St. Isidore the Farmer
Feast Day: May 15
Farmers & Field Workers
The story of St. Isidore the Farmer is a reminder of the dignity of work, and that ordinary life can lead to holiness.
He was born near Madrid, Spain and lived most of his life as a poor farmhand for a wealthy landowner named Juan de Vargas, just outside of Madrid. He was married to a woman named Maria and they had one son. It is reported that one day their son fell into a well and Isidore and Maria prayed for him to be saved. As they prayed, the level of the water rose to the top of the well so that they could rescue the boy. In response, Maria and Isidore chose to be celebate and live in separate houses, even as a loving and married couple.
St. Isidore was a very hard worker for Juan de Vargas; but he was also very devoted to God. Every morning, before work, he would go to Church. And it is reported that he would pray throughout the day. One of Isidore’s fellow farm workers complained to their master that Isidore was always late and didn’t do his work. When the master investigated he found Isidore on his knees praying while the plow moved through the fields, pushed by an angel. The next day, when the master returned, he saw that two men, each with their own white oxen, were working beside Isidore. Both men disappeared when the master grew closer and Isidore explained that he did “not look for help from anyone but God.”
Many miracles have been attributed to St. Isidore, but two of the best known signify Isidore’s great love for his fellow beings and how he worked to take care of them. In one instance, it is reported that on a cold winter day Isidore was taking a bag of wheat to a flour mill when he came across a flock of hungry pigeons who were pecking at the ice, but could find nothing to eat. Despite the fact that passers-by laughed at him for wasting good wheat on “worthless pigeons”, Isidore spread out half of his bag of wheat for them. Surprisingly, by the time he got to the mill, the bag was again full and when it was ground into flour it made twice as much flour as it should have.
When alive, Isidore was known to help anyone who needed it, including bringing them home for food. His wife, Maria, is said to have kept a pot of stew on the fire at all times, because she did not know when he would bring someone home. One day, Isidore brought home more people than usual, and Maria served every bit of food she had; but there were still hungry people at her table. When she told Isidore of the empty pot, he encouraged her to look again to see if there wasn’t a bit more food. Miraculously, there appeared to be enough food for one more bowl. And each time she looked there was enough for one more until all of the people were fed.
Saint Isidore was held in high esteem throughout Spain and his remains are safely protected in a church in Madrid, protected by the King of Spain. Saint Isidore is often portrayed as a peasant holding a sickle and a sheaf of corn. He might also be shown with a sickle and staff; as an angel plows for him; or with an angel and white oxen near him.
St. Isidore's life demonstrates that: If you have your spiritual self in order, your earthly commitments will fall into order also.