St. Hilary, Doctor of the Church and Bishop of Poitiers, France

From Butler's Lives of the Saints 1895:

From his own writings, and the histories of that age, which furnish the
most authentic memoirs of his life. See what Dom Coutant, the Benedictin
monk, has recorded of him in his excellent edition of his works; as also
Tillemont, t. 7, Ceillier, t. 5, and Rivet, Hiss. Lit. t. 1, part 2, p.
139. The two books, the one of his life, the other of his miracles, by
Fortunatus of Poictiers, 600, are inaccurate. Both the Fortunatases were
from Italy; and probably one was the author of the first, and the other
of the second book.

A.D. 368.

ST. AUSTIN, who often urges the authority of St. Hilary against the
Pelagians, styles him _the illustrious doctor of the churches_.[1] St.
Jerom says[2] that he was a _most eloquent man, and the trumpet of the
Latins against the Arians_; and in another place, that in _St. Cyprian_
and _St. Hilary_, God had transplanted two _fair cedars_ out of the
world into his church.[3]

St. Hilary was born at Poictiers, and his family one of the most
illustrious in Gaul.[4] He spent his youth in the study of eloquence. He
himself testifies that he was brought up in idolatry, and gives us a
particular account of the steps by which God conducted him to the
knowledge of his saving faith.[5] He considered by the glimmering or
faint light of reason, that man, who is created a moral and free agent,
is placed in this world for the exercise of patience, temperance, and
other virtues, which he saw must receive from God a recompense after
this life. He ardently set about learning what God is; and after some
researches into the nature of the Supreme Being, quickly discovered the
absurdity of polytheism, or a plurality of gods; and was convinced that
there can be only one God, and that the same is eternal, unchangeable,
all-powerful, the first cause and author of all things. Full of these
reflections, he met with the holy scriptures, and was wonderfully
affected with that just and sublime description Moses gives of God in
those words, so expressive of his self-existence,[6] I AM WHO AM: and
was no less struck with the idea of his immensity and supreme dominion,
illustrated by the most lively images in the inspired language of the
prophets. The reading of the New Testament put an end to, and completed
his inquiries; and he learned from the first chapter of St. John, that
the Divine Word, God the Son, is coeternal and consubstantial with the
Father. Here he checked his natural curiosity, avoided subtilties, and
submitted his understanding to divine revelation, resolving what seemed
incomprehensible into the veracity and power of God; and not presuming
to measure divine mysteries by his shallow capacity. Being thus brought
to the knowledge of faith, he received the heavenly regeneration by
baptism. From that time forth he so squared his whole life by the rules
of piety, and so zealous were his endeavors to confirm others in the
faith of the holy Trinity, and to encourage all to virtue, that he
seemed, though a layman, already to possess the grace of the priesthood.

