mardi 5 mai 2015

Saint HILAIRE d'ARLES, moine, évêque et confesseur

Saint Hilaire d'Arles. Manuscrit illuminé, 1340

Saint Hilaire d'Arles

Évêque d'Arles ( 449)

Né en Gaule (Belgique) d'une famille d'origine grecque, il suivit saint Honorat, son parent, à Lérins, puis lui succéda sur le siège épiscopal d'Arles à l'âge de vingt-neuf ans. Il présida en tant que métropolite de Provence, les conciles de Riez (439), d'Orange (441) et de Vaison (442). Il connut des débuts difficiles car son caractère lui faisait interpeller du haut de la chaire les fidèles pour les apostropher par leur nom. "Vous l'épicière, vous faussez vos balances... vous le juge, votre jugement dépend des poulardes qu'on vous donne." Il changea sa façon de parler quand il s'aperçut que son auditoire se clairsemait et qu'ainsi la Parole de Dieu n'était plus entendue.

À Arles, en 449, saint Hilaire, évêque. Retiré de l’île de Lérins et élu malgré lui à l’épiscopat, il ouvrit à tous son amour de la pauvreté, travaillant de ses mains, vêtu hiver comme été d’une seule tunique, marchant toujours à pied. Assidu à la prière, aux jeûnes et aux veilles, appliqué continuellement au ministère de la parole, il montra aux pécheurs la miséricorde de Dieu, accueillit des orphelins et destina d’un coup tout ce qu’il y avait d’argent dans la basilique de la ville pour racheter des captifs.


Martyrologe romain


Figure originale, Hilaire d'Arles est de ces « moines-évêques ", qui, à la suite de saint Martin, contribuent activement à l'enracinement du christianisme en Gaule. Hilaire nait en 401. Issu d'une riche famille d'origine grecque de Bourgogne, de Lorraine ou de Belgique (probablement la même origine géographique que son prédécesseur et parent Saint Honorat), il étudie l’éloquence et les belles lettres. Après ses études, il occupe un poste important dans l'administration impériale. Attaché au monde et à ses appâts illusoires, il reste alors rétif aux exhortations d'Honorat pour essayer de l'en détacher.

Toutefois, il change d’avis peu après et rejoint Honorat au monastère de Lérins. Il rejette alors tout ce qui avait eu pour lui jusque-là un attrait, distribue tous ses biens et, attiré de manière irrésistible par l'amour de Dieu, œuvre de toutes ses forces pour rattraper le temps perdu en futilités et pour progresser vers la perfection monastique sous la direction d’Honorat. En 428, il accompagne Honorat lorsque celui-ci devient évêque d'Arles; Hilaire l’assiste quelque temps dans ses tâches pastorales; mais l'amour de la solitude l'emportant, il retourne rapidement dans l'île monastique. Après le décès de l’évêque le 16 janvier 430, Hilaire en fait l'éloge funèbre, dépeignant ce qu'est la vie monastique et il est ramené de force en ville, où le clergé et le peuple procèdent dans un grand élan d'enthousiasme à son élection. On rapporte que comme le Saint protestait, en disant qu'il ne se soumettrait que si Dieu lui montrait de manière évidente que telle était Sa volonté, une colombe blanche comme neige vint se poser sur sa tête, et elle ne s'envola qu'après qu'il eut donné son assentiment. Il est ainsi élu évêque malgré lui à 29 ans. Arles est alors une métropole dont la juridiction englobe plus de vingt-cinq évêchés de Provence.

Il connaît des débuts difficiles car son caractère lui fait interpeller du haut de la chaire les fidèles pour les apostropher par leur nom : Vous l'épicière, vous faussez vos balances... vous le juge, votre jugement dépend des poulardes qu'on vous donne.

Il change alors sa façon de parler et s’adapte à son auditoire quand il s'aperçoit que ses fidèles se font plus rares et qu'ainsi la Parole de Dieu n'est plus entendue. Hilaire est connu par son talent oratoire : il sait s'adresser aussi bien aux grands de ce monde qu'aux gens du peuple, et il prêche la vérité évangélique sans déguisement et sans craindre les puissants, n'hésitant pas à les reprendre directement en public. Mais il se montre néanmoins d'une grande tendresse à l'égard des pécheurs. Son grand principe est de tout rapporter à Dieu et d'examiner en tout temps l'état de son âme, comme si elle était prête à être examinée par le souverain Juge.

