Wednesday, July 13, 2011
SAINT ISIDORE OF SPAIN
Died May 15, 1170 Madrid, Kingdom of Castile
Beatified May 2, 1619, Rome by Pope Paul V
Canonized March 12, 1622, Rome by Pope Gregory XV
Feast May 15
Isidore was born to very poor parents in Madrid, about the year 1070. He was in the service of the wealthy Madrid landowner Juan de Vargas on a farm in the vicinity of Madrid. Juan de Vargas would later make him bailiff of his entire estate of Lower Caramanca.
Every morning before going to work, Isidore was accustomed to hearing a Mass at one of the churches in Madrid. One day his fellow-laborers complained to their master that Isidore was always late for work in the morning. Upon investigation, so runs the legend, the master found Isidore at prayer while an angel was doing the plowing for him.
On another occasion, his master saw an angel plowing on either side of him, so that Isidore's work was equal to that of three of his fellow-laborers. 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 in order to quench his master's thirst.
His earnestness in seeking lessons and instructions of piety made him neglect no opportunity of hearing them; and so much the more tender and the deeper were the impressions which they left in his soul, as his desire was the stronger and the more pure. His patience in bearing all injuries and in overcoming the envy of fellow-servants by cordial kindnesses, his readiness to obey his masters, and in indifferent things to comply with the inclinations of others, and humbly to serve every one, gave him the most complete victory over himself and his passions. Labor he considered as enjoined him by God in punishment of sin, and for a remedy against it. And he performed his work in a spirit of compunction and penance. Many object that their labors and fatigues leave them little time for the exercises of religion. But Isidore, by directing his attention according to the most holy motives of faith, made his work a most perfect act of religion. He considered it as a duty to God. Therefore he applied himself to it with great diligence and care, in imitation of the angels in heaven, who in all things fulfil the will of God with the greatest readiness and alacrity of devotion. The more humbling and the more painful the labor was, the dearer it was to the saint, being a means the more suitable to tame his flesh, and a more noble part of his penance. With the same spirit that the saints subdued their bodies by toils in their deserts, Isidore embraced his task. He moreover sanctioned it by continual prayer. While his hand held the plough, he in his heart conversed with God, with his angel guardian, and the other blessed spirits; sometimes deploring the sins of the world, and his own spiritual miseries, at other times in the melting words of the royal prophet, raising his desires to the glory of the heavenly Jerusalem. It was chiefly by this perfect spirit of prayer, joined with, or rather engrafted upon a most profound humility and spirit of mortification, that St. Isidore arrived at so eminent a degree of sanctity as rendered him the admiration of all Spain. In his youth he was retained servant by a gentleman named John de Vargas of Madrid, to till his land and do his husbandry work. The saint afterwards took a most virtuous woman to wife, named Mary Toribia. Those who call her de la Cabeza were deceived by a chapel to which that name is given, because her head is kept in it. After the birth of one child, which died young, the parents, by mutual consent, served God in perfect continency.
St. Isidore continued always in the service of the same master. On account of his fidelity, he could say to him as Jacob did to Laban,1 that, to guard and improve his stock, he had often watched the nights, and had suffered the scorching heats of summer, and the cold of winter; and that the stock, which he found small, had been exceedingly increased in his hands. Don John de Vargas, after long experience of the treasure he possessed in this faithful ploughman, treated him as a brother, according to the advice of Ecclesiasticus,2 Let a wise servant be dear to thee as thy own soul. He allowed him the liberty of assisting daily at the public office of the church. On the other side, Isidore was careful by rising very early, to make his devotions no impediment to his business, nor any encroachment upon what he owed to his master. This being a duty of justice, it would have been a false devotion to have pretended to please God by a neglect of such an obligation; much less did the good servant indulge his compassionate charity to the poor, by relieving them otherwise than out of his own salary. The saint was sensible that in his fidelity, diligence, and assiduous labor consisted, in great part, the sanctification of his soul; and that his duty to his master was his duty to God. He also inspired his wife with the same confidence in God, the same love of the poor, and the same disengagement from the things of this world: he made her the faithful imitatrix of his virtues, and a partner in his good works. She died in 1175, and is honored in Spain among the saints. Her immemorial veneration was approved by pope Innocent XII. in 1697. See Benedict XIV., de Canoniz. 1. 2, c. 24, p. 246.
St. Isidore being seized with the sickness of which he died, foretold his last hour, and prepared himself for it with redoubled fervor, and with the most tender devotion, patience, and cheerfulness. The piety with which he received the last sacraments drew tears from all that were present. Repeating inflamed acts of divine love, he expired on the 15th of May, 1170, being near sixty years of age. His death was glorified by miracles. After forty years, his body was removed out of the churchyard into the church of St. Andrew. It has been since placed in the bishop's chapel, and during these five hundred years remains entire and fresh, being honored by a succession of frequent miracles down to this time. The following, among others, is very well attested. Philip III., in his return from Lisbon, was taken so ill at Casarubios del Monte, that his life was despaired of by his physicians. Whereupon the shrine of St. Isidore was ordered to be carried in a solemn procession of the clergy, court, and people, from Madrid to the chamber of the sick king. The joint prayers of many prevailed. At the same time the shrine was taken out of the church, the fever left the king; and upon its being brought into his chamber, he was perfectly cured. The year following the body of the saint was put into a new rich shrine, which cost one thousand six hundred ducats of gold. St. Isidore had been beatified a little before by Paul V., in 1619, at the solicitation of the same king. His solemn canonization was performed, at the request of king Philip IV., on the 12th of March, 1622; though the bull was only made public by Benedict XIII. See the life of St. Isidore, written by John of Madrid, one hundred and forty years after his death; and Card. Lambertini, de Canoniz. SS. t. 3.