Feast of St. Isidore
4th Sunday of Easter cycle A
May 15, 2011
I can feel joy in the air! I see gladness filling the corners of this Church today! I see old and familiar faces as well as new faces waiting to share the grace from Him who gathered us today, the Good Shepherd, our Lord Jesus Christ. People from different Ethnic backgrounds, different races and different ages have entered into the gate upon hearing the voice of the Good Shepherd who brought us all together to participate in the breaking of the bread and in our prayers.
Today we celebrate the life and works of St. Isidore, the patron saint of farmers. I thank our sisters and brothers from Gua Gua Pampanga and all the San Isidro devotees and members of the Iglesia Filipina Independiente or Philippine Independent Church through the leadership of Fr. Armando De Mesa in coming to share the good news of which the saint has done to their faith community.
This is a great opportunity to refresh our memories of the history of which the Episcopal Church in the United States continues to open her gate to those who are seeking to be part of the wider family of God. To most of you who are not aware, the Episcopal Church in the United States is in communion with other provinces in the Anglican Communion including the Philippine Independent Church. This means that the Philippine Independent Church entered into a concordat relationship with the Episcopal Church in the United States in order to keep the unbroken line of succession from Jesus to the apostles and to the bishops of the Church and share a common goal in the sacraments and in spreading the words of God.
In his book, “Catholicity and brief history of the Episcopal Church in the Philippines: Americanization and birth of a Filipino church” The Rev. Dr. Fred Vergara, Episcopal Asian Missioner in the TEC wrote in his footnote, “In the Anglican Reformation, when England separated from Rome, there were English Bishops who joined the Church of England. In the Philippine Reformation, there were no Filipino Bishops who joined the IFI because Rome did not ordain any Filipino Bishops. Like Martin Luther of Germany, Gregorio Aglipay, was a priest.” ( He revolutionized the church in the Philippines from the abusive practices of the Roman Catholic Friars and the refusal of the Vatican to appoint more Filipino priests to be assigned in Philippine churches. He was excommunicated. Aglipay was convinced by Isabelo De Los Reyes Sr. who was a nationalist and labor union leader, to establish a Filipino National Church, a church independent of Rome. Aglipay saw one problem; the Filipino National Church has to be in line with the Apostolic Succession to be legitimate.) “The issue of apostolicity dogged the IFI for many years and Aglipay was anxious for a catholic church that would give them that gift. It did not happen during his lifetime. It was after his death that his successor, (the son of Isabelo De Los Reyes Sr.,) The Rt. Rev. Isabelo De Los Reyes Jr. gained friendship with the ECUSA and obtained apostolic succession. On April 7, 1948, at St. Luke’s Pro-Cathedral in Quezon City, three Episcopal Church Bishops (Norman Binsted, Harry Kennedy and Robert Wilner) consecrated three IFI priests (Isabelo De Los Reyes Jr., Gerardo Bayaca and Manuel Aguilar) as first bishops of the IFI.”
As you know, Isabelo De Los Reyes Jr. is the father of the late Dolores De Los Reyes-Cudiamat who was a long time member of Holy Child and St. Martin and whose children and grandchildren are still with us.
Today, as we come together to share the true communion which our churches entered into, I say to you, the gate is open for you to come and be in constant sharing with us in the breaking of the bread and in prayers. We are all one sheepfold whose goal is to be part of the gate where our Shepherd is our Lord Jesus Christ. We are all committed to uphold One Lord, One Faith, One Baptism, One God and Father of All.
The Gospel read this morning describes to us Jesus as the door of the sheep, the good shepherd who came to gather his sheep that they may have life and have it abundantly. Jesus opens the door for those who recognize his voice. The sheep recognizes the voice of the shepherd, the shepherd calls them by name and he opens the gate to keep them together away from danger. Each day the shepherd would take his flock out into the desert for the day’s grazing and then returns to the sheepfold, a common enclosure with a low stone wall and gated entrance. At day’s end, the shepherds would bring their sheep to the fold to keep them safe from the dangers of the night- wolves and thieves. Each night a shepherd was designated to lie down in front of the sheep gate so no one would enter. He was the protector of the flock- with his very life, if need be. After all the sheep were safely inside the yard, the shepherds would return to their nomadic tents. In the morning they would return to the fold, each whistling or calling out the names of his sheep. The sheep instinctively knew the sound of their shepherd’s voice. They recognize the voice of their shepherds. We are the sheep of his pasture, the flock of his hands. We are the creatures, the handiwork, and the possession of this shepherd. Following the shepherd’s voice doesn’t mean silencing other voice, within or without. But it means there is one who comes to know and be with us more intimately than any other, a God who wishes to be in direct relationship with each of us, of all of us, keeping us as beloved flock. Following the good shepherd means leading others to the door of the sheep and sustains them with love, joy, peace so that they may share others more abundantly. Following the shepherd is about sharing, sharing responsibilities, sharing our own ways of security to protect others from being vulnerable to others. Following the shepherd is about overseeing the growth of our faith in God so that we may be led into the door of the sheep, so that we may be sustained and have life abundantly.
