Clare of Assisi vs. Isidore of Seville

Today we dangle the FINAL spot in the Saintly Sixteen in front of two worthy saints, Clare of Assisi and Isidore or Seville. But that's not all that's at stake here. You see, Clare is the patron saint of television while Isidore is the patron saint of the internet. So, when the votes are counted, we'll be able to declare, once and for all, whether TV or the internet is the greatest time waster of them all. (No word yet on whether a patron saint of Netflix has been declared).

Yesterday Elizabeth the New Martyr defeated Gregory of Nazianzus 58% to 42% to advance to the next round where she'll face Hildegard of Bingen. Yes, folks, that means that three, count 'em, three Elizabeths will advance to the Saintly Sixteen.

So read, vote, and then get back to mindlessly either watching TV or scrolling through Facebook.

Clare of Assisi
Saint Clare of Assisi often is overshadowed by her contemporary, Saint Francis of Assisi arguably the best known of all the saints in the Roman Catholic Church. Clare even referred to herself as “the little plant” of Francis.

But Clare is more than just the first female follower of Francis, more than just his most dedicated disciple. She developed her own interpretation of the Franciscan life, founded the Order of Poor Ladies (known today as Poor Clares), and became the first woman to write a Rule of Life for a monastic order. Not one to back down from her ideals, she reportedly commanded miracles both before and after her death and, perhaps most miraculously, commanded the attention of the poor and powerful, men and women alike.

Chiara, or Clare, Offreduccio was born in 1194 to a noble family of Assisi, a small town in Italy’s scenic Umbrian valley. Official biographies written at the time of her death and canonization describe her as beautiful but they also hint at her strength and holy rebelliousness. At eighteen, she ran away from home to commit herself to Francis’s way of religious life, allowing the friar to cut off her golden curls and consecrate her to the Lord.

Clare became abbess of the monastery at San Damiano. Clare’s relationship with Francis was one of respect and friendship. She influenced, deepened, and supported Francis’s beliefs, including inspiring him to write his famous “Canticle of the Creatures.” She lived for twenty-seven years after Francis died in 1226, continuing to interpret and exemplify to others Francis’s teachings as well as promoting and supporting the growth of her order.

Clare went toe-to-toe with popes to preserve the way of life she wanted for her sisters, which included both the pursuit of radical poverty and their inclusion in the Franciscan order. That wish was granted when, two days before she died, she received a copy of the Rule of Life she had written bearing the papal seal. Within two years, Clare was declared a saint. And seven centuries later, the seeds scattered by “the little plant” of Francis continue to grow, with more than 20,000 Poor Clares in seventy-six countries. Clare is remembered on the feast day of August 11.

Collect for Clare
O God, whose blessed Son became poor that we, through his poverty, might become rich: Deliver us from an inordinate love of this world, that we, inspired by the devotion of your servant Clare, might serve you with singleness of heart and attain to the riches of the age to come; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Emily McFarlan Miller

Isidore of Seville
Imagine living in a world where institutions of learning were crumbling and the opinions of experts were ignored as people turned instead to the voices of the powerful. Such was the time of Isidore of Seville (560-636 ce). Born in Spain, Isidore grew up on the edge of the Roman Empire, on the Iberian Peninsula. He was educated at the Cathedral School of Seville, the only institution of its sort in the area.

Isidore worked alongside his brother Leander in teaching about and converting the Visigoths, who had adopted an Arian form of Christianity, to the Roman form of Christianity. Isidore succeeded him as the bishop of Seville. He immediately set to two tasks: preserving the monasteries, which functioned as repositories of wisdom and strengthening education throughout the region.

As bishop, Isidore was able to hold together the two peoples of the Iberian Peninsula: the Visigoths and the Romans. And his work in providing educational opportunities undoubtedly had a huge impact. Yet neither of these are why Isidore is remembered.

