St. Isidore the Farmer

May 15, 2014

On May 15, 1130, Isidore, a Spanish peasant farmer, campesino, passed away after an ordinary life. Isidore was born in Madrid and lived in Spain his entire life. He was a farmworker for a wealthy landowner, as many were at that time. He was married, and he and his wife were blessed with one son, who died in childhood.St-Isidore-the-Farmer-223x300

Isidore was what some might call “a fool for God.” He attended mass daily, and was known to pray in the fields while he worked. He once felt sorry for hungry birds, and gave away half of his bag of corn as feed. Isidore and his wife opened their home to people more unfortunate than themselves, even though they were poor and had very little to offer. Others would often follow Isidore home for a meal and end up eating better than Isidore and his wife.

Isidore had a profound faith that was attended by visible signs and wonders … miracles, if you will. Stories (and complaints) about this peasant farmer and his piety were common. His colleagues complained that he didn’t work very hard, wasting time praying when he should have been working. Then there was a story about the time he gave the corn to the birds. Many chastised him for feeding the birds, only to learn that when he arrived at the mill his bag was full. Other stories included the sighting of angels assisting him in the fields.

Isidore and his angelHe was clearly a simple farmer, and yet not so simple. In 1622 he was canonized a saint along with four others. He wasn’t of noble birth, nor did he have a high-end education. He didn’t come from a famous or extremely wealthy family. He wasn’t a big name church father. He was a humble, pious, peasant farmer. And the church, in its wisdom, chose to honor his piety and the stories of miracles in the life of this ordinary, and yet not so ordinary, man. Ironically, the list of other saints with whom he was canonized reads like a Who’s Who of famous people … St. Ignatius, St. Francis Xavier, St. Teresa, and St. Philip Neri.

Although some find it a rather childish hymn, I’ve always liked The Saints of God …

I sing a song of the saints of God, patient and brave and true, who toiled and fought and lived and died for the Lord they loved and knew. And one was a doctor, and one was a queen, and one was a shepherdess on the green; they were all of them saints of God, and I mean, God helping, to be one too.

They loved their Lord so dear, so dear, and his love made them strong; and they followed the right for Jesus’ sake the whole of their good lives long. And one was a soldier, and one was a priest, and one was slain by a fierce wild beast; and there’s not any reason, no, not the least, why I shouldn’t be one too.

They lived not only in ages past; there are hundreds of thousands still. The world is bright with the joyous saints who love to do Jesus’ will. You can meet them in school, on the street, in the store, in church, by the sea, in the house next door; they are saints of God, whether rich or poor, and I mean to be one too.

One of the reasons I like that hymn is due to its reflection of the saints among us. Isidore is my idea of a saint, and was definitely a common man among us. People like Isidore give me hope. He tried his hardest to live into his faith, praying and serving God in his daily life. I’m sure many thought him a fool, praying in the fields when there was work to be done, feeding the birds from his sack of grain, and taking in those in need when he had so little for himself. But I have to ask myself, “What’s a fool? And who gets to decide?” Who knows, maybe I’m a fool, too, living and working in Colombia instead of laboring to climb the professional ladder of culturally defined success in the U.S. Maybe I’m a fool for holding up Isidore as a role model. Well, if that’s a fool, then so be it. I’m happy to take Isidore as my model and guide any day.

3 Responses to “St. Isidore the Farmer”

  1. Dianne Smith Says:

    And I am happy to take Isidore and YOU as my own guides every day, Ted. Muy gracias.


  2. Michael Malec Says:

    Thanks, Ted. This is a wonderful post. I knew Isidore’s name, but little about his life.

    =========================== Michael Malec Department of Sociology 427 McGuinn Hall Boston College Chestnut Hill, MA 02467 (617) 552-4131

    Eamus Catuli AC0669106


  3. Noel Gaiser Says:

    Dad says:
    I have always liked the Saints of God too. Sang it many times..
    Was not familiar with Isidore’s story.


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