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St Isidore of Seville
(southern Spain) Bishop and Doctor (entered heaven on this day, 636)
Balance, balance, balance. It’s always the same: when spring time roles around, you start getting antsy, and you lose your balance. Fun and relaxation are only PART of a balanced lifestyle, and not the most important part. The spiritual life is the central item; the intellectual life is important for you now, as a college student; and your apostolic activities are crucial. I think a glance at today’s saint (and some advice from him) may help you get back on track.
Isidore was one of those phenomenally talented fellows. His parents were holy. Otherwise they would not have been able to raise four canonized saints among their children: St Fulgentius, St Leander, St Florentina, and St Isidore. He started out as a poor student, with barely enough money to buy his most basic necessities. But he threw himself into the hands of Providence, and became one of the Church’s greatest scholars and most active apostles.
For years he assisted his brother’s efforts (St Leander was bishop of Seville) to retrieve the Arian Visigoths from their heretical ways. When his brother died, Isidore succeeded him in the episcopal see and continued the work, which had a favorable outcome. He organized and presided over a series of important Councils that kept the Church in Spain from falling into doctrinal and disciplinary errors. He wrote vast amounts of scholarly and spiritual works, including a dictionary, an encyclopedia, and a history of the world, all of which were points of reference throughout the Middle Ages. He also took so many pains to care for the poor that during the last years of his life his episcopal palace resembled an overcrowded hospital.
He was able to combine a dizzyingly active life with a profound spirit of study and contemplation. I hope that some of his advice (from his “Book of Maxims”) will help you do the same:
Prayer purifies us, reading instructs us. Both are good when both are possible. Otherwise, prayer is better than reading.
If a man wants to be always in God’s company, he must pray regularly and read regularly. When we pray, we talk to God; when we read, God talks to us.
All spiritual growth comes from reading and reflection. By reading we learn what we did not know; by reflection we retain what we have learned.
Reading the holy Scriptures confers two benefits. It trains the mind to understand them; it turns man’s attention from the follies of the world and leads him to the love of God.
The conscientious reader will be more concerned to carry out what he has read than merely to acquire knowledge of it. In reading we aim at knowing, but we must put into practice what we have learned in our course of study.
Learning unsupported by grace may get into our ears; it never reaches the heart. But when God’s grace touches our innermost minds to bring understanding, his word which has been received by the ear sinks deep into the heart.
Your loving uncle,
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