Late in his life, Isidore undertook the work of writing a book—but not just any book. Etymologiae (Etymologies) was intended to be a compendium of all human knowledge. In Etymologies Isidore summarized some of the most essential knowledge and wisdoms of those who came before him. This was the first work of this sort, an encyclopedia to gather together what had come before. By certain measures, Etymologies was a resounding success. The work of countless classical authors is known to us only from Isidore’s summaries. (Imagine if someone had written a Cliff Notes version of all the works lost in the Alexandrian Library!). His encyclopedia was used as a textbook in Europe for around nine hundred years!

For this herculean work of preserving and passing on knowledge, Isidore was only the twelfth person to be declared a Doctor of the Church. In 1997, Pope John Paul II suggested that Isidore and his quest to collect knowledge would be a natural fit as the patron saint of the internet. As the “last scholar of the ancient world” and the “schoolmaster of the middle ages,” Isidore provides a bridge carrying wisdom forward from the ancient world into ours.

Collect for Isidore
O God, by your Holy Spirit you give to some the word of wisdom, to others the word of knowledge, and to others the word of faith: We praise your Name for the gifts of grace manifested in your servant Isidore, and we pray that your Church may never be destitute of such gifts; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

—David Hansen


Clare of Assisi vs. Isidore of Seville

  • Clare of Assisi (59%, 4,287 Votes)
  • Isidore of Seville (41%, 2,927 Votes)

Total Voters: 7,214

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Clare of Assisi: Italian fresco, 1325. Giotto di Bondone. [Public domain]
Isidore of Seville: Bartolomé Esteban Murillo [Public domain]


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178 comments on “Clare of Assisi vs. Isidore of Seville”

    1. I couldn't possibly not vote for Clare, but I am delighted to learn about this wonderful scholar and bringer of peace, too.

  1. Isidore was that scholarly guy
    Who compiled Etymologiæ.
    His industrious drive
    Helped the classics survive;
    To the Saintly Sixteen should he fly.

    1. I so enjoy you witty thoughts and as a result began to look through the replies. So much more to be gained from this group!

    1. Me, the first sentence caught my attention: "Imagine living in a world where institutions of learning were crumbling and the opinions of experts were ignored as people turned instead to the voices of the powerful."

      1. You don't suppose David Hansen did that on purpose, do you????
        Much as I admire Clare, today it's gotta be Isidore, who should probably be the patron saint of librarians and library clerks.

      2. Eerily familiar.
        It's quite unnerving.
        Hope we can hang on the what we have received and let something new emerge if necessary.
        Romans and Visigoths did, though for some years it wasn't pretty.
        Surely our situation is not that drastic.

        1. surely in its drastic situation and potential paths, we aren't completely annihilated.

  2. As a librarian, Isidore for the encyclopedia!

    Umm, I'd likely also pick him after reading this: "Imagine living in a world where institutions of learning were crumbling and the opinions of experts were ignored as people turned instead to the voices of the powerful." An expert may not be expert with the modern day soundbite requirement, but we should be so thankful for someone's dedication to learning!

  3. Even though I have to ask much help of Isadore with computer glitches, had to vote for Claire.

  4. As a 5 on the enneagram and as someone who is dismayed at the thread of anti-intellectualism flowing through our nation now, I just had to go with Isidore, although Clare's life and work are inspiring to say the least.

  5. I didn't know about Isadore's important contribution the growth of the safe and the preservation of knowledge, and both of those are important to me. But I have to vote for Clare, a portrait of whom hangs on one side of our chancel opposite one of our Patron, her friend Francis. Really kind of a no-brainer for me, and I hope for many others. Clare for the golden Halo!

  6. I go today with the educator. Education and a dedication to teaching needs more respect than it gets - I'm sticking with that thought for today.

    1. St. Celia, you put my thoughts into wonderful words. If our faith is real it guides us in our everyday lives. How we react to and respond to the pressures and issues of the world say much about our faith. My faith most assuredly influences my actions an reactions in regard to politics (taken broadly) . If it didn't, I don't think it would be worth much of anything. My faith is me/ who I am. Thank you for taking stands with your comments.

  7. I chose Isadore for his work in preserving knowledge at a time when power was deemed more important. Okay, and because my great grandfather was named Isidore.

