For All the Saints: Isidore of Seville

Not until I read Julie Cragon’s blog Hand Me Down Heaven Sunday afternoon did I realize Easter Sunday was also the feast day of Saint Isidore of Seville. The twinning of Saint Isidore’s feast day, April 4, and Easter Sunday this year is fortuitous. This learned archbishop, who died on April 4, 656, succeeded his brother Leander as Metropolitan See of Seville at a time when Spain was in disarray and awash in heresies. His life story lets us know that for centuries Christian witnesses have helped to restore the Church by synthesizing contemplation and action.

Ironically, my son Gabriel and I had been talking about Saint Isidore when we went out to lunch after the 11 a.m. Mass before heading home. Saint Isidore is Gabriel’s patron saint; he chose Isidore as his confirmation name after a family friend introduced him to this “indefatigible compiler of all existing knowledge.” His most important work, the 20-volume Etymologaie, is considered the world’s first encyclopedia. It was widely used for 1,000 years. Since Gabriel, too, has a deep thirst for knowledge, he was drawn to learn more about Saint Isidore. The fact this Doctor of the Church, also known as the last scholar of the ancient world, is the proposed patron saint of the internet didn’t hurt, either.

In addition to his obvious scholarly brilliance, St. Isidore also oversaw the Second Synod of Seville (619) and the Fourth National Council of Toledo (633). The Second Synod of Seville was important because it clarified the Church’s teachings on Christ’s nature and the nature of a Triune God. This was at a time when Spain was split between believing Christians and Arians, who claimed that Christ was not  “of God.” The Fourth National Council, which all the bishops of Spain attended, decreed that every diocese establish seminaries in their cathedral cities. This, along with St. Isidore’s establishment of schools to study every area of learning, not insignificantly, made Spain a center of culture and learning. St. Isidore was holy and he thirsted for truth. He wrote: “Those who seek to attain repose in contemplation must first train in the stadium of active life; and then, free from the dross of sin, they will be able to display that pure heart which alone makes the vision of God possible.”

  • Julie Cragon

    "train in the stadium of active life" so to be able to "display that pure heart which alone makes the vision of God possible" Awesome!

  • Allison

    It continually amazes me the gems we can find by reading the works of ancient saints. Even the writing remains so clear.

  • El Bolillio Tejano

    Allison, I lived in Seville for some time at a younger age, and did not really understand who St. Isadore was. Recently, I spent some time in Toledo Spain and discovered more about the impact of St. Isadore. He is now on my list to read. Where do you suggest one would start if they wanted to get an introduction to St. Isadore?

  • Allison

    @EBT: Such interesting experiences you have had! Do you live in Europe now? I don't know much at all about this interesting saint. I did a google search and found an online book about him, published in 1912.It is called "Encyclopedist of the Dark Ages," and it was written as part of a series by historians at Columbia University.;=st.+isidore+of+seville+book&printsec;=frontcover&source;=in&hl;=en&ei;=z-27S5vVF4SClAfBqpjZBw&sa;=X&oi;=book_result&ct;=result&resnum;=11&ved;=0CDsQ6AEwCg#v=onepage&q;&f;=false

  • Allison

    p.s. Perhaps there are more books or sources you could find written in Spanish on this important Doctor of the Church? I would love to hear if anyone knows of any other books about him.

  • Frank

    I get at least ten citations coming up for the search "Isidore of Seville" on the YIM Catholic Book Shelf…give it a try.

  • El Bolillo Tejano

    @ Allision: Don't live in Spain, but have spent my fair share of time there. The history of Spain, and particularly it's missionaries, are unparalleled in the world.I will do a little research to see if I can find books by this Doctor of the Church and let you know what I find. The quote you included at the end really sums up some of my thoughts on the path to gaining a "vision of God." Beautiful.

  • Allison

    @EBTThanks. Please keep all posted. I am hard pressed to imagine there isn't a book, or a series of books with the biographies of the Doctors of the Church…