By Brian Nixon, Special to ASSIST News Service
ALBUQUERQUE, NEW MEXICO (ANS – April 25, 2017) — According to The Telegraph in the UK, “the Pope does not make someone a saint” . Rather, “the designation of sainthood only recognizes what God has already done.” And though Protestants would designate any Christian that has received Jesus as Lord as a saint (not a specific person canonized through a process), the fact is that all branches of Christianity believe and recognize saints: fellow Christians that journeyed with Jesus in ages past.
As one interested in Christian history I’m fascinated by men and women who had a deep and abiding relationship with Christ. To me these “saints” are worth reading about and learning from; fellow believers that tell a story of pursuing truth and living triumphantly, even in the midst of trial, tribulation — and for some — torture.
So when the National Hispanic Cultural Center in Albuquerque New Mexico opened its new exhibit Outstanding in His Field: San Ysidro, Patron Saint of Farmers — I had to attend. And the fact that the exhibit opened on Earth Day weekend was a greater draw: why not celebrate a Christian from the past that cared for God’s creation, I thought.
In cultures around the world — especially in New Mexico — millions of people recognize the simple farmer from Spain known as Isidore the Laborer (variations spell his name Ysidro or Isidro). Standing six feet, five inches, Isidore’s full name was Isidro de Merlo y Quintana. Born in Madrid around 1070 AD, Isidore was a devout Christian who tended the fields of wealthy Spanish landowners. Tradition states that Isidore would attend church services every day before his work in the field, taking his job as a farmer very seriously. As the biography at the exhibit states, “Isidro was extremely pious, and was kind to animals and the poor even though he also experienced poverty. He and his wife Maria Toribia had a son. When Isidro died in 1130, his tomb in St. Andrew Church in Madrid became a popular pilgrimage site.”
It was Isidore’s care for animals, the earth, and the poor that enamored people who knew him. Because of this, various stories of miracles arose during his lifetime and thereafter. To date, roughly 438 miracles are attributed to Isidore. The earliest biography (called a hagiography in the Roman Catholic church), the Códice de Juan Diácono, lists five of his miracles: 1. The pigeons and the grain. 2. The angels plough. 3. The saving of his donkey, through prayer, from a wolf attack. 4. The account of his wife’s pot of food. 5. A similar account of his feeding the brotherhood. 
Pope Paul V beatified Isidore in 1619, and was canonized by Gregory XV in March 1622. The day designated to remember Isidore — his Feast Day — is on May 15th, the day of his death.
The symbolic representation (called iconography) associated with Isidore is that of a spade, ox goad, plow, and field. As the exhibit information states, “In New Mexico, he can be depicted with the same farm implements but is more often rendered in the fields standing or praying as an angel guides a pair of oxen plowing…The saint’s clothing includes a mid-length jacket or tunic over pants that are stuffed into boots. In traditional New Mexican art, San Ysidro often wears a dark broad-brimmed hat and the blue and red bayeta (light wool uniform) of an early New Mexican settler.” Recent representations of Isidore have him driving a tractor or standing in a field with a UFO flying overhead.
So what is it that we can glean from Isidore?
One, care for God’s creation is important. Being a good steward of God’s gift of nature is an essential feature for the believer: Earth Day is every day. If creation was good enough for God to create, it should be good enough for God’s people to care for (see Genesis 1). Learn about ministries that are part of caring for creation: A Rocha (https://arocha.us/) and Creation Care (http://www.creationcare.org/) are two of the finest.
Two, care for the poor involves both prayer and practice. True, we should pray for the poor, but our prayers should involve practice, practical relief in realistic ways: give food to homeless shelters, sit on a board of a homeless outreach, invite poor people over for dinner, or volunteer at a community garden that services the poor. In all we do, help the helpless, serve the simple, and love the unloving (James 2: 15-16).
Three, expect miracles. A miracle is an event not explicable by science. God acts as He wills, sometimes naturally (through natural laws) and sometimes supernaturally (through direct intervention: miracles). Pray for God’s will to be accomplished by any means possible (“Thy will be done”: Matthew 6:10). Envision the plausible, but expect the improbable, the supernatural work of a Willing God.
2) Megías, Fdez. “Juan Diácono, el hombre “anónimo” que rescató la memoria de San Isidro” — http://www.membrilla.com/portal/index.php/revista-digital/cultura/item/2850-juan-di%C3%A1cono-el-hombre-an%C3%B3nimo-que-rescat%C3%B3-la-memoria-de-san-isidro
Photo captions: 1) Exhibit Opening at the National Hispanic Cultural Center. 2) Details of the exhibit. 3) San Ysidro and UFO by Christine Montano-Carey. 3) San Ysidro by Charles Carillo. 4) Brian Nixon.
About the writer: Brian Nixon is a writer, musician, and minister. He’s a graduate of California State University, Stanislaus (BA) and is a Fellow at Oxford Graduate School (D.Phil.). To learn more, click here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brian_Nixon or https://twitter.com/BnixNews.
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