Saint Isidore of Seville’s feast day is April 4. Learn more about him and invite your class to do activities suggested below that relate in some way to his life.
Saint Isidore of Seville was born in 560 in Cartagena, Spain. He had an older brother, Leander, a younger brother, Fulgentius, as well as a sister, Florentina. Leander was quite a bit older than Isidore, so when Isidore went to school, his brother was one of his teachers. Leander was also the Archbishop of Seville.
When their parents died, Leander took charge of Isidore. He lived in the archbishop’s residence, where he was surrounded by books and educated guests who participated in discussions around the dinner table.
Isidore was a very intelligent boy, but he didn’t study as hard as Leander thought he should. Leander expected more from him than the other students. Isidore began to feel that he would never be able to meet his brother’s ambitious goals for him.
One day when Isidore was sitting near an old stone well, he noticed that thin wet ropes had worn grooves into the thick stone walls of the well. Isidore realized that it took a long time for this to happen, for the stone was very hard. But little by little, day after day, year after year, the wet ropes had cut into the stone. Isidore learned a very valuable lesson that day. If he kept working at his studies—day after day, year after year, little by little—his small efforts would be successful. And that is exactly what Isidore did.
Isidore became known as the most learned man not only in Spain, but in the western world. He read and gathered the writings of the world’s greatest thinkers. He collected and organized information on every imaginable subject. He wanted to pass on the knowledge he had acquired. His most important and best-known work is the Etymologiae, which was like a vast storehouse of all the knowledge known to mankind at the time. It was divided into twenty books and treated a wide variety of subjects—from God, theology, philosophy, and poetry to medicine, law, animals, stones and metal, geography, agriculture, war, ships, houses and clothes, food, tools, and furniture.
Isidore also wrote dictionaries, encyclopedias, and books on history, physics, astronomy, theology, grammar, and Christian biography. His history of the world is still consulted as a source on Spanish history. Isidore’s work has been compared to a huge database. And that’s why, in 1999, the Pontifical Council for Social Communications recommended that Isidore of Seville be named the patron saint of the internet, computer designers, programmers, and those who use computers.
After Leander died, Isidore became Archbishop of Seville. During his thirty-six years as archbishop, Isidore’s influence grew. The Church and his nation had been divided by the Arian heresy, which claimed that Jesus was not truly God, but was created by God. Isidore succeeded in converting the Arians to genuine Catholic faith. He worked to establish a seminary in every diocese in Spain. He set up a model of representative government for the Church in Spain, with synods made up of groups of bishops to advise him on important Church issues. He presided over the Second Council of Seville and the Fourth Council of Toledo. He died on April 4, 636.
Because his writings and teachings shaped the spirituality and theology of generations of Christians, Isidore was proclaimed a Doctor of the Church by Pope Benedict XIV in 1722.
But it was not his wisdom and achievements that made Isidore a saint. His life of teaching and leadership in the Church was rooted in prayer. He used the gifts and opportunities God gave him to benefit others. Isidore was as well known for his generosity toward the poor as he was for his wisdom.
In a general audience on June 18, 2008, Pope Benedict XVI cited Saint Isidore of Seville as an example of a holy person who seeks God in contemplation, prayer, and Sacred Scripture and, at the same time, serves the human community.
Seeds children will share Saint Isidore’s curiosity and quest for knowledge and often delight in organizing objects. In a large paper grocery bag, place an assortment of objects of various textures, sizes, and colors: for example, a feather, a balloon, a marble, a seashell, a cotton ball, a crayon, a drinking straw, a paintbrush, a pompom, a building block. Invite the children to take turns reaching into the bag and, without peeking, picking up an object. Before pulling their hand from the bag, they should guess what object they are holding.
When all the objects have been identified, lay them out on the floor or a table. Then help the children organize the objects by asking questions, such as: Which of these things is soft? Put the soft objects in one group. Which of these things is long? Put them in a group. Which is round? Which is the same color? Which is small? If there’s time, you may want to gather all the items together again and give children a chance to group the objects into another set of categories.
