Today, April 4th, is the memorial of Saint Isidore of Seville (560-636) a bishop and doctor of the Church during a tumultuous age, when civilization was crumbling, coming apart at its very seams (sound familiar?), guiding his diocese for three fruitful decades which he assumed after the death of his brother, and fellow bishop, Leander. But grace, through figures like Leander and Isidore, abounded all the more.
Called the most learned man of his time, Isidore was truly remarkable, famous for many things, the holiness of his life, the prudence with which he oversaw his flock, the shoring up of education – in the trivium and quadrivium, what was known as the ‘liberal arts’, beginning what we now know as universities and colleges – and for his voluminous writings, the most famous of which were his Etymologies, a twenty volume (!) early encyclopedia/dictionary summarizing all the knowledge that was then known, much used right up until the early Middle Ages, and oft-quoted by Saint Thomas Aquinas in his Summa Theologica. This remarkable work of erudition (containing, as a contemporary put it, everything one needed to know, albeit, with some ‘etymologies’ that were a bit fanciful) provided the basis for all the encyclopedias, summaries and anthologies that were to dot the intellectual landscape in the centuries to follow, culminating, if one wants to think in such terms, in the vast body of knowledge known as ‘Wikipedia’.
That, one may infer, is why Saint Isidore is the patron saint of the Internet, or the world wide web – invented a millennium and a half after his death – but a very fitting patron, again, for our age.