Saint Isidore the Farmer

A Saint's Tale
Brother John Raymond
May 9, 1999

Most of us spend one-third of our day at work. Some of us may not see our job as an opportunity for growing in holiness. St. Paul urges us to do everything in the Name of the Lord. Not only can our work be offered to God but also opportunities arise at work for practicing virtue. It could be listening to fellow workers, customers or one's boss with patience. I knew somebody who worked at a hospital cleaning floors. One night he was working in emergency and he noticed that a man, who could hardly walk, was being released from the hospital with no means of getting home. So during his break to eat he drove the man home - certainly not a front-page news headline act of charity. Yet, this person saw an opportunity of practicing charity where others might have missed it.

St. Isidore, born around 1070, near Madrid, Spain made God and practicing virtue a part of his workday. He was a day laborer in the service of a certain Juan de Vargas on a farm in the vicinity of Madrid. Normally such a person with such an occupation would hardly be expected to make any mark on history or be remembered for many years after they died. Yet, St. Isidore the farmer, as he is sometimes called, is remembered to this day. I have a special liking for him because his feast day happens to be my birthday - May 15.

So what is notable about Isidore's life? Every morning before going to work he used to attend Mass at one of the churches in Madrid. Certainly something about which we should give some thought. Everything was going fine for Isidore until one day his fellow-laborers complained to their boss that he was always late for work in the morning. That probably would have gotten him into trouble except that upon investigation his boss saw that an angel was doing the plowing for him while he was at Mass. If that wasn't enough on another occasion his boss saw two angels plowing on either side of him. Because of that Isidore was able to do work equal to three of his fellow-laborers - and the angels didn't have to be paid!

Now if that didn't make Isidore popular with his boss certainly bringing the boss' deceased daughter back to life and causing a fountain of fresh water to burst from the dry ground in order to quench the boss' thirst did. Isidore got married and one could certainly say that this was a marriage "made in Heaven." Why? His wife, Maria Torribia, is a canonized saint and is venerated in Spain as Maria de la Cabeza. Obviously she was a devout person. Further, she helped the poor and sometimes shared her meals with them. The couple had one child.

One time their son fell into a deep well. The parents, having no way of reaching him, prayed and the water of the well rose miraculously to the level of the ground, bringing the boy up alive and well. In thanksgiving for this intervention of God on their son's behalf both husband and wife made a vow of continence and lived in separate houses.

One must not get the impression that Isidore and his wife had no sufferings. They knew tragedy. Their only son died in his youth.

Isidore died in 1130 and was canonized by Pope Gregory XV, along with saints Ignatius, Francis Xavier, Teresa, and Philip Neri on March 12, 1622. St. Isidore is widely venerated as the patron of peasants and day laborers. The cities of Madrid, Leon, Saragossa and Seville honor him as their patron.

St. Isidore and his wife are examples for us today of a married couple that sanctified their daily duties. May they intercede for us to do likewise.