Reflecting on Saint Isidore the Farmer Feast Day
Saint Isidore was canonized in 1622. His Feast Day is May 15. Saint Isidore is the patron saint of farmers and all who work the land. He is also the patron saint of Madrid, other Spanish cities, the Philippines, Honduras, as well as the United States National Catholic Rural Life Conference.
Legend of the saint
Isidore de Merlo y Quintana was born in Madrid to poor and very devout parents. As a boy, he went to work on the land of Juan de Vargas, a wealthy estate owner from Madrid. He worked for Mr. Vargas his entire life. In later years, Juan de Vargas promoted Isidore to be the manager of his entire estate of Lower Caramanca.
Isidore married Maria Torribia who was also very devout. They had only one son, who died as a young child which had to be devastating for them. Even with their loss, they remained devoted to each other, the work of the farm and very focused on God in their work, prayer and feeding the hungry.
Some of the stories about Isidore (and Maria) are fascinating. One story is that he would regularly go to Mass on his way to work and pray during his work. Other farm hands complained to Mr. Vargas about all the extra work they had to do because of his praying and being late. When Mr. Vargas checked up on him a couple of times, he witnessed an angel pushing the plow while Isidore was under a tree praying. Another time he saw an angel on either side of him pushing the plow as if three people were working. As it turned out, Isidore was doing more work than one man could accomplish, as he had some special assistance.
Another story is that Maria would keep a pot of stew on the hearth as Isidore would often bring home guests who needed a meal. One time, he brought many people who were hungry. Some were fed and Maria let her husband know quietly that there was no more stew.
The pot was empty. He encouraged her to look again. When she did, there was enough stew to feed everyone. It is said about Isidore that he would share his food with someone who was hungry whether he had enough food or not.
Connecting to today
So what does Saint Isidore (and Maria), who lived about 1,000 years ago, have to teach us in this month of May 2021? Some things I feel called to do are to pray often, to buy local products when possible and to share.
Let us pray for all farmers, laborers and gardeners who grow food for their families and for the peoples of the world. Let us pray for favorable weather conditions that will provide optimum growing seasons and for an end to droughts. Let us pray and work for food and safe drinking water for everyone on planet Earth, especially those most in need. Let us pray and work for fair wages for all, especially farm laborers. Let us pray and work to plant and cultivate seeds of education, equality, kindness, fairness, compassion, spirituality, community, care of the sick and poor, generosity and care of Our Home: Earth.
Let us pray …
I was so glad to see the stories that had circulated around the farmer, Isidore. The way you concluded your article was so appropriate, Mary. It’s not always about small green plants, but about the seeds, too, that need to be planted and scattered. Thanks for giving attention to the needs of farmers even today.
One of the most jubilant sentences that a hard-working farmer might make upon seeing his field several days after the seeds had been sown, is to exclaim : “The crops are up!”.
Mary, thank you for this wonderful blog and the prayer at the end.
Farmers are essential workers even when there is not Covid-19.
They deserve our support and gratitude. Special thanks to our WVC
staff and volunteers.
I recall that in the novitiate you often spoke about St. Isidore. Thank you for reminding us of the life he and his wife devoted to God by serving the poor.
Mary: Thanks for this interesting reflection.