On May 15, 1130, outside Madrid, Saint Isidore died. Though he is invoked as St. Isidore the Farmer, he might better be called St. Isidore the Farmworker, in Spanish, San Isidro Labrador. He was not a farmer who owned his land, but – as many people do here – worked on another person’s fields.
From his teens, St. Isidore worked as a day laborer on the farm of a landowner. He led a life of devotion, attending Mass each morning. But he was also known for his generosity to the poor as well as to animals.
A delightful story is that one winter day he was on his way to grind grain. Seeing some hungry birds, he poured out half his sack of grain to feed them. When he arrived at the mill, the sack was filled.
There are also stories of angels accompanying him farming.
An image I have seen here is Saint Isidore with two oxen, pulling his plough. It must mean a lot to people here in Honduras since in the department of Intibucá I have seen teams of oxen carrying materials and even plowing the field.
Saint Isidore reminds us of the dignity of work but also calls us to work for justice for all farmworkers, that they may have land to work so that they can sustain their lives and the lives of their families.
Let us pray today for justice in the land.
Such a call for justice can be heard in the Guatemalan bishops’ statement The Cry of the Land:
“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.’”