  8. The first encyclopedia, Preserving knowledge in an age of unreason. Oh Isodore, you speak to me!

  9. When I was young we had a set of Encyclopedia Britannica, and I spent many happy hours looking through volume after volume. When I realized the set we had was made before the end of WWII, I convinced my parents that we needed a new set, and I still remember the visit from the saleswoman and the replica of the first Encyclopedia Britannica we got along with the new set. Internet, bah! I'm voting for the inventor of the encyclopedia! Thanks, Isidore!

    1. Oh, yes. I had a Children's EB that was delightful, I'd pick out a volume (usually H because of the horses) and read and read and read. Thanks for the reminder, Richard!

    2. Thank you Richard - I have similar fond memories (for me it was a World Book encyclopedia). It was an important part of my early education.

    3. I also loved reading encyclopedias as well as dictionaries. And was planning a trip to Seville this spring, now postponed until better times. But I think I still have to go with Clare, as so much work with children and older people still goes on in her name.

  10. I have admired Clare forever it seems but I am so impressed with the effort to preserve knowledge, I had to vote for Isadore. It is only through those ancient monasteries that much history and learning has been preserved for us all.

    1. Richard, I was devoted to a set of World Book encyclopedias as a child. Read through them for hours! And that is why, even though it’s against my bracket, I ended up voting for Isidore. That and the collect for Clare’s admonition against “an inordinate love of this world,” which struck me wrong.

      1. My childhood passion (apart from ice cream) was Compton’s Pictured Encyclopedia.

  11. In 2002 Mary W. Cox wrote the following poem beseeching the intercession of St Isidore:

    When programs crash and cursors freeze,
    with warnings: "fatal error",
    our systems drive us to our knees -
    can this be cyber-terror,
    or mere demoniac possession?
    We need some saintly intercession!
    Ah, what comfort to implore,
    "Pray for us, St. Isidore!"

    When files we've saved cannot be found
    (not even by Outlook),
    when viruses and worms abound,
    and eat the address book,
    when through the Windows data's flying,
    the desperate cyber-slaves are crying,
    prostrate on the office floor,
    "Pray for us, St. Isidore!"

    When "You've got mail!" but it's all spam
    (or files that won't unzip),
    when all at once there's no more RAM,
    we start to lose our grip,
    and filling with the foulest hates,
    we would defenestrate Bill Gates!
    "Our charitable hearts restore -
    pray for us, St. Isidore!"

    When downloads fail, when disks erase,
    when life-work's lost in cyberspace,
    remind us in our dire frustration:
    The goal here is communication.
    "Oh, heed our pleas (but don't keep score) -
    pray for us, St. Isidore!"

    Nonetheless, I voted for Clare. For all of St. Isidore's extraordinary accomplishments, there is a darker side to his episcopacy involving active discrimination against Jewish people, and this needs to be remembered. Isidore is responsible for two decisions of the Fourth Council of Toledo in 633: one that called for removing Jewish children from their parents to be educated in Christian homes, and one forbidding Jews from holding public office. It is difficult to excuse his position as "part of the culture of his time"; legal anti-Semitism is part of the Church's history that we may well be grappling with until the Last Judgment.

    1. Jules,
      I wish I read your post BEFORE I voted for knowledge and patron of the internet.

    2. Very nice, Jules, especially with so many home systems under severe strain (and I don't mean only computer systems!) 🙂

    3. For the poem: Where's the rolling-on-the-floor-laughing-hysterically emoji? I worked off and on for school and public libraries (an aide, not the librarian) and my husband was a computer programmer/analyst/guru.


      Woman Yelling at a Cat refers to a meme format featuring a screen cap of The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills cast members Taylor Armstrong and Kyle Richards followed by a picture of a confused-looking cat sitting behind a dinner plate. The format gained significant popularity across the web in mid-June 2019 and the cat was later identified as Smudge the Cat.

    5. Damn. I wish I had known about the anti-Jewish sentiment/legal discrimination before voting for Isadore. I liked that he summarized information, and it was used for 900 yrs.