May it be our prayer that all of us, in communion, may have the courage to share with the good shepherd without any reservation of any kind. It will be an adventure in Christian discipleship that can lead us to the very gates of the kingdom of our God where life is so abundantly shared.
Back to St. Isidore, most of the Roman Catholic canonized saints are still being celebrated among the Philippine Independent Church and one of them is San Isidro Labrador or St. Isidore the patron saint of farmers.
The legend says that every morning before going to work, Isidore was accustomed to hear a Mass at one of the churches in Madrid. One day his fellow-laborers complained to their master that Isidore was always late for work in the morning. Upon investigation, so runs the legend, the master found Isidore at prayer, while an angel was doing the plowing for him. On another occasion his master saw an angel plowing on either side of him, so that Isidore’s work was equal to that of three of his fellow-laborers. Isidore is also said to have brought back to life the deceased daughter of his master and to have caused a fountain of fresh water to burst from the dry earth in order to quench the thirst of his master. He was canonized by Gregory XV, along with Sts. Ignatius, Francis Xavier, Teresa, and Philip Neri, on 12 March, 1622. St. Isidore is widely venerated as the patron of peasants and day-laborers. His feast is celebrated on 15 May. In the Philippines, His feast is also celebrated during thanksgiving or harvest time.
How many of you have been tagged by your employer as always late to work? May I see a hand? Don’t worry, if you do what St. Isidore does, that is, to be diligent with your work, you will get your reward.
There’s a story of Farmer who was an avid devotee of San Isidro. Every time he had a problem or special petition, he prayed to the patron. Each evening before bedtime and every morning upon rising, he said a special prayer to the saint. On his way to his farm, it was his daily ritual to drop in at the Chapel and utter a short prayer. He would make a quick sign of the cross, genuflect and rush out. He was then assured of a blessed day. The farmer named his first son Isidro in honor of the saint. A medallion of San Isidro was always pinned on his shirt, on the left side of his chest just directly outside his throbbing heart. This he wore at work and wherever he went. He removed the medallion only when he took a bath. On San Isidro’s birthday or fiesta, he would gratefully prepare food in honor of his patron saint. On his way home from fiesta it was getting dark. He didn’t anticipate the dark was getting close. He stumbled into a rock and fell on a cliff. Fortunately he got hooked into a vine and left hanging. Instinctively, the farmer called to his patron saint: “San Isidro, please save me. I don’t want to die.” In a flash, a booming voice shattered the stillness from above. “I am San Isidro!” “I knew you would come to my rescue, O holy San Isidro,” exclaimed the farmer, ecstatic with joy. “Please save me.” The farmer looked up but could see no one. “First, do you have faith in me?” asked San Isidro’s authoritative voice. “Yes, yes patron. You know that I pray to you daily. My son is named after you. In spite of my poverty, I celebrate the fiesta, all because of my undying faith in you.” “Very well then,” said San Isidro, “Let go of the vine. As you fall down the ravine, I will catch you.” The farmer was silent for a split second, then shouted to the sky, “ARE THERE ANY OTHER SAINTS UP THERE?” “Meron pa bang ibang santo diyan?” The morning came and the poor man found out that the vine where he is hanged is just three feet above the ground.
Let us therefore keep the faith, trusting Jesus our good Shepherd and inspired by St. Isidore to be diligent in our work together and doing what is pleasing in the eyes of God and forever remembering to give thanks in every blessing we received and share them among others.
I ask you therefore as an act of thanksgiving, to turn to the person next and around you and say, “Thank you for being here today.”
Happy Fiesta to all!!!
The Rev. Leonard B. Oakes
Holy Child and St. Martin
May 14, 2011