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May 5

St Hilary of Arles - May 5

Saint Hilary of Arles

Bishop

(Around 401 – 449 )

“On the one side I felt that the Lord was calling me, while on the other hand the seductions of the world held me back. My will swayed backwards and forwards, now consenting, now refusing. But at last Christ triumphed in me.”

Saint Hilary of Arles

Saint’s Life Story

His Life 

Hilary was born around 401. The exact place of his birth is not known although it is thought of as Lorraine, France in what was northern Gaul at that time. He was born and raised a pagan. Wealthy, highly educated, and endowed with exceptional abilities, Hilary looked forward to a brilliant career in the world. His friend and close relative Saint Honoratus recognized that Hilary was being called to the special service of God. For a short time, Saint Honoratus left his recently founded monastery of Lérins on the Mediterranean island of  Lérins to seek out Hilary and invite him to join him on the island, but Hilary resisted. Hilary later wrote: “On the one side I felt that the Lord was calling me, while on the other hand the seductions of the world held me back. My will swayed backwards and forwards, now consenting, now refusing. But at last Christ triumphed in me.”

Bishop of Arles

When Hilary made up his mind, he never looked back. Hilary gave himself up under Saint Honoratus’ direction to the practice of austerities and the study of  Holy Scripture.  He gave away all that he possessed to the poor. Then Hilary was baptized, made his profession, and joined the community at Lérins as a monk.

St Hilary of Arles and Monastery at Lérins in the Mediterranean Sea - May 5
The Monastery at Lérins in the Mediterranean Sea

Saint Honoratus treated Hilary as his favorite son. When Saint Honoratus became bishop of Arles in 426, he made Hilary his secretary.  Hilary was groomed to succeed Honoratus as bishop. Hilary did not want to leave Arles but Honoratus himself came to get him. When Honoratus died, the grieving Hilary looked forward to returning to Lérins. En route to the island he was stopped by messengers, sent by the citizens of Arles, asking him to be their archbishop. Thus, he was consecrated as Bishop of Arles in 429.

Zealous to a Fault

Hilary was an energetic, devoted, and impetuous bishop. He was zealous in charity and zealous in asserting the rights of his episcopate. In the later, twice Hilary went too far and was censured by the Pope. But each time Hilary, even though he had defended himself, submitted to the superior authority. He helped establish monasteries, and strengthened the discipline and orthodoxy of the Church through several councils. Hilary sold Church property to ransom those kidnapped, and is said to have worked miracles in his lifetime.

Quarrel with Bishop Chelidonius and Pope Saint Leo the Great

The limits of his province as metropolitan of southern Gaul had never been settled. On a visitation in a disputed area, Hilary deposed a Bishop of Besançon, Chelidonius, because he had married a widow before ordination and, as a magistrate, had passed a death sentence. Either of these charges, if substantiated, would have disqualified him for the episcopate. When Hilary realized that the man was appealing to Rome, he followed. Chelidonius cleared himself of the charges before Pope Saint Leo the Great. In 444, Pope Saint Leo the Great extinguished the Gallican vicariate headed by Hilary, thus depriving him of his rights to consecrate bishops, call synods, or oversee the church in the province. A council was called, during which Hilary contended that the case ought to have been tried by the papal commissaries in Gaul. This dispute evidently arose from the fact that the respective rights of the Court of Rome and of the metropolitan were not sufficiently clearly established at that time. 

Another Compaint

Soon after there was another complaint. A Gaulish bishop named Projectus was on the point of death, when Hilary appointed another bishop to the see. The sick man recovered, leaving two men claiming the same diocese. Hilary supported his own nominee, perhaps because the first was too sick to carry out his duties. Saint Leo, however, judged that Hilary’s actions were wrong and could lead to schism. Therefore, the Pope censured him, forbade Hilary to appoint any more bishops, and transferred the dignity of metropolitan to the bishop of Fréjus. Nevertheless, after Hilary’s death in 449, Pope Saint Leo the Great wrote of ‘Hilary of sacred memory.’ Though some questioned his methods, none questioned his sanctity or his true belief.

His Works

His works compare favorably with any similar literary works of that period and include the following:  Vita S. Honorati Arelatensis episcopi and Metrum in Genesin. A poem, De providentia, usually included among the writings of Prosper of Aquitaine, is sometimes attributed to Hilary of Arles. 

His Death

Few details are known about Hilary’s death at the age of 49 in 449 of natural causes. In art, Saint Hilary is portrayed as secretary to the bishop with the chain of office, biretta, book and a dove at his ear. During his lifetime Hilary had a great reputation for learning and eloquence as well as for piety. Hilary of Arles 

Born:                  Around 401 probably in Lorraine, France

Died:                  May 5, 449 (Feast Day) age 48 in France

Beatified:           Pre-Congregation

Canonized:        Pre-Congregation

Feast Day:          May 5

Patron Saint:     France

Source:

Reflection

Not all Saints start out as holy pious Christians. And like some other Saints, Saint Hilary of Arles struggled in his early years with the interior battle between the lure of his wealth, aristocratic position, and education versus the call to serve God. In the end, with the aid of his relative Saint Honoratus, he choose to serve his God in religious life. He left all the things of the world to eventually, at 29, become the Bishop of Arles. Known for his kindness and charity, he went on to help establish monasteries and strengthened the discipline and orthodoxy of the Church through several councils

Do you have a friend (like Saint Honoratus was to Saint Hilary) that helps guide you in your faith? Whether we are new to the Catholic Faith or long time followers, we can always take someone’s help in guiding our faith through the valleys and mountains of our lifetime. 

Prayers

St. Hilary of Arles, you were known for your compassion to everyone. As Jesus taught his disciples, people will know followers of Christ by how they treat others. Saint Hilary, you strove always to act compassionately, whether on behalf of the poor or the prisoner, the innocent or the guilty. May we imitate your compassion to those in our life who need our compassion today so they will know that we are followers of Christ by how we treat them.

St. Hilary of Arles, pray for us. Amen.

Saint Links 

All Saint & Martyrs – Saint Hilary of Arles – Bishop and Confessor

AnaStpaul – Saint of the Day – 5 May – Saint Hilary of Arles (c 400-449) “Hilary of Holy Memory”

Bartleby.com – Rev. Alban Butler Volume V: May. The Lives of the Saints. 1866. May 5 St. Hilary, Bishop and Confessor

Catholic Exchange – The Saintly Solution to Uncertainty by Fr. Joseph M. Esper

Catholic Ireland – May 6 – St Hilary of Arles (401-449)

Catholic News Agency – St. Hilary of Arles Feast Day: May 05

Catholic Online – St. Hilary of Arles

CatholicSaints.Info – Saint Hilary of Arles

CatholicSaints.Info – Saints of the Day – Hilary of Arles by Katherine I Rabenstein

Franciscan Media – Saint Hilary of Arles

New Advent – Clugnet, L. (1910). St. Hilary of Arles. In The Catholic Encyclopedia

Saint, Feast, Family – Saint Hilary of Arles’ Story

Saint Mary’s Press – Saint Hilary of Arles (d.449)

Saint of the Day – May 5 St. Hilary of Arles

The America Needs Fatima Blog – St. Hilary of Arles

Wikipedia – Hilary of Arles

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