Monday, April 5, 2010

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."