Hilary was born in Poitiers to a pagan family, but through years of searching for truth and his study of Scripture, he converted and was baptized. Because of his zeal for the faith, he soon attracted much attention and while still married, and despite his objections, he was elected bishop of Poitiers.
The great heresy of Arianism was prevalent during this time and Hilary was immediately thrust into the middle of the controversy. Many in the Church were promoting this heresy and it was for that reason that Hilary refused to attend a synod at Milan in 355. The bishops attending this synod were being required to sign a condemnation of St. Athanasius. Another synod the next year, presided over by Arian Bishop Saturninus of Arles and made up mainly of Arian bishops, condemned Hilary because of his orthodoxy. Later that same year the emperor exiled Hilary to Phrygia.
However, in the year 359, Hilary courageously defended orthodoxy and was so successful in refuting Arianism at a council of Eastern bishops that the Arians persuaded the emperor to send him back to Gaul. He was welcomed with great enthusiasm by his flock. Later, Saturninus, the Arian bishop of Arles who had so persecuted Hilary, was excommunicated. Hilary then went to Milan to confront Bishop Auxentius, who was a defender of Arian doctrines, but Emperor Valentinian ordered Hilary out of Milan. Hilary returned to Poitiers where he eventually died.
Hilary not only defended the faith and fought against heresy through debate and preaching, but also through his writings. He wrote numerous treatises, among them De Trinitate, written during his exile to Phrygia. He was made a Doctor of the Church by Pope Pius X in 1851.
From Johnnette Benkovic’s Graceful Living: Meditations to Help You Grow Closer to God Day by Day
I am well aware, almighty God and Father, that in my life I owe you a most particular duty. It is to make my every thought and word speak of you.
— From a homily of St. Hilary
Do I, like St. Hilary, consider it a duty to make my every thought and word speak of God? Why or why not? How can practicing the virtues accomplish this in a practical way?
Father, heresies continue throughout the ages and the heresy of Arianism continues to rear its ugly head today in different forms. Grant us the grace that we may be as courageous and bold in our defense against such false teachings as Saint Hilary, and never grow weary of pursuing and defending truth. We ask this in the powerful name of Jesus. Amen.
Other Saints We Remember Today
- Commemoration of the Baptism of Our Lord
- Bl. Veronica of Binasco (1497), Virgin, Religious
image: stained glass depiction of St. Hilary, Alsace, Bas-Rhin, Walbourg, Église abbatiale Sainte-Walburge / © Ralph Hammann – Wikimedia Commons, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons