January 13, Memorial of St. Hilary of Poitiers
Patron against snake bites!
Today we return to the General Roman Calendar and celebrate the life of St. Hilary, Bishop and Doctor of the Church. First, a Doctor of the Church is one who’s writings and general teaching have advanced Catholic theology. To date there are 34 such doctors out of thousands of canonized saints. Three of them are women. St. Hilary is not among those three.
Born in Poitiers, France of a noble family, Hilary was raised a pagan. His natural curiosity and thirst for knowledge lead him, ultimately, to seek baptism and confirmation in the Catholic Church. He was married to a woman (and the hits just keep on comin’) who was, according to some sources, a most disagreeable lady. They had a daughter named Apra. While his wife was still living he was chosen bishop of Poitiers. This was not uncommon at the time (the mid-fourth century). Now here’s where it gets a little hairier. Many sources claim that thereafter “they lived in continence”. In other words, like bother and sister (and not the mountain-folk kind). This is certainly debatable as his vocation as a married man would not have necessarily trumped his calling to administer a diocese.
He lived during the days of the Arian heresy (which denied the divinity of Jesus). Again, most sources describe him as affable and kind even in his solid defense of Our Lord’s divinity. There was one, though, to whom he was known to exhibit uncharacteristically sharp language. That man was the emperor Constantius. Guess they just didn’t get along. He died in 367. And from his life we learn once again that sainthood is open to all — even the married and parents and even a boy named Sue, er, Hilary.