|St. Isidore, depicted by Murillo|
St. Isidore lived from 560 – 636 and is referred to as the Educational Doctor because he was a teacher, reformer and prolific writer. His writings include a dictionary, a 20 volume encyclopedia that included all that was known at that time and a complete hisotry of the Goths. He was once described by the historian Montalember as “the last scholar of the ancient world.”
Isidore was not always a great student. He actually struggled with his studies until he offered up his academic challenges to the Lord. After this, he became an acclaimed scholar who was also known for his holiness. He is role model for those who seek to learn and to become holy. I for one am going to include him in my “board of spiritual directors,” especially for my IPT studies. Because of his dedication to education and the pursuit of knowledge, St. Isidore has been considered the Patron of the Internet since 1999.
St. Isidore wrote about the pursuit of knowledge in his Book of Maxims. In particular he distinguished between reading for knowledge and prayerful reflection for spiritual gain:
Prayer purifies us, reading instructs us. Both are good when both are possible. Otherwise, prayer is better than reading. If a man wants to be always in God’s company, he must pray regularly and read regularly. When we pray, we talk to God; when we read, God talks to us. All spiritual growth comes from reading and reflection. By reading we learn what we did not know; by reflection we retain what we have learned. 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. The conscientious reader will be more concerned to carry out what he has read than merely to acquire knowledge of it. In reading we aim at knowing, but we must put into practice what we have learned in our course of study. The more you devote yourself to study of the sacred utterances, the richer will be your understanding of them, just as the more the soil is tilled, the richer the harvest. The man who is slow to grasp things but who really tries hard is rewarded, equally he who does not cultivate his God-given intellectual ability is condemned for despising his gifts and sinning by sloth. Learning unsupported by grace may get into our ears; it never reaches the heart. But when God’s grace touches our innermost minds to bring understanding, his word which has been received by the ear sinks deep into the heart.