St. Isidore the Farmer is a very popular Saint among the Spanish. He is the patron of Madrid, the capital of Spain. It was in this city that he was born of humble parents in 1070. Although his mother and father, being poor, were unable to acquire for him an education in the secular sense, they quite fulfilled the more important education of his Catholic Faith. From an early age they taught him the truths of his faith; and they instilled in him a horror of committing sin and a love for frequent prayer. This love of God and fear of displeasing Him, Isidore kept and practiced throughout all of his life.
When St. Isidore was old enough to work, he went into the service of a certain wealthy citizen of Madrid, John de Verghas. He owned an estate just outside the city, and to this estate Isidore went to work the land as a farmer. He never did leave the service of de Verghas; he stayed with him all his life. Shortly after beginning his work as a farmer, he married a woman named Maria, who we are told was equally as poor but also as pious as he was. After being married for a little while, they had a son, but he died young. After this, they both agreed to consecrate their lives to God and live like brother and sister; that is, no longer live as though they were married.
So Isidore continued to do his work for de Verghas; but he never let his work get in the way of his prayer. He got up early to go to Mass, and afterward while he worked in the field he would pray to God. All the time that he spent doing his work was also spent praying. And the public holidays were spent visiting the Churches of the city and in the surrounding area.
Although it was true that Isidore was always kind and always helpful, he did not escape the jealousy of others. When someone strives to be good and holy, those around them resent them, for someone doing the right thing makes them look bad. So it was with his fellow workers. They complained to de Verghas, saying that since Isidore went to Mass every morning, he wasn’t making it to his work on time. To see if his workers were telling the truth, and Isidore wasn’t making it to his work till after the others, de Verghas hid one morning and waited. Sure enough, Isidore did arrive later than the others. Annoyed at this, de Verghas made his way towards Isidore to scold him for arriving late. Before he had caught up to Isidore, though, he saw something that made him stop and stare with wonder. Next to Isidore’s team of cattle was another team of snow-white oxen, ploughing next to his plough. This mysterious team was being driven by equally mysterious pair of unknown figures. After watching all of this with amazement, de Verghas suddenly saw the unnatural team disappear. He then realized that God had sent angels to help Isidore do his work. As long as Isidore lived a holy life in union with God, he would always have supernatural help, so as never to fall behind in his work. John de Verghas then knew that he needn’t fear about Isidore being late for work. After this, other people reported that they, too, had seen angels assisting Isidore in his work. From then on, de Verghas treasured this holy worker of his. It is told that Isidore often worked miracles for the benefit of his employer and his household.
St. Isidore had a great love for the poor. He often shared his meals with them; many times he would eat only the scraps that they left behind. Once, he was invited to a dinner, but he had remained so long at the Church praying that the dinner was almost over by the time that he had arrived. That caused no difficulty for him, for the hosts had been kind enough to save a portion for Isidore. The problem arose from the fact that a large train of beggars had followed him (as was probably usual) to the dinner. The hosts then said that they had saved enough for Isidore certainly, but they couldn’t possibly feed the entire crowd. St. Isidore responded to their reasonings by saying that there would be enough for him and Christ’s poor. The food was brought out to the table and Isidore and his friends were seated. They all ate to their fill (to the obvious surprise of all) and, like the multiplication of the fishes by Our Lord, there was even food left over after Isidore and the beggars had finished eating.
Many other miracles were wrought by God through St. Isidore during his lifetime as he continued to be a model of Catholic living to all of those around him. After living a very simple but holy life, St. Isidore died on May 15, 1130.
Forty years after his death, his body was transferred (moved) to an honorable shrine. Not long after this, many miracles began to occur at his shrine. In 1211, he appeared to the King Alphonsus of Castile (who was at that time battling the Muslims in the pass of Navas de Tolosa) and showed the king a secret pass by which he could take the enemy by surprise and defeat them. The king obviously did profit by this vision and emerged victorious. Over four hundred years later, St. Isidore once again came to the aid of the Spanish monarchy. King Philip III was at that time so ill that the physicians had given up all hope of his recovery. Immediately, the shrine (that is, the case) containing his relics were taken from the Church of Saint Andrew and carried in solemn procession to the ill king’s chamber. It is told that as soon as the relics of St. Isidore were taken out of the Church in Madrid, the fever left the king, and that once the relics reached his room, he completely recovered from his illness. The Spanish royal family had long desired for St. Isidore to be officially canonized, and finally received their wish in the March of the year 1622. He was canonized, along with St. Ignatius, St. Francis Xavier, St. Teresa, and St. Philip Neri. In Spain, these five are commonly referred to as “The Five Saints”.