    6. This poem is a masterpiece. As one technologically challenged only saintly help will get me through a computer crisis. But, also, as a member of St. Clare of Assisi chapter Daughters of the King in Colorado, I voted for Clare.
      Please don't hold that against me, St. Isadore!

  12. As a former Franciscan nun (Sr. Lauren Clare, OSF!) back in the '60's, who has visited all the St. Clare sites in Assisi and San Damiano, and seen her "preserved" body clothed in her holy habit, Clare/Chiara is my enthusiatic choice and life-long inspiration. "Clara nomen, vita clarior, clarissima moribus," if I recall my liturgical latin.

    1. Tina, Here is what Wikipedia says about that “patron saint of TV” thing, re Clare of Assissi: “Pope Pius XII designated Clare as the patron saint of television in 1958 on the basis that when she was too ill to attend Mass, she had reportedly been able to see and hear it on the wall of her room.”

    2. I visited all the sites in Assisi, too! My favorite was going to vespers at the Basilica of Saint Clare and walking out to one of the most beautiful sunsets I've ever seen over a view of the Umbrian valley.

  13. Thanks for one of the upsides to bring home for the next two weeks (at least). I can read and vote when the email comes out! Usually I am already at work.

  14. This was a tough one. I've always admired the Franciscan crowd, but Izzy have is knowledge that continues to today. I settled for Isidore, not that I was happy, but because in this day and age, we need his power to discover the truth from all the sources of information out there

  15. Always loved Clare’s strength and spunk and gave her name to my daughter. Said daughter has strength and spunk like that of Clare. Imagine a nun bucking a pope!
    Clare is a Saint after my own heart. Love Clare. Voted Clare.

  16. As the grandson of Giovanni (aka John), and the son of Luigi (aka Louis), I have to cast my vote for Chiara (aka Clare).

  17. I’m an encyclopedia nerd-it was an amazing day when my mother bought a set for our home. Wonder if she still has them. Probably. It’s only been 45 or so years.

  18. This was one of the toughest choices yet! Both of these saints would beat almost any other in this tournament, but in the end I had to pick Isidore because he did greater things and we need more people like him in our world today. I do hope he wins, I have him getting to the final two on my bracket.

  19. Isidore preserved knowledge for us all. Without him and those like him we'd have no knowledge of tyre wisely church or dark ages Europe. Keepers of knowledge are extremely important. Go Isidore!

  20. Having spent hours praying in the lovely peaceful surroundings of San Damiano as I ended my pilgrimage walking on the Way of St. Francis I have to vote for Clare. And I pray today for those wonderful people of Umbria as they face the pandemic that is changing all of our lives, but perhaps theirs far more than ours.

  21. I wonder who will be the patron saint of virtual communities. This was another difficult decision. I voted for Isidore, because he was a Doctor of the Church who preserved learning. Also I thought of his position in Spain, in a "multicultural" environment, laboring to keep Visigoths and Romans abiding together if not in amity at least in some semblance of functioning order. He saw civilization through a time of collapse, at least major transition. I do have hesitations about his trinitarian position. I am deeply skeptical about the propaganda against Arius. I thank Gaen for posting yesterday about the mosaics in Ravenna. For his "encyclopedic" command of knowledge and for preserving it through the "dark ages," I voted for Isidore, "the last scholar of the ancient world." That seems to be a copy of De Summo Bono next to him. However, Isidore has clay feet. According to Wikipedia, he was anti-semitic. "He contributed two decisions to the Fourth Council of Toledo: Canon 60 calling for the forced removal of children from parents practicing Crypto-Judaism and their education by Christians, and Canon 65 forbidding Jews and Christians of Jewish origin from holding public office." Given contemporary efforts to separate families and remove children from the parents of undocumented sojourners, I deplore my own vote. Like Christina the Astonishing, I hold my nose at sin. Nevertheless, I did vote for Isidore. Assessing some of these historical figures can be vexing.

  22. I work at a Catholic gifts an bookstore. A St. Isidore medal hangs on our monitor! I vote for him for that reason and for the knowledge he preserved