Saint Brigid Religious Education
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St. Isidore of Seville
Doctor of the Church
Feast day: April 4
Isidore was literally born into a family of saints in sixth century
Spain. Two of his brothers, Leander and Fulgentius, and one of his
sisters, Florentina, are revered as saints in Spain. It was also a
family of leaders and strong minds with Leander and Fulgentius serving
as bishops and Florentina as abbess.
This didn't make life easier for Isidore. To the contrary, Leander may
have been holy in many ways, but his treatment of his little brother
shocked many even at the time. Leander, who was much older than Isidore,
took over Isidore's education and his pedagogical theory involved force
and punishment. We know from Isidore's later accomplishments that he was
intelligent and hard-working so it is hard to understand why Leander
thought abuse would work instead of patience.
One day, the young boy couldn't take any more. Frustrated by his
inability to learn as fast as his brother wanted and hurt by his
brother's treatment, Isidore ran away. But though he could escape his
brother's hand and words, he couldn't escape his own feeling of failure
and rejection. When he finally let the outside world catch his
attention, he noticed water dripping on the rock near where he sat. The
drops of water that fell repeatedly carried no force and seemed to have
no effect on the solid stone. And yet he saw that over time, the water
drops had worn holes in the rock.
Isidore realized that if he kept working at his studies, his seemingly
small efforts would eventually pay off in great learning. He also may
have hoped that his efforts would also wear down the rock of his
When he returned home, however, his brother in exasperation confined him
to a cell (probably in a monastery) to complete his studies, not
believing that he wouldn't run away again.
Either there must have been a loving side to this relationship or
Isidore was remarkably forgiving even for a saint, because later he
would work side by side with his brother and after Leander's death,
Isidore would complete many of the projects he began including a missal
His love of learning made him promote the establishment of a seminary in
every diocese of Spain. He didn't limit his own studies and didn't want
others to as well. In a unique move, he made sure that all branches of
knowledge including the arts and medicine were taught in the seminaries.
As bishop of Seville for 37 years, succeeding Leander, he set a model
for representative government in Europe. Under his direction, and
perhaps remembering the tyrannies of his brother, he rejected autocratic
decision- making and organized synods to discuss government of the
Spanish Church. Still trying to wear away rock with water, he helped
convert the barbarian Visigoths from Arianism to Christianity.
He lived until almost 80. As he was dying his house was filled with
crowds of poor he was giving aid and alms to. One of his last acts was
to give all his possessions to the poor.
When he died in 636, this Doctor of the Church had done more than his
brother had ever hoped. The light of his learning caught fire in Spanish
minds and held back the Dark Ages of barbarism from Spain. But even
greater than his outstanding mind must have been the genius of his heart
that allowed him to see beyond rejection and discouragement to joy and