Today is the feast of Saint Isidore the Farmer who lives near Madrid, Spain, from 1070 to 1130, with his wife Saint Maria.
He was a campesino and a day laborer, who worked and prayed, and was extremely generous to the poor and even to animals.
The life of the farmer is not easy – and never has been. But it has a great dignity, not only because without farmers we would not eat but because good farmers protect and guard the land. But the small farmers live precariously throughout the world – their dignity is not respected and their access to land is denied.
In 1988, the bishops of Guatemala wrote an incredible pastoral letter, The Cry of the Land, which spoke to these concerns. Here is a short extract:
“We belong to the earth (Gen 2:7) and it belongs to us because when the Lord created us, he charged us to till it and care for it (Gen 2:15). Thus, work in agriculture appears the quintessential task by which we situate ourselves in the world and before God.
“Many scriptural texts express joy at the fruit of our fatiguing labor on the land and our thanksgiving for God’s blessing. When the land bears a crop, we know that God blesses us (Ps 67:7; 85:13)….
“The land does not belong to us, but to God, and what each calls property is in reality the portion needed to live. ‘The land and all in it, the world and those who inhabit it, belong to God” (Ps 24:1)….
“In Recife, Brazil, [Pope] John Paul II told the farmers: ‘The land is a gift from God, a gift for all human beings, men and women, who are called to be united in a single family and related to one another in a fraternal spirit. Therefore, it is not legitimate, because it is not according to God’s design, to use this gift so that its fruits benefit only a few, excluding others, who form the immense majority.’”
Bishops of Guatemala, The Cry of the Land