April 4, 2020: ST. ISIDORE
April 4, 2020: ST. ISIDORE, BISHOP, CONFESSOR, AND DOCTOR OF THE CHURCH
Faithful Pastor! the Christian people honour thy virtues and thy services; they rejoice in the recompense wherewith God has crowned thy merits; hear the prayers that are offered to thee during these the days of salvation. When on earth, thy vigilance over the flock intrusted to thy care was untiring consider us as a part of it, and defend us from the ravenous wolves that cease not to seek our destruction.
O God, who didst give to thy people blessed Isidore for a minister of eternal salvation; grant, we beseech thee, that he who was the instructor of our life here on earth, may in heaven become our intercessor. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, thy Son, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, God, world without end. Amen.
O excellent Doctor, light of the holy Church, blessed Isidore, lover of the divine law, pray to the Son of God for us.
The Church presents to us, to-day, for our devout admiration, the memory of one of the holiest of her Bishops,—Isidore, the Bishop of Seville, the most learned man of his age, and, what is a still greater praise, the most zealous patriot and friend of his noble country. Let us study his virtues and confide in his patronage: both will help us to fervour during this holy Season.
Among Christian lands, there is one that has gained for herself the glorious name of the Catholic Kingdom. Towards the close of the 7th century, Divine Providence subjected her to a most severe trial, by permitting the Saracen hordes to invade her: so that her heroic children had to struggle for eight hundred years for the recovery of their country. Cotemporaneously with Spain, Asia, also, and Africa fell under the Mussulman yoke, and have continued in their slavery up to the present day. Whence comes it, that Spain has triumphed over her oppressors, and that tyranny has never been able to make her children degenerate? The answer is easily given: Spain, at the period of her invasion, was Catholic, and Catholicity was the very spirit of the land: whereas those other nations, that yielded themselves slaves to the Saracens, were already separated from the Christian Church by heresy or schism. God abandoned them, because they had rejected both the truth of Faith, and unity with the Church; they fell an easy prey to the infidel conqueror.
Nevertheless, Spain had incurred an immense risk. The race of the Goths, by their long invasion of her territory, had sowed the seeds of heresy: Arianism had set up its sacrilegious altars in Iberia. But God did not permit this privileged country to be long under the yoke of error. Before the Saracens came upon her, she had been reconciled to the Church; and God had chosen one family to be the glorious instrument in the completion of this great work. Even to this day, the traveller through Andalusia will find the squares of its cities adorned with four statues: they are those of three brothers and a sister: St. Leander, Bishop of Seville; St. Isidore, whose feast we are keeping to-day; St. Fulgentius, Bishop of Carthagena; and their sister, St. Florentina, a Nun. It was by the zeal and eloquence of St. Leander that King Reccared and his Goths were converted from Arianism to the Catholic Faith, in the year 589; the learning and piety of our glorious Isidore consolidated the great work; Fulgentius gave it stability by his virtues and erudition; and Florentina co-operated in it by her life of sacrifice and prayer.
Let us unite with the Catholic Kingdom in honouring this family of Saints; and to-day, in a special manner, let us pay the tribute of our devotion to St. Isidore. The holy Liturgy thus speaks of him.
Isidore, by birth, a Spaniard, was an illustrious Doctor of the Church. He was born at Carthagena, and his father, whose name was Severianus, was governor of that part of the country. He was solidly trained to piety and learning by bis two brothers, Leander, Bishop of Seville, and Fulgentius, Bishop of Carthagena. He was taught latin, greek, and hebrew; he was put through a course of canon and civil law; and there was no science or virtue in which he did not excel. Whilst yet a youth, he so courageously combated the arian heresy, which had long before infested the Goths, who had entered Spain, that he with difficulty escaped being put to death by the heretics. After the death of Leander, he was, in spite of himself, raised to the episcopal See of Seville, by the influence of king Reccared, and with unanimous consent of both clergy and people. His election was not only confirmed by Apostolic authority, but St. Gregory the Great, when sending him, as usual, the Pallium, is said to have appointed him his own vicar, and that of the Apostolic See throughout all Spain.
It would be impossible to describe the virtues of Isidore as Bishop: how firm, humble, patient, and merciful; how zealously he laboured for the restoration of christian morals and ecclesiastical discipline, and how untiring he was in his efforts, both by word and writing, to establish them among his people; and, finally, how he excelled in every virtue. He was a fervent promoter of the Monastic Life in Spain, and built several Monasteries. He also built Colleges, in which he himself applied himself to the teaching the sacred sciences to the many disciples that flocked to him; among whom may be mentioned those two glorious Pontiffs, Ildephonsus Bishop of Toledo, and Braulio Bishop of Saragossa. In a Council held at Seville, he spoke with such power and eloquence, that he may be said to have destroyed the heresy of the Acephali, who were threatening to destroy the true faith in Spain. So great, indeed, was the universal reputation he had gained for piety and learning, that he had scarcely been dead sixteen years, when, in a Council held at Toledo, and at which fifty-two Bishops were present, St. Ildephonsus himself among them, he was called the Illustrious Doctor, the new Glory of the Catholic Church, the most learned man who had been seen in those ages, and one whose name should never be mentioned but with great respect. St. Braulio not only compared him to St. Gregory the Great, but said that he looked on him as having been sent by heaven, as a second St. James the Apostle, to instruct the people of Spain.
