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ARTICLES > LETTERS OF AQUILA AND PRISCILLA

Mary has chosen the better part ~ Luke 10:42

When I was a young boy growing up in Quezon province, our family enjoyed going to Lucban every 15th of May to see the pahiyas during the fiesta of San Isidro. We particularly liked the numerous pieces of kiping of various colors that cover the entire façade of many houses together with an assortment of agricultural products such as whole bunches of bananas, coconuts, and other fruits and vegetables. We also enjoyed the musical bands that Lucban was famous for like Babat and Payawal.

The fiesta of San Isidro is celebrated to honor St. Isidore the Farmer. He was married to Maria Torribia who also became a saint and is venerated in Spain as St. Maria de la Cabeza (because her head is conserved in a reliquary and carried in procession). But unlike Luigi Beltrame Quattrocchi and Maria Corsini, who were the first married couple to be beatified together on 21 October 2001 by Pope John Paul II, and Louis Martin and Marie Zelie Guerin, who were the first married couple to be canonized together on 18 October 2015 by Pope Francis, Isidore and Maria were beatified/canonized individually and separately. Isidore died on 15 May 1130 near his birthplace in Madrid, Spain and was beatified on 14 June 1619 by Pope Paul V and canonized on 12 March 1622 by Pope Gregory XV. Maria died many years later in 1175 after living alone like a hermit and was beatified on 11 August 1697 by Pope Innocent XII.

The stories and legends associated with the lives of Sts. Isidore and Maria echo one of the main lessons from the Biblical account about Martha and Mary: As they continued their journey he entered a village where a woman whose name was Martha welcomed him. She had a sister named Mary who sat beside the Lord at his feet listening to him speak. Martha, burdened with much serving, came to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me by myself to do all the serving?” Tell her to help me.” The Lord said to her in reply, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things. There is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her.” (Lk 10:38-42)

Isidore was a hired hand in the farm of Juan de Vargas, a wealthy Madrid landowner. Every morning before working in the farm, Isidore attended Mass, often staying longer for more prayers and silent reflection. It came to a point that some co-workers complained to their master that Isidore was always late for work due to his religious practices. One morning, the master decided to investigate and found that indeed Isidore showed up late. He wanted to reprimand Isidore but was stopped by an astonishing sight – a group of white oxen driven by angelic beings were tilling the fields assigned to Isidore. On another occasion, when the master was again checking on Isidore, he saw what looked like two angels plowing the fields, one on each side of Isidore.  Later that day, when he checked how much Isidore had accomplished, he discovered that it equaled that of three hard-working laborers.

There is a lesson for us here. We can be like Martha preoccupied with work to please the Lord. Or we can be like Mary silently and attentively listening to God’s word as an expression of our love for him. Both are meritorious for eternal life. But Jesus identifies the better part. Or we can be like Isidore who chose to begin each day like Mary and end it like Martha. Then God’s angels will fill the rest.

There are many other stories of miracles associated with St. Isidore. It was said that one day he was going to the mill with wheat to be ground when he passed by a flock of pigeons searching futilely for food on the hard surface of the ground. Taking pity on the hungry birds, he poured half of his sack of precious wheat onto the ground to feed them. But when he reached the mill, he found the bag still full. And after the wheat was ground, it produced twice the expected amount of flour.

In another story, Maria was said to have always kept a hot pot of stew in their simple rural home since she knew that Isidore would normally bring home someone who was hungry.  But one day, he brought home more hungry people than usual and she ran out of stew. Isidore insisted that there was more. When she checked again, she found the pot full and was able to feed all the people he brought in.

Isidore and Maria had only one child, their son, Illan. One afternoon, the young Illan accidentally fell into a deep well. But at the prayers of his parents, the water of the well slowly rose miraculously to the level of the ground, bringing Illan safely to the surface. Unfortunately, Illan died later in his youth.
Isidore was known for his outstanding love for the Eucharist, his deep devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary, and for his generous charity at the service of the people, particularly children and the very poor. Maria, on the other hand, was a source of constant help for her husband in various tasks such as building wells, cleaning the local chapel, and providing food for the hungry. She was known for her simplicity, austerity, charity, and most of all for being fully united with and supportive of her husband. They were a team both in their work in the farm and in their service to their church and community.

The life of Isidore and Maria confirms that marriage can be our path to holiness, that as husband and wife we can be a pastoral team. They never ruled a diocese like a bishop or headed a parish like a priest. They were not martyred for their faith. They did not preach or deliver homilies. They did not go on mission to other places. They simply loved and served God in the farm, in their home, in their church and in their community. Isidore was a simple farmer, Maria a simple housewife. But their conduct was honest, their faith pure, and their heart generous. And they love and support each other as husband and wife.

Marriage can be our way to heaven. If we serve, respect and love one another as husband and wife – united by a common bond, truly two persons but one flesh and thus one in spirit – and if we work hard to meet our job obligations, if we support our family, raise and teach our children, and help the poor and the needy, and at the same time make time to listen to and reflect on God’s word in reverence and silence, receive the Holy Eucharist daily or as often as we can, practice deep devotion to the Blessed Mother, then like St. Martha we can serve the Lord while also like St. Mary choose the better part.

We continue our reflection on marriages that have been blessed to become the couples’ way to holiness. In this November issue, we reflect on the lives of Sts. Isidore and Maria Torribio, a couple who was beatified and canonized individually and separately. Isidore was a simple farmer and Maria a simple housewife. They simply loved and served God as a team in the farm, in their home, in their church and in their community.

We pray that the Holy Spirit touch your hearts through these Letters. May the Lord bless us as couples, that our marriage be our path to heaven, and like St. Martha be able to serve the Lord while also like St. Mary choose the better part.
~Reflections of Jun and Jean Uriarte

Added on Monday, November 23, 2015



 

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