Saint Isidore of Madrid

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Saint Isidore of Madrid

Confessor
(† 1170)

Saint Isidore the Farmer, a perennially popular Saint in Spain, was born near Madrid of very poor but very Christian parents, who early inspired in him love for God and horror of sin. His education was accomplished entirely by the Holy Spirit who taught him, without books, the science of salvation.

He married a wife rich in virtue, Maria Torribia, and God blessed them with a son whom they brought up in the sentiments of their own piety. The child fell into a well, which is still shown in Madrid, and drowned; but when his parents prayed he might be returned to them, the water rose to ground level and brought up the child full of life and health. They promised then to separate, apparently out of gratitude to God, and to live in perpetual continence.

Saint Isidore’s wife became a hermit like himself; Maria, too, performed miracles and merited after her death the name of Santa Maria de la Cabeza, meaning Head, because her head, conserved in a reliquary and carried in procession, has often brought down rain from heaven for the afflicted countryside. Her remains are honored by all of Spain by pilgrimages and processions at Torrelaguna, where they were transferred in 1615.

Saint Isidore himself was a day-laborer on a farm near Madrid, but every day found him at Mass in one of the churches of the city before he set out for his daily task. His employer desired to verify whether he was wasting time during his work, and one day saw two mysterious personages helping the holy worker to guide his plow; Isidore himself told him they were Angels. Afterwards the wealthy owner became still more convinced that piety was useful in all occupations. For not only did his worker bring back to life one of his horses, which he very much needed; when his daughter, too, died, she was resurrected by the Saint. A fountain of water which the Saint caused to surge up by striking the ground still exists.

Saint Isidore, though poor, shared all he had with the poor; and one day, when no provisions were left, his cupboard was found well furnished when still another beggar arrived.

Saint Isidore died some time after his wife; and forty years later his remains, which had been in extremely wet ground, were found incorrupt. They were taken into the Church of Saint Andrew and re-interred there; miracles have been countless, and celestial music has often been heard at his tomb. He has protected the city of Seville, making himself visible occasionally; and the kings of Spain themselves urged his canonization, which was carried out in 1622 by Pope Gregory XV.

Les Petits Bollandistes: Vies des Saints, by Msgr. Paul Guérin (Bloud et Barral: Paris, 1882), Vol. 5

Saint Catherine of Genoa

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Saint Catherine of Genoa

Widow
(1447-1510)

Saint Catherine Fieschi, daughter of a Viceroy of Naples, was born in Genoa. Her family, rich in great men, had given to the Church two popes, nine cardinals and two archbishops. Catherine, noble in birth, rich, and exceedingly beautiful, had as a child rejected the solicitations of the world, and begged her divine Master for some share in His sufferings. Despite her ardent desire to enter the cloister, at sixteen years of age she found herself promised in marriage to a young nobleman of dissolute habits. She was obliged to obey her parents’ intentions. Her spouse treated her with such harshness that after five years, wearied by his cruelty, she somewhat relaxed the strictness of her state and entered into the worldly society of Genoa. At length, enlightened by divine grace as to the danger of her state, she resolutely broke with the world and entered upon a life of rigorous penance and prayer. Having seen Jesus with His cross, and heard His reproaches, O love! she cried, I will sin no longer!

For twenty-three years she could take no nourishment but Holy Communion, and she drank only a little water mingled with vinegar and salt. Every day she prayed for six to seven hours on her knees, and never relaxed this practice. Her heroic fortitude was sustained by the constant thought of the holy souls of purgatory, whose sufferings were revealed to her, and whose state she has described in a treatise full of heavenly wisdom.

The charity with which she devoted herself to the service of the hospitals, undertaking the most disagreeable offices with joy, caused the administrators of the large hospital of Genoa to confide it entirely to her government. She served there without any remuneration whatsoever. Her examples also induced her husband to practice patience and amend his ways; before he died he joined the Third Order of Saint Francis and faithfully followed its penitential exercises. A long, grievous and mysterious illness during the last nine years of her own life served to perfect her union with God. The most able physicians could not help Saint Catherine, and judged that her illness was not from natural causes. Her first biographer wrote an account in detail of her last month on earth, and assures the Church that she left this mortal life in a state of total purification. She died on the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, September 14, 1510.

Reflection: The constant thought of purgatory will help us not only to escape its dreadful pains, but also to avoid the least imperfection which hinders our approach to God.

Little Pictorial Lives of the Saints, a compilation based on Butler’s Lives of the Saints and other sources by John Gilmary Shea (Benziger Brothers: New York, 1894); Les Petits Bollandistes: Vies des Saints, by Msgr. Paul Guérin (Bloud et Barral: Paris, 1882), Vol. 11