People wonder sometimes about the icon hanging on the wall of our conference room. Its presence can be traced to our beginnings in 2001 when we started the custom of taking the first hour of the day for prayer and Bible study. Soon there were ten of us gathered in the conference room every morning.
One morning after opening prayer I raised the question of whether we should continue the practice or take another approach. We went around the table and each expressed his or her opinion. Every person said much the same thing, “We should continue to give God that first hour of the day. I believe God is blessing us because we do this.”
One of the last to share was Kate. “I agree with what everyone else has said,” she began. “After all, don’t you know the story of St. Isidore?” No, we didn’t; so Kate explained.
St. Isidore was a tenth century farmworker in Spain. His coworkers began to complain that Isidore stopped working every morning and disappeared from the fields for an hour to pray in the village church. The landowner was about to confront Isidore when he noticed that an angel was now plowing alongside Isidore.
When he checked on Isidore on other days he discovered that sometimes there were two angels plowing side by side with Isidore. And sometimes while Isidore was praying in the church there would be an angel plowing his field. From his foreman the landowner learned that Isidore actually accomplished far more work than any other farmworker.
Kate concluded her story of St. Isidore by saying, “I believe that if we give God the first hour of the day, while we pray the angels will plow our fields.” And so they have.
For example, last December we received a large check from an anonymous donor. I held up a copy at devotions the next morning saying, “Looks like the angels have been plowing our fields.” Then there was the time we decided to seek a $100,000 matching grant to inspire giving at a gala. Within minutes a call came in from a foundation we had never heard of looking for a charity who could use a $100,000 grant as a matching challenge at a gala. “Looks like the angels are plowing our fields again,” we said.
Giving that first hour of our day to the Lord is an act of faith that the Lord will make us more productive and achieve even greater things through us.
When a priest gave us a beautiful icon of St. Isidore for Christmas we knew just where to hang it—on the wall of our conference room overlooking the table where we gather every morning to pray and offer our lives to the Lord, beginning with that first hour.
all creation is yours, and you call us to serve you
by caring for the gifts that surround us.
May the example of Saint Isidore urge us
to share our food with the hungry
and to work for the salvation of mankind.
We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ your Son,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God for ever and ever. Amen.
(from The Liturgy of the Hours)