St. Hilary, Bishop and Doctor of the Church | Saint of the Day | January 13

Prayer to St. Hilary, Bishop and Doctor of the Church

Grant, we pray You, Almighty God, that the example of St Hilary and that of all Your Saints may lead us to a better life, so that by keeping their feast-days we may be brought to imitate their good deeds. St Hilary was a champion of the Truth; may we never tell lies to excuse ourselves, to hurt others, to gain or to make ourselves look more important. Through Christ Our Lord. Amen.

Patron against Snake Bites

St. Hilary was born at Poitiers, France, of one of the most noble families of Gaul. He was brought up as a pagan. His own philosophic inquiries and the reading of the Bible led him to the knowledge of the true Faith and the reception of the Sacrament of Baptism. He then regulated his life according to the rules of the Faith he had embraced, and, though a layman, zealously endeavored to confirm others in true Christianity.

His wife, to whom he had been married before his conversion and by whom he had a daughter named Apra, was still living when Hilary was chosen Bishop of Poitiers, about the year 353. According to the practice which then existed, married men were sometimes promoted to the episcopacy, but as St. Jerome clearly testifies, they ever after lived un continence.

The Arian heresy principally occupied the Saint’s pen, and he became one of the most strenuous defenders of the Divinity of Jesus Christ. At the Council of Seleucia, in 360, he bravely defended the decrees of Nicaea, and then retired to Constantinople.

St. Hilary died at Pointieres in the year 367. He was the mildest of men, full of condescension and affability to all, but against Emperor Constantius, who showed himself an enemy of the Church, he used the severest language. He is invoked against snake bites.

Saint Hilary of Poitiers’ Story

This staunch defender of the divinity of Christ was a gentle and courteous man, devoted to writing some of the greatest theology on the Trinity, and was like his Master in being labeled a “disturber of the peace.” In a very troubled period in the Church, his holiness was lived out in both scholarship and controversy. He was bishop of Poitiers in France.

Raised a pagan, he was converted to Christianity when he met his God of nature in the Scriptures. His wife was still living when he was chosen, against his will, to be the bishop of Poitiers in France. He was soon taken up with battling what became the scourge of the fourth century, Arianism, which denied the divinity of Christ.

The heresy spread rapidly. Saint Jerome said “The world groaned and marveled to find that it was Arian.” When Emperor Constantius ordered all the bishops of the West to sign a condemnation of Athanasius, the great defender of the faith in the East, Hilary refused and was banished from France to far off Phrygia. Eventually he was called the “Athanasius of the West.”

While writing in exile, he was invited by some semi-Arians (hoping for reconciliation) to a council the emperor called to counteract the Council of Nicea. But Hilary predictably defended the Church, and when he sought public debate with the heretical bishop who had exiled him, the Arians, dreading the meeting and its outcome, pleaded with the emperor to send this troublemaker back home. Hilary was welcomed by his people.