saint Isidore of Seville

Isidore was literally born into a family of saints in sixth century Spain. Two of his brothers, Leander and Fulgentius, and one of his sisters, Florentina, are revered as saints in Spain. It was also a family of leaders and strong minds with Leander and Fulgentius serving as bishops and Florentina as abbess.

This didn’t make life easier for Isidore. To the contrary, Leander may have been holy in many ways, but his treatment of his little brother shocked many even at the time. Leander, who was much older than Isidore, took over Isidore’s education and his pedagogical theory involved force and punishment. We know from Isidore’s later accomplishments that he was intelligent and hard-working so it is hard to understand why Leander thought abuse would work instead of patience.

One day, the young boy couldn’t take any more. Frustrated by his inability to learn as fast as his brother wanted and hurt by his brother’s treatment, Isidore ran away. But though he could escape his brother’s hand and words, he couldn’t escape his own feeling of failure and rejection. When he finally let the outside world catch his attention, he noticed water dripping on the rock near where he sat. The drops of water that fell repeatedly carried no force and seemed to have no effect on the solid stone. And yet he saw that over time, the water drops had worn holes in the rock. Isidore realized that if he kept working at his studies, his seemingly small efforts would eventually pay off in great learning. He also may have hoped that his efforts would also wear down the rock of his brother’s heart.

Either there must have been a loving side to this relationship or Isidore was remarkably forgiving even for a saint, because later he would work side by side with his brother and after Leander’s death, Isidore would complete many of the projects he began including a missal and breviary.

He lived until almost 80. As he was dying his house was filled with crowds of poor he was giving aid and alms to. One of his last acts was to give all his possessions to the poor.

In 1997, Pope John Paul II decided that the internet could use a patron saint to guide Catholics in its proper use. He chose Saint Isidore of Seville (560-636), Doctor of the Church, and last of the Latin Fathers. His twenty-book opus (called Etymologia, after the subject title of one of the books), made him an easy choice.

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