St. Isidore the Farmer was born in Madrid to poor parents around the year 1070. He was named for Isidore of Seville, and although his parents could not provide Isidore with a formal education they instilled in him a love of prayer and a hatred of sin at an early age. From the time he was old enough to work, Isidore was a laborer on an estate outside of Madrid owned by a wealthy man named Juan de Vargas. Isidore’s wife, Maria, was also poor and very holy. In Spain she is known as Santa Maria de la Cabeza because her head (“cabeza” in Spanish) has been carried in procession, especially during times of drought. Isidore and Maria had one son who died as a child; after his death they agreed to serve God in celibacy.
Isidore is a model of how to unite prayer and work in the Christian life. He would attend Mass early each morning and all day long as he worked in the fields he would be praying to God, the saints, or his guardian angel. Isidore spent holidays making pilgrimages to the churches of Madrid and the surrounding areas.
One day, envious workers told de Vargas that Isidore had been coming late for work in the mornings. When de Vargas went to investigate, he saw angels plowing the fields in Isidore’s place. At another time, de Vargas saw two angels working beside Isidore, so that he accomplished three times as much as his fellow workers. Isidore was known for his great generosity to the poor and his kindness to animals. He worked many miracles in his lifetime and was already considered a saint when he died in 1130.
It is said that in 1212 St. Isidore appeared to King Alfonso VIII, who was at that time fighting the Moors at Las Navas de Tolosa, to show him a way to surprise the enemy. King Alfonso was successful, and he defeated the Almohads in this decisive Christian victory that helped to turn the tide of the Reconquista. On March 12, 1622 St. Isidore was canonized by Gregory the XV, along with St. Ignatius of Loyola, St. Francis Xavier, St. Teresa of Avila, and St. Philip Neri. St. Isidore is the patron of farmers and Madrid.