He was married before his conversion to the faith; and his wife, by whom
he had a daughter named Apra, or Abram, was yet living, when he was
chosen bishop of Poictiers, about the year 353; but from the time of
{141} his ordination he lived in perpetual continency.[7] He omitted no
endeavors to escape this promotion: but his humility only made the
people the more earnest to see him vested with that dignity; and indeed
their expectations were not frustrated in him, for his eminent virtue
and capacity shone forth with such a lustre, as soon drew upon him the
attention, not only of all Gaul, but of the whole church. Soon after he
was raised to the episcopal dignity, he composed, before his exile,
elegant comments on the gospel of Saint Matthew, which are still extant.
Those on the Psalms he compiled after his banishment.[8] Of these
comments on the Psalms, and on St. Matthew, we are chiefly to understand
St. Jerom, when he recommends, in a particular manner, the reading of
the works of St. Hilary to virgins and devout persons.[9] From that time
the Arian controversy chiefly employed his pen. He was an excellent
orator and poet. His style is lofty and noble, beautified with
rhetorical ornaments and figures, but somewhat studied; and the length
of his periods renders him sometimes obscure to the unlearned,[10] as
St. Jerom takes notice.[11] It is observed by Dr. Cave, that all his
writings breathe an extraordinary vein of piety. Saint Hilary solemnly
appeals to God,[12] that he held it as the great work of his life, to
employ all his faculties to announce God to the world, and to excite all
men to the love of him. He earnestly recommends the practice of
beginning every action and discourse by prayer,[13] and some act of
divine praise;[14] as also to meditate on {142} the law of God day and
night, to pray without ceasing, by performing all our actions with a
view to God their ultimate end, and to his glory.[15] He breathes a
sincere and ardent desire of martyrdom, and discovers a soul {143}
fearless of death and torments. He had the greatest veneration for
truth, sparing no pains in its pursuit, and dreading no dangers in its
defence. The emperor Constantius, having labored for several years to
compel the eastern churches to embrace Arianism, came into the West: and
after the overthrow of the tyrant Magnentius, made some stay at Arles,
while his Arian bishops held a council there, in which they engaged
Saturninus, the impious bishop of that city, in their party, in 353. A
bolder Arian council at Milan, in 355, held during the residence of the
emperor in that city, required all to sign the condemnation of St.
Athanasius. Such as refused to comply were banished; among whom were St.
Eusebius of Vercelli, Lucifer of Cagliari, and St. Dionysius of Milan,
into whose see Auxentius, the Arian, was intruded. St. Hilary wrote on
that occasion his first book to Constantius, in which he mildly
entreated him to restore peace to the church. He separated himself from
the three Arian bishops in the West, Ursacius, Valens, and Saturninus,
and exhibited an accusation against the last in a synod at Beziers. But
the emperor, who had information of the matter from Saturninus, sent an
order to Julian, then Caesar, and surnamed afterwards the Apostate, who
at that time commanded in Gaul, for St. Hilary's immediate banishment
into Phrygia, together with St. Rhodanius, bishop of Toulouse. The
bishops in Gaul being almost all orthodox, remained in communion with
St. Hilary, and would not suffer the intrusion of any one into his see,
which in his absence he continued to govern by his priests. The saint
went into banishment about the middle of the year 356, with as great
alacrity as another would take a journey of pleasure, and never
entertained the least disquieting thought of hardships, dangers, or
enemies, having a soul above both the smiles and frowns of the world,
and fixed only on God. He remained in exile somewhat upwards of three
years, which time he employed in composing several learned works. The
principal and most esteemed of these is that _On the Trinity, against
the Arians_, in twelve {144} books. In them he proves the
consubstantiality of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. He teaches that
the church is one, out of which all heresies spring; not that by this
she is distinguished, as standing always one, always alone against them
all, and confounding them all: whereas they by perpetual divisions tear
each other in pieces, and so become the subject of her triumph.[16] He
proves that Arianism cannot be the faith of Christ, because not revealed
to St. Peter, upon whom the church was built and secured forever; for
whose faith Christ prayed, that it might never fail; who received the
keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whose judiciary sentence on earth is
that of heaven:[17] all which arguments he frequently urges.[18] He
proves the divinity of Christ by the miracles wrought at the sepulchres
of the apostles and martyrs, and by their relics: for the devils
themselves confess Christ's godhead, and roar and flee at the presence
of the venerable bones of his servants,[19] which he also mentions and
urges in his invective against Constantius.[20] In 358, he wrote his
book _On Synods_, or _On the Faith of the Orientals_, to explain the
terms and variation of the eastern Arians in their synods.

In his exile he was informed that his daughter Apra, whom he had left in
Gaul, had thoughts of embracing the married state; upon which he
implored Christ, with many tears, to bestow on her the precious jewel of
virginity. He sent her a letter that is still extant, in which he
acquaints her, that if she contemned all earthly things, spouse,
sumptuous garments, and riches, Christ had prepared for her, and had
shown unto him, at his prayers and tears, an inestimable never-falling
diamond, infinitely more precious than she was able to frame to herself
an idea of. He conjures her by the God of heaven, and entreats her not
to make void his anxiety for her, nor to deprive herself of so
incomparable a good. Fortunatus assures us that the original letter was
kept with veneration in the church of Poictiers, in the sixth century,
when he wrote, and that Apra followed his advice, and died happily at
his feet after his return.[21] St. Hilary sent to her with this letter
two hymns, composed by himself; one for the evening, which does not seem
to have reached our times; the other for the morning, which is the hymn
_Lucis largitor splendide_.

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