View all Uncle Eddy | January 13, 2020
St Hilary of Poitiers
Bishop and Doctor of the Church (western France) (entered heaven this day [probably] in 368)
You feel like you’re in exile? Long dark nights, short grey days, cold icy windowpanes and the same boring “gruel” each day (I doubt cafeteria food is THAT bad…). It does indeed sound a bit exilic. So you have two choices: transfer (which would mean renouncing all the good reasons that brought you north for college in the first place), or take advantage. Yes, it is possible to take advantage of being in exile. Don’t just believe me (though I do have some experience in this regard), believe today’s saint, and follow in his footsteps.
He was born in western France, to well-to-do pagan parents, who dutifully brought him up in the deadening falsity of paganism. But God had other plans. After he married and started his family, he decided to dedicate himself to further study (he had already received a solid classical education in rhetoric). Questions about the meaning of life interested him most, and with the help of Providence, his sincere, inquiring mind made its way step by step towards Christianity, which he eventually embraced wholeheartedly. So fertile did the soil of his soul show itself that he was soon ordained and then named bishop of his hometown of Poitiers. Tirelessly, he preached and taught and served the temporal and eternal needs of his flock. But a few years into it things got complicated.
The Arian heresy was spreading like wildfire at the time (the greatest of heresies, that lasted almost six centuries; it claimed, among other things, that Christ was not truly divine). And the Emperor got into the fray – on the wrong side. He started to promote Arian bishops and demote faithful ones. Hilary happened to be one of the latter, and he was carted off to Phrygia when he wouldn’t sign the Arian papers. For four years he was exiled, with all the sufferings that entailed (the ones you listed in your note, plus a host of others), but he was never idle. He increased his already prolific writing, striving to do through the written word what his exile precluded him from doing in person. He sent a defense of the true faith the Emperor, he composed commentaries on books from the Bible, and he redacted a treatise thoroughly defending Catholic truth called “On the Trinity”. Eventually, he made his way to Constantinople, the seedbed of the rebels, and publicly challenged the leading Arian to a debate. It was rather embarrassing, but Saturninus declined, and Hilary was sent back to Poitiers, where they thought he would drop into obscurity. Instead, he called a council of the bishops in Gaul and continued confounding the Arians and supporting Christ’s Church.
So as you can see, he got a lot done in his four years of exile – more than most people do in a lifetime. If you stay close to Christ, and focus more on what opportunities he gives you than on the sacrifices he demands of you, I will venture a bet that your four year “exile” will be equally fruitful, if not equally dramatic.
Your fellow deportee,