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An Everyman Saint: St. Isidore the Farmer

All you really need to know about St. Isidore the farmer (or “the laborer”) is that in the town of Pulilan in the Philippines, parishioners of San Isidro Labrador make their water buffalos kneel before a statue of the saint. This is a fitting veneration for a saint who was often accompanied by a team of heavenly oxen driven by angels. St. Isidore is known as the patron saint of farmers and laborers but he isn’t some morality tale on the benefits of hard work. In fact, Isidore spent so much time praying instead of working that he’s hardly a model of an employer’s ideal worker.

Born to a poor family in Madrid in 1070 AD, St. Isidore lived his entire life as a hired hand for a wealthy landowner, Juan de Vargas. Despite his poverty, Isidore was well known for his charity to the poor. His wife, St. Maria Torribia, always kept a pot of stew over the fire because of Isidore’s habit of bringing home beggars to dinner. He was also known for his devotion to his faith, praying often and attending mass daily before going out to the fields. Stories of miracles followed St. Isidore throughout his life and after his death.

Isidore was canonized in 1622 along with Ignatius of Loyola, Teresa of Avila, Francis Xavier, and Philip Neri. Neither a scholar nor a religious, Isidore stands out from these other Spanish saints. St. Isidore is a kind of “everyman’s saint,” serving as a model for those of us who find ourselves behind a plow or desk and not an altar. He shows us that all of us can and should aspire to sainthood.

We might be tempted to see St. Isidore as the patron saint of hard work, the Catholic idealization of the Protestant work ethic. But Isidore’s virtue was not in his zeal for manual labor. Actually, in many ways, he wasn’t a very good worker. His daily trips to morning mass often caused him to be late to his fields. Once he did finally make it to work, he often stopped his labors to take up prayer. He also poured out valuable grain for wild birds and gave food to beggars.

Read more at Catholic Exchange

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