Isidore wrote a book On Etymologies, and another On Ecclesiastical Offices, and several others, of such importance to Christian and ecclesiastical discipline, that Pope St. Leo the Fourth hesitated not to say, in a letter addressed to the Bishops of Britain, that one ought to adhere to the words of Isidore with that same respect as is shown to those of Jerome and Augustine, as often as a difficult case should arise, which could not be settled by Canon Law. Several sentences of his works have been inserted into the body of the Canon Law. He presided over the Fourth Council of Toledo, which is the most celebrated of all those that have been held in Spain. At length, after having driven the arian heresy out of Spain, he publicly foretold the day of his death, and the devastation of the country by the Saracens; and having governed his See for about forty years, he died at Seville, in the year 636. His body was first buried, as himself had requested, between those of his brother and sister, Leander and Florentina. Afterwards, Ferdinand the 1st, King of Castille and Leon, purchased it, for a large sum of money, from Enetus, the Saracen governor of Seville, and had it translated to Leon. Here, a Church was built in his honour, and the miracles that are wrought by his intercession, have led the people to honour him with great devotion.
Another account of St. Isidore.
St. Isidore is honoured in Spain as the most illustrious doctor of that church, in which God raised him, says St Braulio, to stem the torrent of barbarism and ferocity which every where followed the arms of the Goths, who had settled themselves in that kingdom, in 412. The eighth great council of Toledo, fourteen years after his death, styles him “the excellent doctor, the late ornament of the Catholic church, the most learned man, given to enlighten the latter ages, always to be named with reverence.” The city of Carthagena was the place of his birth, which his parents, Severian and Theodora, persons of the first quality in the kingdom, edified by the example of their extraordinary piety. His two brothers, Leander and Fulgentius, bishops, and his sister Florentina, are also honoured among the saints. Isidore having qualified himself in his youth for the service of the church by an uncommon stock of virtue and learning, assisted his brother, Leander, archbishop of Seville, in the conversion of the Visigoths from the Arian heresy. This great work he had the happiness to see perfectly accomplished by his indefatigable zeal and labours, which he continued during the successive reigns of the kings Reccared, Liuba, Witeric, Gundemar, Sisebut, and Sisemund. Upon the decease of St. Leander, in 600, or 601, he succeeded him in the see of Seville. He restored and settled the discipline of the church of Spain in several councils, of all which he was the oracle and the soul. The purity of their doctrine, and the severity of the canons enacted in them, drawn up chiefly by him, are incontestable monuments of his great learning and zeal. In the council of Seville, in 619, in which he presided, he, in a public disputation, convinced Gregory (a bishop of the Acephali) of his error, who had come over from Syria; and so evidently did he confute the Eutychian heresy, that Gregory upon the spot embraced the Catholic faith. In 610, the bishops of Spain, in a council held at Toledo, agreed to declare the archbishop of that city primate of all Spain, as, they say, he had always been acknowledged; which decree king Gundemar confirmed by a law the same year; and St. Isidore subscribed the same. Yet we find that in the fourth council of Toledo, in 633, the most famous of all the synods of Spain, though Justus, the archbishop of Toledo, was present, St Isidore presided, not by the privilege of his see, but on the bare consideration of his extraordinary merit; for he was regarded as the eminent doctor of the churches of Spain. The city of Toledo was honoured with the residence of the Visigoth kings.
St. Isidore, to extend to posterity the advantages which his labours had procured to the church, compiled many useful works: in which he takes in the whole circle of the sciences, and discovers a most extensive reading, and a general acquaintance with the ancient writers, both sacred and profane. In the moral parts his style is pathetic and moving, being the language of a heart overflowing with sentiments of religion and piety: and though elegance and politeness of style were not the advantage of that age, the diction of this father is agreeable and clear. The saint was well versed in the Latin, Greek, and Hebrew languages.
St. Ildefonse says, that this saint governed his church nearly forty years, but cannot mean above thirty-six or thirty-seven. When he was almost fourscore years old, though age and fatigues had undermined and broken his health, he never interrupted his usual exercises and labours. During the last six months of his life, he increased his charities with such profusion, that the poor of the whole country crowded his house from morning till night. Perceiving his end to draw near, he entreated two bishops to come to see him. With them he went to the church, where one of them covered him with sackcloth, the other put ashes on his head. Clothed with the habit of penance, he stretched his hands towards heaven, prayed with great earnestness, and begged aloud the pardon of his sins. He then received from the hands of the bishops the body and blood of our Lord, recommended himself to the prayers of all who were present, remitted the bonds of all his debtors, exhorted the people to charity, and caused all the money which he had not as yet disposed of to be distributed among the poor. This done, he returned to his own house, and calmly departed this life on the fourth day after, which was the 4th of April, in the year 636, as is expressly testified by Ædemptus, his disciple, who was present at his death. His body was interred in his cathedral, between those of his brother, St. Leander, and his sister, St Florentina. Ferdinand, king of Castile and Leon, recovered his relics from the Moors, and placed them in the church of St. John Baptist, at Leon, where they still remain.
All who are employed in the functions of Martha, or of an exterior active life, must always remember that action and contemplation ought to be so constantly intermingled, that the former be always animated and directed by the latter, and amidst the exterior labours of the active life, we constantly enjoy the interior repose of the contemplative, and that no employments entirely interrupt the union of our souls to God; but those that are most distracting serve to make us more closely, more eagerly, and more amorously plunge our hearts in Him, embracing him in himself by contemplation, and in our neighbour by our actions.
Taken from: The Liturgical Year – Lent, Edition 1870;
The Lives of the Fathers, Martyrs, and Other Principal Saints, Vol. IV, 1866; and
The Divine Office for the use of the Laity, Volume I, 1806.
Related Links –
1. The Passiontide and Holy Week.
2. The Holy Season of Lent.
3. Laws of Fasting and Abstinence.
4. Perfect Contrition.
5. The Seven Penitential Psalms.
6. Devotion to our Lord’s Passion.
7. Devotion to our Lady’s Sorrows.
St. Isidore, pray for us.