January 12, 2018

St. Hilary of Poitiers, "Hammer of the Arians"

Saint Hilary of Poitiers

Optional Memorial - January 13th 

It seems odd to us today that anyone claiming to be a Christian would deny the divinity of Christ. In the 4th century, however, Arianism, a particularly pernicious heresy which proclaimed precisely that, threatened the very existence of the Church. While emperors and even some bishops sanctioned this teaching, many saints defended Jesus’ divinity; among that number was Saint Hilary of France.

Hilary was born into a pagan family around the year 315, but converted to the Christian religion after discovering God through his study of the Scriptures. So great was his reputation for holiness and his defense of Christ’s divinity that he was appointed Bishop of Poitiers, France, in 353, to great acclaim. At about the same time, Constantius II, an adherent to Arianism, became emperor in Rome.

This new ruler, at the behest of pro-Arian prelate, promptly exiled Hilary to far-off Phrygia in the hopes that sheer distance would silence him. It did not. Instead, Hilary began writing prolifically and convincingly against the Arian heresy. He was eventually allowed to return to France, where he established monasticism along with Saint Martin of Tours. Thus, Hilary is called the "Athanasius of the West".

Saint Hilary died at Poitiers in 367. His personal example and prolific writings on behalf of the true religion influenced numerous souls, including his student, Saint Martin of Tours. A favorite motto of St. Hilary's was Ministros veritatis decet vera proferre, "Servants of the truth ought speak the truth." Long venerated as a saint within Catholicism, in 1851, Pope Pius IX declared him a Doctor of the Church. He is symbolized by three books and a pen and named the "Hammer of the Arians".

Grant, we pray, almighty ever-living God, that we may rightly understand and truthfully profess the divinity of your Son, which the Bishop Saint Hilary taught with such constancy. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who reigns with you and in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen. Saint Hilary of Poitiers, courageous defender of Christ and the faith, help us to be holy.

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