Life of St. Hilary

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Saint Hilary was born in the beginning of the 4th century at Poitiers, France. The actual date of this birth is not known, however his feast day is celebrated on January 13th.

Hilary was born of wealthy pagan nobility, married early in life, and had children, including a daughter, Saint Abra. He received a good education, including what had even then become somewhat rare in the West, some knowledge of Greek. He studied the Old and New Testament writings, with the result that he abandoned his Neo-Platonism for the Catholic Church. In 353 he became a Christian and received the sacrament of baptism along with his wife and his daughter.

So great was the respect in which he was held by the citizens of Poitiers that he was elected bishop, although still a married man (clerical celibacy was not required by the church until the late Middle Ages). Hilary is the first Bishop in that region of whom we have authentic information, and this is due to the important part he played in opposing the Arian heresy (A heresy that denied the divinity of Jesus Christ).

St. Hilary was a gifted and prolific writer. Our current understanding of the Holy Trinity comes from his composition written in 359 and 360, De trinitate libri XII. Quoting St. Hilary: “For one to attempt to speak of God in terms more precise than he himself has used: — to undertake such a thing is to embark upon the boundless, to dare the incomprehensible. He fixed the names of His nature: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Whatever is sought over and above this is beyond the meaning of words, beyond the limits of perception, beyond the embrace of understanding.”

St. Hilary also wrote hymns as a means to spread the faith. Based not on scripture but full of beliefs about God, this type of hymn is the first in the West with a known writer.

St. Hilary died in the year 367 or 368 and was raised to the rank of Doctor of the Church in the year 1851.