St Isidore the Farmer

Patron of Madrid, Spain (entered heaven in 1130)

Dear Doreen,

Your last note has caused me some concern.  Are you falling prey to the monstrous “me-ism” pervading today’s college campuses?  Gauging by how many times you referred to yourself (your feelings, your plans, your problems, your opinions, yada yada yada), I would guess that you are.  Perhaps you need a shove out of your Ptolemaic system and back into the Copernican system: the SON is the center of the universe, my dear niece, not YOU! Don’t be offended; I can speak (rather, type) the truth so plainly only because I love you so deeply.  If your poor, incarcerated uncle doesn’t keep you on the path to sanctity, who will? Besides, you are (admit it) quite hardheaded, and subtlety simply doesn’t work with you (never has – even when you were a toddler).  In case you have any doubts about my diagnosis, do the following thought experiment: sit quietly for a moment, and try to clear your mind. Are you sitting quietly? … Now, ask yourself the following question and then answer it, staying calm and recollected: What do I spend most of my time thinking about?… I would wager my life’s savings (which I am sure they confiscated when they arrested me) that your answer (if you were honest) was the little two-letter first person singular accusative pronoun – “me.”  (Maybe you preferred the reflexive – “myself” – the same thing.) Don’t be discouraged; that’s par for the course. But be humble, recognize that this is a sign of immaturity – your self-love is still your motor; your love for Christ and his Kingdom ought to be your motor. Changing motors is this life’s primary task.

I have often been struck by our Lord’s insistence on giving as the antidote to that kind of meism.  “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35); “Give and gifts will be given to you; a good measure, packed together, shaken down, and overflowing, will be poured into your lap. For the measure with which you measure will in return be measured out to you.”  This great Christian principle has inspired all the saints. Take today’s saint, for instance.

Isidore was a poor, uneducated farmer who worked his whole life long for the same rich Spanish landowner.  He had almost nothing of his own (his wife was equally generous; she too is revered as a saint), because the little he did earn he would give away to people in even greater need than himself.  But God showered him with wonderful graces. He was invited to a parish dinner one time, and arrived late (he had stayed overtime in the church, absorbed in prayer). A gaggle of beggars trooped in behind him.  The organizers complained that they had saved enough for him, but not for his coterie of ne’er-do-wells. He assured them that there would be plenty. Turns out, there was. When they went to fetch Isidore’s dinner, they found enough to feed everyone and still have leftovers.  Another time, he was carrying a sack of corn to be ground at the miller’s. It was winter, and he saw a few birds mournfully and hungrily staring down from their perch in the bare branches of a tree. Isidore emptied half the sack of corn onto the ground, much to the birds’ delight and to his companion’s scorn.  But when they arrived at the miller’s, the bag was completely full. And when the corn was ground, it produced double the expected amount of flour.

So you see, darling Doreen, the more we give, the fuller our lives become.  The reason behind this law of the universe is simple: God himself is a giver.  Just take a look around you; does the universe look like the product of a selfish, miserly deity?  Hardly. So if we are to be his children, we need to inherit his generosity.

Your loving uncle, Eddy

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