Feastday: January 13
St. Hilary confers Minor Orders upon St. Martin
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.
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. St. 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 (in modern-day Turkey). 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.