Lifelong CatechesisForming Catholic identity across generations
Forty days before the Triduum, the Lenten season disposes Catechumens and the faithful to celebrate the paschal mystery through prayer and penitential practices.
Isidore of Seville, Bishop and Doctor, 560-636
This saint’s family is thought to be of Roman origin, but his father was from Cartagena and Isidore was born in Seville. As a boy, Isidore was entrusted to his much older brother, Leander, for his education. Isidore received a very strict but firm grounding and later became known as the most learned man of his time and a strong supporter for good education. (Incidentally, Leander and another brother, Fulgentius, also became bishops and saints and a sister, Florentia, founder and abbess of several convents, became a saint as well.)
Isidore worked as an assistant to Leander, who had become bishop of Seville. Upon Leander’s death in about 599, Isidore succeeded him in this post. As bishop, Isidore accomplished much. He completed the conversion of the Goths from Arianism to Catholicism and adapted a missal and breviary for them, both tasks having been started by his brother. Isidore was responsible for establishing seminaries or church schools in every diocese of Spain. These schools did not teach merely the liberal arts and the classical languages, but had medicine, law, the sciences, and Aristotelian philosophy as part of their curriculum.
Isidore presided over two Church councils in Spain during his episcopate, the second Council of Seville in 619 and the fourth Council of Toledo in 633. He hosted the Council of Seville, but the other bishops chose him to preside over the Council of Toledo in recognition of his superior distinction as the greatest teacher in Spain.
Isidore was a prolific writer with many books to his credit on topics ranging from astronomy to theology. One book, written about the Goths, provides the only source of information available on a period of history of that people. Another, called the Etymologies or Origins, was a virtual encyclopedia of all the knowledge of his age. Alban Butler, in his Lives of the Saints, tells us that it was used as a text book until the middle of the sixteenth century.
Throughout his years, Isidore lived an austere life taking very little for himself and giving away what he did have. In the last six months of his life, he even increased his charities. The poor crowded his house daily to share his generosity. When he was near death, Isidore invited other bishops to visit him. At his request, they clothed him in sackcloth and ashes, the clothing of penitents, and he prayed for forgiveness of his sins. After receiving the last rites, Isidore distributed all his remaining worldly goods to the poor, forgave those indebted to him and then returned to his house where he died.
Saint Isidore is the patron of Seville. His optional memorial is celebrated on April 4.
Isidore's message today: God endows each of us with many gifts. Isidore had a strong drive to spread education throughout Spain at a time when, generally, only the aristocracy and priests were educated. He managed to do all of this while still living an austere life and tending to the needs of the poor.