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October 21

St Hilarion - October 21

Saint Hilarion

Abbot, Desert Father

(291 – 371)

It is true and for that reason I am not afraid of them, because it is my endeavor to be always prepared for death.

Saint Hilarion’s response to robbers when asked about the thieves and assassins who might kill him in the desert

Saint’s Life Story

His Early Life 

Hilarion was born on 291, in Thabatha, five miles south of Gaza, Palestine. His pagan parents sent him to Alexandria, Egypt to study rhetoric and grammar. Hilarion’s good temper and dispositions had him exceedingly beloved by all who knew him.  He was brought to the knowledge of the Christian faith. Hilarion was baptized and became immediately a new man. He renounced all the mad sports of the circus and the entertainments of the theatre. Hilarion took no delight but in the churches and assemblies of the faithful. 

Meets St. Antony

Having heard of Saint Antony, whose name was famous in Egypt, Hilarion went into the desert to see him. Moved by the example of his virtue, he changed his habit. Hilarion stayed with him for two months. He observed Saint Antony’s manner of life, his fervour in prayer, his humility in receiving his brethren, his severity in reproving them, his earnestness in exhorting them, and his perseverance in austerities. However, Hilarion was not able to bear the frequent concourse of those who resorted to Saint Antony to be healed of diseases or delivered from devils.

So, desiring to begin to serve God like Saint Antony in perfect solitude, Hilaron returned with certain monks into his own country. Upon his arrival there in 307, Hilarion found his father and mother had died. So, he gave part of his goods to his brethren, and the rest to the poor. At the age of 15 in the year 307, Hilarion reserved nothing for himself. 

Retires in the Desert

Hilarion retired into a desert seven miles from Majuma, Palestine. His friends forewarned him that the place was notorious for murders and robberies, but his answer was that he feared nothing but eternal death. Everybody admired his fervor, and extraordinary manner of life. In the beginning of his retirement certain robbers who lurked in those deserts asked him, what he would do if thieves and assassins came to him? He answered: “The poor and naked fear no thieves.” “But they may kill you,” said they. “It is true,” said the holy man, “and for this very reason I am not afraid of them, because it is my endeavor to be always prepared for death.” 

All who knew him were surprised at Hilarion’s great fervor and resolution for one so young an age. His constitution was so weak and delicate that the least excess of heat or cold affected him very sensibly. Yet, his whole clothing consisted only of a piece of sackcloth, a leather coat, which St. Antony gave him, and an ordinary short cloak. Hilarion supported himself by weaving baskets.

His Diet

At his first entering on this penitential life, Hilarion renounced the use of bread. Saint Jerome described Hilarion’s diet as a half a pint of lentils moistened with cold water. After three years, he switched to dry bread with salt and water. Eventually, perceiving his sight to grow dim and his body to be subject to an itching with an unnatural roughness, he added a little oil to this diet. For six years, his whole diet was fifteen figs a day, which he never took till sunset.

His Miracles

Hilarion had spent above twenty years in his desert when he wrought his first miracle. A certain married woman of Eleutheropolis, who was the scorn of her husband for her barrenness, sought Hilarion out in his solitude.  By her tears and importunities, she prevailed upon Hilarion to pray that God would bless her with fruitfulness. Before the year’s end, she had a son.

A second miracle much enhanced Hilarion’s reputation. Elpidius and his wife Aristeneta, returning from a visit of devotion they had made to St. Antony to receive his blessing and instructions, arrived at Gaza. At Gaza, their three children fell sick. Their fever proving superior to the power of medicines brought them close to death. The physicians feared that there was no recovery for the children. The mother addressed herself to Hilarion. He was moved by her tears and went to Gaza to visit them. Upon his invoking the holy name of Jesus, by their bedside, the children fell into a violent sweat. They were then so healed as to be able to eat, to know their mother, and kiss the saint’s hand. 

His Quest for Solitude

For 20 years until 356, Saint Epiphanius of Salamis was a disciple and close companion of Saint Hilarion. About 356, disturbed by the great number of people attracted to his hermitage, Hilarion decided to leave. He went to Egypt and visited St Antony’s hermitage. Hilarion lived for a time in Egypt. However, his fame spread there too. So, Hilarion went to Sicily. His faithful disciple, Saint Hesychius, found him after searching for three years.

Again, in his quest for solitude, he and Hesychius went to Dalamatia. Again, word of his miracles attracted a lot of attention. So, yet again, Hilarion left and settled near Paphos on Cyprus. Soon after this move, local inhabitants discovered who Hilarion was, so he moved further inland. Hilarion remained on Cyprus until his death a few years later in 371. 

Hilarion founded several monasteries. While Saint Antony is considered to have established Christian monasticism in the Egyptian desert, Saint Hilarion is considered by some to be the founder of Palestinian monasticism. His biography was written by Saint Jerome. Saint Hilarion was the first non-martyr to be officially honored by the Eastern Orthodox Churches as Confessor.

Beatified:           Pre-Congregation

Canonized:        Pre-Congregation

Feast Day:          October 21

Patron Saint:     Caulonia, Italy

Source:

Reflection

When Saint Hilarion felt the attacks of any temptation of the flesh, being angry with himself, and beating his breast he would say to his body: “I will take order, thou little ass, that thou shalt not kick; I will feed thee with straw instead of corn; and will load and weary thee, that so thou mayest think rather how to get a little bit to eat than of pleasure.”  Fasting and prayers are always good tasks to turn to when you have any temptations as St. Hilarion did.

What do you do when you have any temptations of the flesh? 

Prayers

Saint Hilarion, you performed many miracles, but you wished to be a hermit and escape notice. People were drawn to you, but you were drawn to solitude. Saint Hilarion, may you intercede and pray for us that we will have the humility that you had when we are able to do kind deeds for others.

Saint Hilarion, pray for us. Amen.

Saint Links 

Aleteia – How St. Hilarion converted a band of robbers with a simple response

AnaStpaul – Saint of the Day – 21 October – St Hilarion of Gaza (c 291-371)

Bartleby.com – Rev. Alban Butler (1711–73). Volume X: October. The Lives of the Saints. 1866. October 21 St. Hilarion, Abbot

Catholic Culture – St. Hilarion, Abbot (291-371)

Catholic Online – St. Hilarion

CatholicSaints.Info – Saint Hilarion of Gaza

Franciscan MediaSaint Hilarion

Independent Catholic News – St Hilarion

Loyola Press – Saint Hilarion Feast Day October 21

Saint Mary’s Press – Saint Hilarion (c.291-371)

uCatholic – Saint Hilarion

Wikipedia – Hilarion

Video Link

St. Hilarion the Great – YouTube Video (St Francis Xavier – SPRING OF FAITH)