these miracles.

An amazingly learned man, he was sometimes called “The Schoolmaster of the Middle Ages” because the encyclopedia he wrote was used as a textbook for nine centuries.

He required seminaries to be built in every diocese, wrote a Rule for religious orders, and founded schools that taught every branch of learning. Isidore wrote numerous books, including a dictionary, an encyclopedia, a history of Goths, and a history of the world—beginning with creation! He completed the Mozarabic liturgy, which is still in use in Toledo, Spain. For all these reasons, Isidore has been suggested as patron of the Internet. Several others—including Anthony of Padua—also have been suggested.

Isidore of Seville died on April 4 of the year 636. Later named a Doctor of the Church, he was more recently proposed as a patron saint of Internet users, because of his determination to use the world's accumulated knowledge for the service of God's glory.

He continued his austerities even as he approached age 80. During the last six months of his life, he increased his charities so much that his house was crowded from morning till night with the poor of the countryside.

Relics of St. Isidore the Farmer rest in the reliquary chapel in the Basilica, and he is patron of farmers and of the United States National Catholic Rural Life Conference.

Isidore died on this date in 1130, and a number of other miracles (438 are documented) were ascribed to his help—he assisted the king of Spain through a vision in a battle, for example, and his relics were associated with the healing of a later monarch.

Prayer purifies us, reading instructs us. Both are good when both are possible. Otherwise, prayer is better than reading.

If a man wants to be always in God's company, he must pray regularly and read regularly. When we pray, we talk to God; when we read, God talks to us.

All spiritual growth comes from reading and reflection. By reading we learn what we did not know; by reflection we retain what we have learned.

Reading the Holy Scriptures confers two benefits. It trains the mind to understand them; it turns man's attention from the follies of the world and leads him to the love of God.

The conscientious reader will be more concerned to carry out what he has read than merely to acquire knowledge of it. In reading we aim at knowing, but we must put into practice what we have learned in our course of study.

The man who is slow to grasp things but who really tries hard is rewarded, equally he who does not cultivate his God-given intellectual ability is condemned for despising his gifts and sinning by sloth.

Learning unsupported by grace may get into our ears; it never reaches the heart. But when God's grace touches our innermost minds to bring understanding, his word which has been received by the ear sinks deep into the heart.


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