April 4, 2017

Saint Isidore, Bishop of Seville (+ 636)

St. Isidore of Seville (Feast Day - April 4)

Saint Isidore was born about the year 560 in Cartagena, Hispania (today's Spain), into the family of Severianus and Theodora. The family, which included his brothers Leander (Feb. 27) and Fulgentius and sister Florentina, was related to the Visgoth royalty and was influential in the conversion of the Visigothic kings from Arianism to the Orthodox faith. Orphaned at an early age, Isidore received his elementary education under the guidance of his brother Bishop Leander at the Cathedral School of Seville, whose teaching staff included many learned men including Archbishop Leander.

After the death of his brother Leander in 600, Isidore succeeded him to the see of Seville. While Isidore is not known to have have entered a monastic life, Isidore professed himself a protector of the monks. He pronounced anathema against any ecclesiastic who should abuse the monasteries in anyway.

The extended period of his episcopate was during a time of disintegration and transition as the ancient institutions and knowledge of the Roman Empire were disappearing. During these times Bishop Isidore set himself to the task of joining into a homogeneous nation the many peoples who made up the Gothic kingdom. To accomplish this task he used all the resources of religion and education available to him. He participated in a Council at Toledo in 610, and he presided over the Second Council of Seville in November 619, leading to the setting forth of the nature of Christ in the Acts of the council, as he pushed for the eradication of Arianism.

While then advanced in years, Isidore presided over the Fourth Council of Toledo in December 633 which decreed that all bishops establish education facilities in their cathedral cities including seminaries similar to that in Seville.

The range of his knowledge was extensive, and included the study of Latin, Hebrew and Greek. A prolific writer, Saint Isidore wrote on religious, historical and scientific topics. His Etymologies (or Origins) was a compendium of the knowledge of his time, and was used through the Middle Ages. Today, however, his history of the Goths and Vandals is of greater interest. He even composed a monastic Rule, although he was not a monk. He also wrote biographies of biblical figures and other illustrious men. For these reasons many consider him "the last scholar of the ancient world."

Saint Isidore fell asleep in the Lord in 636, and his holy relics were later transferred to the Basilica of San Isidoro in León.