On May 15th, the Church traditionally celebrates the feast of one of the most beloved of all Spanish saints, St. Isidore the Farmer, who was born in Madrid to poor parents around the year 1070. From the time he was old enough to work, Isidore was a laborer on an estate outside of Madrid owned by a wealthy man named Juan de Vargas.
Everything we know about St. Isidore comes from one document written in the thirteenth century, by a deacon named Juan. It was found in the sixteenth century in the church of Saint Andrew in Madrid. This document is called the Códice de Juan Diácono, and it relates the oral tradition that had been passed down about Isidore in the 200 years after his death.
Deacon Juan’s document relates the stories of five miracles from St. Isidore’s life, which reveal to us so much about his untiring prayer, his radical charity, and his complete trust in God. These three traits perfectly summarize Isidore’s sanctity:
- he prayed constantly, putting his prayer before everything else that he did;
- he never failed to give to his neighbor, even when he had nothing;
- and above all, he completely trusted that God would provide for all that he needed or asked for.
Let us look at three of his miracles and learn from St. Isidore how to allow trust in God to grow in our own lives.
The angels plowing the field
“But seek first the kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things shall be yours as well.” (Matt 6:33)
This is perhaps the most well known of St. Isidore’s miracles, and it demonstrates the way he always put prayer first, trusting that God would help him accomplish the work he had to do. One day some workers, who were jealous of Isidore, went to Juan de Vargas and complained that Isidore was arriving late to work, because after getting up at dawn he visited the churches of Madrid, praying in each of them. Vargas believed them, but wanted to see for himself. When he got to the fields, he saw Isidore plowing with his team of oxen, but he also saw a pair of white oxen plowing beside him, so that he was accomplishing the work of two men. When Vargas turned his eyes away for a moment, and looked back, however, the white oxen were gone.
Repentant for doubting him, Vargas said to Isidore, “Dearest Isidore, I pray, by the God that you serve so faithfully, tell me who was just helping you plow, because I saw them with my own eyes, but now they have disappeared from my sight.” Isidore, understanding what had happened, responded, “I assure you before God, who I serve as best as I can, that I have not called upon anyone to help me with my work, except God, who I invoke constantly and who is always my help and my fortress.”
Vargas, convinced that the help had come from heaven, told Isidore that from that day forward he wanted him to be in charge of everything on his estate. After he left Isidore he told this story to everyone he met.
The multiplication of food for the poor
“. . . your father knows what you need before you ask him.” (Matt 6:8)
As was the custom in Spain, Isidore was a member of a cofrádia, or a confraternity. This group would meet to eat together on a scheduled day. At one of these gatherings, all the brothers got together; but Isidore, who had to first visit the churches, arrived after they had finished their meal.
When he arrived he found a group of beggars at the door of the house who were waiting to be given the leftovers from the meal. Isidore introduced himself and brought them in. When his brothers saw this they complained, “Why have you brought these poor people in, since we have nothing left but your portion?” To this, Isidore patiently replied, “Divide what is left over between them.” Those who were serving the meal went to get the pot in which they had only kept one serving for Isidore, and they found it full of meat.
The servants were amazed at what they saw, but they decided to keep quiet about it until the appropriate time. Filled with joy they served the food to Isidore and to the beggars he had brought with him, and there was even some food leftover. At the end of the meal Isidore got up, praised and thanked God, and taking leave of his companions, went to the Church of St. Mary Magdalene to thank God for providing for him in his every need.
Isidore’s brothers and the servers who had seen what had happened all agreed that Isidore was truly a saint, and they spread this story to everyone they met, so that God could be praised in his servant.
Saving his donkey from a wolf attack
“Oh Lord, you preserve both man and beast.” (Ps 36:6)
On a feast day during the summer St. Isidore went to pray in the Church of St. May Magdalene, leaving his donkey at the door of the church. While he was praying some men rushed into the church and told him to come quickly because a wolf was outside about to attack his donkey. St. Isidore responded: “My sons, go in peace, God’s will be done.”
When he had finished praying, he left the church peacefully and outside he found the wolf dead, and next to it was his donkey, completely unharmed. Beholding this miracle, he went back into the church to give thanks to God.
St. Isidore’s example of trust in God
What can we learn from these three stories? Well, most importantly we see that St. Isidore was a man who trusted in God’s goodness and help. Everything that he did sprung from this trust: he spent as much time as he could with God in prayer, knowing that God would help him accomplish his work; he shared everything he had with the poor, never doubting that God would provide for his own needs as well; and he trusted all that he possessed to God’s providence, believing that He would not forsake him.
It was because of this great trust that God provided for Isidore’s needs in miraculous ways. All too often, we make God out to be a harsh judge. But St. Isidore shows us how to trust in God and how to see Him as a loving father. Our lives would be radically different if we saw God the way Isidore did.
On his feast day, let us ask St. Isidore to intercede for us, that we can grow in the trust in God that he lived out so perfectly; and that we can see the miracles that begin to occur when we put God first, when we share what we have with our less fortunate brothers and sisters, and when we boldly trust in God’s loving care for us.