St. Isidore, the Farmer (1070-1130) is considered the patron saint of farmers and rural communities. He was born to very poor yet very pious Catholic parents in Madrid; as a young boy, he went to work on the estate of John de Vergas, a wealthy landowner from the nearby town of Torrelaguanna.
Isidore labored on Vergas’ farm for the rest of his life. He was a model worker, a simple and caring person, and a very devout Christian.
In the morning before going to work, Isidore would usually attend Mass at one of the churches in Madrid. One day, his fellow farm workers complained to their master that Isidore was always late for work in the morning. Upon investigation the master found Isidore at prayer while an angel was doing the ploughing for him.
On another occasion, his master saw an angel ploughing on either side of him, so that Isidore’s work was equal to that of three of his fellow field workers. Isidore is also said to have brought back to life his master’s deceased daughter, and to have caused a fountain of fresh water to burst from the dry earth to quench his master’s thirst
Isidore married Maria Torribia (also known as Maria de la Cabeza), a simple and devout woman. The couple had one child, who died at an early age. They were both known for their piety and concern for the poor; legends exist about Isidore miraculously supplying them with food on occasion, and the saint had a great concern that animals be treated properly.
St. Isidore loved the poor and loved the animals. The miracle of the multiplication of food occurred when Isidore fed a flock of starving birds and on another time when Isidore shared his food with a large group of beggars.
St. Isidore the Farmer died on May 15, 1130, at his birthplace close to Madrid although the only official source places his death in the year 1172. He was canonized in 1622 along with four very notable Spanish saints. The group, known as “the five saints” included St. Ignatius of Loyola, St. Teresa of Avila, St. Francis Xavier, St. Philip Neri, and St. Isidore.
Reflecting on the life of St. Isidore, the Farmer we are reminded that farmer is the steward of the earth and everything on its surface. He works hard on the fields and is not just accountable for himself but also the needs of the community. The farmer must make sure to produce enough for himself and for others that are depending on the fruits of his labor.
Hard work is not enough to work successfully as a steward of the earth. Farmers also need to be sensitive and careful so as not to disrupt or cause significant damage to nature. They need to be compassionate to the animals that help them make their work possible. Being a farmer, therefore, requires patience, perseverance and focus.
We don’t have to be farmers to emulate the life and example of Saint Isidore. As workers, we can find inspiration in the honesty and sensitive way he performs his work.
Great things in life require patience, hard work and devotion. Saint Isidore upheld these qualities in everything that he did and so he is a wonderful role model for when we need motivation to persevere.
Whenever we feel discouraged in our work or feel that our responsibilities are too heavy a burden, we can read and reflect on the life of Saint Isidore. We can get lots of inspiration and insight from his story and life.
all creation is yours, and you call us to serve you
by caring for the gifts that surround us.
May the example of Saint Isidore urge us
to share our food with the hungry
and to work for the salvation of mankind.
We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ your Son,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God for ever and ever. Amen.
(from The Liturgy of the Hours)