On January 13, we honour Hilary, a bishop and hero of the Catholic faith in fourth-century Gaul. Born and raised in paganism, he inherited great wealth, married and had a daughter, and gained prestige as a public advocate in his native Poitiers, a city in what is now southwestern France. Around the age of thirty, he began to study Christian beliefs in private; his reading and reflection led him to seek baptism in the year 350. The Christians of Poitiers recognized his gifts of mind and character, and two or three years later they elected him as their bishop.
At that time two movements were locked in bitter contest for control of the Church. On one side, the Catholic movement upheld the Nicene Creed, with its affirmation that the Son of God is “of one being with the Father,” and insisted that this doctrine was the only possible basis for Christian life and practice. On the other side, the Arian movement accused the Nicene faith of violating the utter oneness of God. Hilary cast his lot with the Catholics and immediately became a serious irritation to the Arians. They happened to enjoy the favour of the Roman emperor, and their complaints about Hilary’s effectiveness in defending Nicene principles provoked the emperor into exiling
him from his diocese.
Hilary spent three years in Asia Minor and during this banishment deepened his commitment to orthodox theology. His presence became such an embarassment to the Arians in the East that they convinced the emperor to banish him again — back to his own diocese of Poitiers. Upon his return Hilary rallied the neighbouring bishops in opposition to Arianism, and before his death on January thirteenth in the year 367 he had turned his entire province into a bastion of the Nicene faith.
Because I live, you will live also: you will know that I am
in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. John 14.19–20
Lord our God,
you called your servant Hilary
to guard with compassion the good of your Church
and to preserve by his steadfast witness
the fulness of Catholic teaching.
Keep us firm in the faith professed at our baptism
that as your Son made his dwelling with us,
so we may always abide in him;
who is alive and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.