Talk with Promise children about the importance of charity and stewardship. Point out that because Saint Isidore was an important man in the Church in Spain, he probably lived in a very nice home, with nice furniture, books, art, and clothing. But Isidore believed that everything he had was a gift from God and should be used for the good of others. All his life, Isidore was generous in giving money to the poor. As he grew older, his charity also grew. In the last months of his life, Isidore gave away so much that his home was filled from morning to evening with people coming to him for help.
Direct the children to close their eyes and picture Isidore’s large house in their minds. Ask: Can you see Archbishop Isidore, an old man now, sitting in the living room? Can you see all the poor people coming for help? Are people thanking Isidore? Can you see him smiling at the people? Can you see the happy people going back home?
Invite the children to make a mural. Divide a long piece of roll paper into five sections or use five sheets of poster board. Hang the paper or poster board on the wall or lay it on a long table or the floor. Have the children work in five groups or pairs to produce the mural showing these scenes:
Scene 1: Sunrise, many people traveling toward city
Scene 2: Isidore’s large house
Scene 3: Archbishop Isidore in his living room, with people crowding toward him
Scene 4: Close-up of Isidore talking with the people
Scene 5: Sunset, many people leaving the city carrying food and possessions
Good News children are tackling the scholastic challenges of chapter books, spelling tests, sentence structure, multiplication tables, and long division. Like young Isidore, they may be tempted to skip their homework. And at times, they will be discouraged because even though they study, they don’t always do as well as they had hoped. Invite the children to make bookmarks for inspiration.
Talk about the lesson Isidore learned by seeing what the wet ropes did to the stone walls of the well. Help the children think of images that illustrate for them the importance of not giving up. It could be a dandelion growing and blooming through the crack in a sidewalk, an ant carrying a cookie crumb, or a hiker ascending a mountain. Suggest that they also make a homework resolution or prayer, such as “Keep trying” or “A little better every day” or “Holy Spirit, help me.”
Give each child a 2″ X 8″ piece of card stock. Direct the children to print their homework resolutions or prayers on their bookmarks in their best lettering. Then they can illustrate their bookmarks with images that will help them to remember not to give up. Encourage each child to keep this bookmark in the textbook for the subject that he or she finds the most challenging.
Venture children will be intrigued by the subject of patron saints. Saints have been named as the patron—one who protects, guides, and helps—of individuals, professions, countries, parishes, schools, and more. Discuss why Saint Isidore has been considered the patron saint of the internet and computer users. Then direct the children to work in small groups to write a short prayer to Saint Isidore of Seville that they can pray before logging onto the internet. They should make enough copies for everyone in their group. Encourage children to tape the prayers to the family computer at home for everyone to pray.
Help the group draw up a list of people, places, or activities that interest them. For example: sports, students, artists, aviators, television, teachers, firefighters, parish priests, children, singers, skiers, the United States, the Americas. Then assign each child one item on the list. The task: to find the patron saint for that person, place, or activity. If the internet is available during class, you may allow the children do their research immediately. If not, have them do it at home and report their findings at your next class.
In his Book of Maxims, Saint Isidore wrote: “When we pray, we talk to God; when we read, God talks to us. . . . Reading the Holy Scriptures confers two benefits. It trains the mind to understand them; it turns man’s attention from the follies of the world and leads him to the love of God.”
Introduce Visions students to Lectio Divina, which means “holy reading.” This is a way to pray using Scripture that has long been a tradition in the Church. You may want to copy, cut, and paste these four steps into a document that can be photocopied, one copy for each student:
Lectio (reading)—Choose a short passage or verse from Scripture. In a comfortable and quiet place, pray a prayer. Then open the Bible and find your chosen passage. Read it several times slowly and carefully, see it, but also hear it. Listen to each word and phrase.
Meditatio (meditation or reflection)—Think about what you have read. Let your memories, imagination, and ideas go to work. Ask yourself: What does this passage say about God? What does it mean to me?
Oratio (prayer)—Pay attention to your heart. You may feel like giving thanks or praising God. Ask God for the grace to apply the truth of his Word to your life. You may need to ask God for help in changing your attitude or behavior.
Contemplatio (contemplation)—This is the time to be quiet and listen for God’s response. Forget about words. Just enjoy being with God. Let yourself rest in God’s love and peace.
Image credit: Bartolomé Esteban Murillo, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons