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Abbot (entered heaven around 371)
I share your sadness about Bruce. As the old saying goes, it’s all fun and games until someone gets hurt. I do not, however, share your surprise. Yes, the ubiquitous campaigns against drunk driving have raised consciousness about its dangers, but have they gone to the heart of the matter? Think about it. Why do people get drunk? Why do they do drugs? The kids at your college have everything going for them – they are not “down-and-out” tramps. What possible reason could they have for habitual over-indulgence, even when they are well aware of the potential consequences? Certainly, there could be many reasons. Some just enjoy it – sheer indulgence in pleasure. Others are trying to solidify their place among a certain group of friends. Still others may be aware of a deep existential void, and substance abuse (occasional or habitual) is their way of trying to fill or hide it. OK, so which of these causes do the “anti-drinking” campaigns address? None. They miss the boat completely. Today’s saint, however, gives positive alternatives for meeting each of those needs.
Hilarion was born in Palestine, of non-Christian parents, who sent him to school in Alexandria, Egypt, where he heard the gospel and believed. He felt called to dedicate himself more fully to God, so he went into the desert to meet St Anthony, already famous for his holiness and wisdom. For two months he was St Anthony’s disciple, but the many other disciples and visitors that Anthony had to receive wearied and distracted him, so he returned to his native southern Palestine, where he decided to give himself up to silence, prayer, work and penance. He only ate one meal a day, of 15 figs (later he added some bread and oil), after sunset, and when he was beset with especially strong temptations, he would cut down the number of figs and increase his prayers and work.
Thus he endeavored to spend the rest of his life (he died when he was eighty). His love for God made his heart share in the Lord’s compassion for those who suffer, and after his years of purification he was granted the gift of miracles. His intercession made a barren woman fertile, gave a Christian chariot racer a victory over a pagan, brought rain during droughts, healed the sick… He became a regular wonderworker. As his fame expanded, his solitude diminished. He decided to leave that place where he was so well known to find somewhere he could be alone again, but the people wouldn’t let him go. So he went on a hunger strike to convince them – after seven days they relented. But wherever Hilarion went, his compassion for the suffering led him to perform miracles, so he had to continue wandering from place to place for half of his lifetime, until he died in peace in a pleasant retreat on the island of Cyprus. Personally, he only wanted solitude so he could pray, but God gave him fame so he could bring others to pray.
Here was a man free from peer pressure, master of his tendencies to pleasure, and filled with certainty about the real meaning of life. What was his secret? He had met Christ, and he followed him. That’s the answer, that’s the only way to free ourselves from the destructive habits that breed tragedies like Bruce’s: Jesus Christ. So let’s ask St Hilarion to help us spread the word.