St. Isidore: Patron of Catholic Rural Life - Catholic Rural Life

St. Isidore: Patron of Catholic Rural Life

Tim Streiff • May 14, 2024


This article was originally published in the Catholic Rural Life Magazine Winter 2024 and written by Tim Streiff.

When St. Isidore, patron of Catholic Rural Life, was canonized in 1622, he was included alongside a list of powerhouse saints who were known throughout the Christian world for their sanctity and leadership. Recognized at the same Mass were St. Ignatius of Loyola, St. Francis Xavier, St. Teresa of Avila, and St. Philip Neri. What was a simple farmer from Madrid doing among saints like that? In the midst of that group, the church recognized through St. Isidore that it is just as important to love God greatly through large deeds, as it is to love God through the everyday deeds of ordinary life— even if that’s very little.

St. Isidore was born in Spain around 1070 to a poor peasant family. He grew up learning how to work the land and was employed as a farmhand by a local nobleman and landowner, Juan de Vargas. Isidore was also very devoted to Christ in the Eucharist, traveling every morning to a nearby church for Mass. He would frequently stop between the parish and the fields praying at several wayside shrines, which often made him late to his fieldwork. His fellow farmhands resented Isidore’s late arrival due to prayer, so they complained to their employer, who one day decided to watch for Isidore’s coming. Of course, St. Isidore was tardy and was about to be chastised when two angels appeared and began helping Isidore plow the field. Immediately, de Vargas changed his mind about punishing Isidore and in the future always let others know that Isidore could do the work of three men due to divine assistance.

Prayer to St. Isidore

O God, who taught Adam the simple art of tilling the soil, and who through Jesus Christ, the true vine, revealed Yourself the husbandman of our souls, deign, we pray, through the merits of blessed Isidore, to instill into our hearts a horror of sin and a love of prayer, so that, working the soil in the sweat of our brow, we may enjoy eternal happiness, through the same Christ our Lord.

St. Isidore was also known for several instances of the multiplication of food. This would occur at times when he gave to the poor who weekly dined with him and his wife, St. Maria de la Cabeza, and when he shared his harvest with the animals who were hungry in winter. Even after death, the miracles attributed to St. Isidore through his devotion and hard work continued and included numerous healings and interventions.

St. Isidore is the model of uniting prayer and work together as one in a lay vocation, praying while he worked in the fields and tended the animals of his employer’s farm. This is why, in 1947, Catholic Rural Life asked the Sacred Congregation for Rites (now the Dicastery for the Causes of Saints) in Rome to declare St. Isidore the patron of American farmers and of Catholic Rural Life. Each year, during the eight days leading up to his feast day of May 15, Catholic Rural Life hosts an online version of the St. Isidore Novena. These prayers include the singing of a hymn, a psalm connected to creation, the prayer to St. Isidore, and a reflection on the noble vocation of farming and rural living. The novena is a reminder that, like St. Isidore, those who steward the land are engaged in God’s work—the vocation that was taught to Adam in the Garden of Eden. It is a reminder that all work is dignified and contributes both to the social order and helps humans attain their supernatural end.

The life of St. Isidore, patron of CRL, embodied the virtues of hard work, Christian marriage, the unity of work and prayer, charity to neighbors, and always seeing God’s hand in creation and every life. May all past, present, and future CRL members continue to look to St. Isidore as a rural model of virtue and holiness.

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