Patron saint of farmers celebrated with Sonoran tradition, stew

Jim Griffith, an expert on some of the most fascinating historical people and events in the Southwestern United States, has been on something of a Catholic kick in his regular columns in the Arizona Daily Star, the Tucson daily newspaper.

AZbigJIMThere have been several pieces on Father Eusebio Kino, the Spanish Jesuit who established many of the missions in the region and, as Griffith points out, introduced the native people to cattle and wheat — the makings of a delicious carne asada burrito. (The Star is a secular paper, after all.)

This week he explains the devotion to St. Isidore, patron of farmers and farm laborers, among the people of the Sonoran Desert, which includes much of southern Arizona and the Mexican state of Sonora.

“First, the Who. Isidore (1070-1130) was a pious farm hand in Spain whose boss complained that he spent more time praying than actually working in the fields. One day Isidore was seen praying as usual, while an angel walked behind the oxen and plowed the field for him.

The good saint also had the habit of feeding the birds with his employer’s wheat, after which the sacks of grain would be miraculously replenished. No wonder he became the patron saint of farmers and farm workers!”

He goes on to discuss the traditional observance of St. Isidore’s feast, which often focuses on praying for rain. And he couldn’t resist another food angle, describing a traditional stew made for the saint’s day.

Griffith, former director of the Southwest Folklore Center at the University of Arizona, (now incorporated into the university’s Southwest Center) has written seven books on Southwestern folklore and folklife.