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Saint Isidore the Larborer

Saint Isidore, also known as Saint Isidore the Farmer is the patron saint of farmers and day laborers.

Isidro de Merlo y Quintana was born in Madrid in the year of 1070 AD to poor but extremely devout and pious Christians. He was named after his parent's patron saint - Saint Isidore of Seville. While we don't know much of his early life, we do know that he was hired on as a farmhand to the estate belonging to Juan de Vargas, a wealthy landowner. As he grew older he frequently shared his income with the poor of the city and would frequently give away his meals to the poor as well even though he would be financially very impoverished himself as a laborer. Later in life he married Maria Torribia who, though never formally canonized, is frequently known as Santa Maria de la Cabeza in Spain.

There are many miracles attributed to Saint Isidore -

Once manager assigned to oversee Saint Isidore's work on the farm witnessed an Angel plouging the field alongside Saint Isidore and the output was that of nearly three regular men. Another time a farmhand complained to the supervisor that saint Isidore was always late to work in the mornings because he would attend daily Mass. The supervisor went into the fields early to catch him and instead found an Angel doing the work for Saint Isidore while he was at Mass. After work was completed in the fields each day, Saint Isidore would frequently bring home those in need to eat dinner at their home. Maria would cook a large stew on the fireplace for these occasions. One night though, Saint Isidore brought home several more than the number that generally came. After several had been given bowls of stew, Maria quietly told Saint Isidore the pot was empty and no more food available. He whispered in reply that she should again check the pot. Miraculously it was full again!

Another famous miracle happened while Saint Isidore was going to the mill with a sack of wheat to be ground during winter. He passed by a flock of wood-pigeons that were desperate for scraps of food on the snowy and frozen ground. Taking pity for them, Saint Isidore emptied about half of the wheat from the sack on to the ground. When he reached the mill the bag was miraculously completely full. In total there were 438 miracles attributed to Saint Isidore. In the fourteenth century hagiography Codice de Juan Diacono, five main miracles are attributed:

  1. The pigeons and the grain.

  2. The angels ploughing.

  3. The saving of his donkey, through prayer, from a wolf attack.

  4. The account of his wife's pot of food.

  5. A similar account of his feeding the brotherhood.

Saint Isidore died at Madrid on May 15th, 1130. On April 2nd, 1212, a terrible rainstorm hit the cemetery and unearthed many cadavers. His body was likewise exhumed and found to be totally incorrupt. Even after his death several miracles were attributed to him, including a miraculous appearance during the battle of Las Navas de Tolosa when he appeared to King Alfonso VIII of Castile and showed him a secret path to use against the Moors. King Philip III of Spain was miraculously cured of a diseased when he touched Saint Isidore's relics.

Formally, Saint Isidore was beatified in Rome on May 2nd, 1619 by Pope Paul V and canonized in 1622 alongside Saint Ignatius of Loyola, Saint Francis Xavier, Saint Teresa of Avila and Saint Philip Neri. In 1769, his remains and his wife Maria's remains were relocated to the San Isidro Church in Madrid by King Charles III of Spain. His feast day is celebrated today on May 15th.

In Madrid, May 15th is a major holiday with a traditional festival and feast held in an open-air area known as the Pradera del Santo. Several other towns throughout Spain hold similar celebrations on his feast day as well. In the United States, Saint Isidore was officially named the patron saint of farmers in 1947. Originally the feast day was inserted for May 10th but was moved during the 1969 revision to May 15th as an optional memorial.

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