The patron saint of farmers was a lousy farmer? How is that possible? The life of Saint Isidore the Farmer is a vivid reminder that the Lord works in mysterious ways.
What are the four most important lessons we can learn from this ordinary man who became the extraordinary patron saint of farmers, peasants, day laborers, rural communities?
1. The busier you are, the more you need to pray.
We are busy.
So busy that prayer time gets pushed farther down the to-do list. St. Francis de Sales's popular quote and St. Isidore's life remind us that,
"Every one of us needs a half an hour of prayer each day – except when we are busy. Then we need an hour."
Saint Isidore had his priorities in the right order. As a hired hand who had worked on Juan de Vergas's farm since his teen years, Saint Isidore started his day, every day, with Holy Mass, and then often stayed at the church after the Mass had ended. This did not win him the praise of his co-workers, who often complained to the landowner that Isidore was lazy and wasn't doing his fair share of the work. Isidore wasn't worried about getting his work done, though: the Lord regularly sent angels to do Isidore's work for him while He was at Mass.
Not only that, but the angels often plowed the fields alongside Isidore, who was flanked on each side by a heavenly helper as he worked in constant prayer. Three rows were tilled as Isidore walked his singular row.
Even today, Spanish communities depend on the intercession of Saint Isidore to provide a plentiful harvest and healthy animals.
Imagine the shock on his disgruntled workmates's faces as their pre-occupied Isidore finished his daily work even though he had put in fewer hours than they.
"So the last will be first, and the first will be last" (Matthew 20:16).
2. The Lord elevates the humble.
Isidore, born to a poor but pious Catholic family in Spain, never sought a life of honor, power, or wealth. He was content to work the land; nay, he loved the land! As we see throughout history, the Lord chooses the humble and works through them to let His glory shine. The 400+ miracles associated with Saint Isidore, both during his earthly life and after he went to heaven, demonstrate how Isidore, in his poverty of spirit, gave himself completely to the will of the Father, depending on Him for all and trusting in His Providence unwaveringly, and allowing Him to work Divinely through his humanity.
"God is opposed to the proud but gives Grace to the humble" (James 4:6).
3. The Lord provides for those who give from their poverty.
Isidore wasn't only poor in spirit. As a farmer, Saint Isidore wasn't a wealthy man and barely scraped by with his wife (also a canonized saint!) as it was. But he was known for his unending generosity to the unfortunate. St. Maria Torribia, anticipating that her kind-hearted husband would frequently bring home hungry locals, learned to always keep a pot of stew simmering on the stove.
One night, when Isidore brought home more folks than Maria had planned for, his wife sadly told Isidore that she wouldn't have enough to feed everyone. When Isidore told her to peer into the almost-empty pot, she discovered more than enough to feed their poor guests. There are also many accounts of Isidore feeding local animals from a miraculously refilled grain bag. The Lord consistently multiplied Isidore and Maria's charitable efforts.
"Now He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness" (2 Corinthians 9:10).
4. There is honor in work.
God Himself is the Ultimate Worker, the Divine Laborer. We can look to our Creator to see that work is a worthwhile and honorable endeavor, but especially so when we offer our toils to Him.
Regardless of the career or job you have, as a cardiologist, a heavy crane operator, a grocery store cashier, or a farmer, "… whatever you do, do all to the glory of God" (1 Corinthians 10:31).
Not only did Isidore happily do back-breaking work that many today would consider lowly, but he prayed constantly from sunrise to sundown, a living reminder of St. Paul's exhortation to
"Pray without ceasing" (1 Thessalonians 5:17).
Learn more about Saint Isidore the Farmer's life here.
Find an ordinary saint to mentor you on your path to sainthood.
The Lord sends us saints from diverse lifestyles to inspire us to embrace lives of holiness no matter our vocations. We can all recount the stories of saintly priests, nuns, kings, queens, martyrs, virgins. But He also provides us shining examples of devotion in ordinary people, like us, who lived their lives with remarkable purity, devotion, and humility.
Grant we beseech You, merciful Lord, through the intercession of St. Isidore, farmer and confessor, not to let us be vain with the wisdom of the world, but by his merits and example, let us in all humility always do what is pleasing to You. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.