Pendant toute la durée de son ministère épiscopal, Hilaire lutte contre les hérésies, surtout contre le pélagianisme, en collaboration avec son ami Germain d'Auxerre. Il préside plusieurs conciles, rétablit la discipline ecclésiastique, fonde des Églises et des Monastères qui suivent la tradition de Lérins. A Arles, Hilaire est l’initiateur probable de la nouvelle cathédrale d'Arles appelée Saint-Étienne.

Consumé par son zèle et ses austérités, Hilaire tombe malade à l'âge de quarante-huit ans et, après avoir désigné son successeur, il remet son âme à Dieu, le 5 mai 449. On rapporte que, pendant ses funérailles, on n'entendit chanter les Psaumes seulement en hébreu par les Juifs d'Arles, qui voulaient eux aussi honorer le Saint, car la voix des Chrétiens était étouffée par la douleur. Le corps d'Hilaire est enterré dans l’église de Saint-Genès celle où fut inhumé Honorat et son sarcophage est conservé.


Saint Hilaire d’Arles

401-449

Fêté le 5 mai

Né en 401 d’une famille d’origine grecque, il étudia l’éloquence et les belles lettres et occupa un poste important dans l’administration impériale. 

Attiré par le monde, Hilaire reste réticent aux exhortations d’Honorat d’Arles, son parent, pour l’en détourner, mais bientôt il changea d’avis et le rejoignit au monastère de Lérins, qu’il avait fondé vers 400-410. 

Lorsque Honorat devint évêque d’Arles en 428, Hilaire vint l’assister, mais bientôt l’amour de la solitude lui fit reprendre la route vers l’île monastique de Lérins. 

En 430, il revint auprès d’Honorat arrivé à la fin de sa vie. Lors de son décès, le 16 janvier 430, il prononça l’éloge funèbre où il eut cette parole restée célèbre : Si l’on voulait représenter la charité sous une figure humaine, il faudrait faire le portrait d’Honorat. Hilaire ne s’attarda pas à Arles de peur d’être élu pour succéder sur le siège vacant. Malheur lui en prit, il fut arrêté par le gouverneur Castus sur le chemin du retour à Lérins et ramené en ville. Le clergé et la foule, d’un cœur unanime, procédèrent à son élection. Il protesta et demanda un signe évident qui lui montrerait que c’était bien là la volonté de Dieu. Une colombe blanche vint se poser sur sa tête (cfr.le baptême du Christ dans le Jourdain) et ne s’envola qu’après qu’il eut donné son assentiment. Alors âgé de 29 ans, il reçut 25 évêchés sous sa juridiction. En tant que Métropolite de Provence, il convoqua et présida plusieurs conciles. Il se révéla un pasteur d’une activité exceptionnelle. Il fonda une communauté religieuse au milieu de la ville. Tout en étant évêque, il demeura un travailleur manuel inépuisable. Dans son désir de sauver les captifs, il n’hésita pas à vendre les vases sacrés, n’utilisant que des patènes et des calices en verre pour célébrer. 

Il ne fut pas un évêque commode. Apostrophant les gens du haut de sa chaire, l’église fut désertée, il fut forcé d’adapter son langage pour faire entendre la parole de Dieu. Maître en art oratoire, il ne mâcha pas ses mots pour les puissants et les riches de ce monde, tout en manifestant sa tendresse pour les pécheurs. 

Durant toute sa charge, il lutta contre le pélagianisme (hérésie du moine Pélage. L’homme pouvait seul, sans l’aide de la grâce, atteindre la perfection, la sainteté. Il fut condamné au Concile d’Ephèse en 431). 

Son activisme le rendit suspect auprès de certains collègues, compromis avec le siècle, et auprès du Saint Siège, soucieux d’affirmer son autorité. Certains excès de quelques moines de Lérins avaient rendu le pape Léon très réservé à l’égard d’Hilaire. Ainsi, il remplaça un évêque malade pas encore décédé, ce qui créa des problèmes, lorsque celui-ci recouvrit la santé. Son ardeur missionnaire ne plut guère au Saint Siège. L’évêque d’Arles était le primat des Gaules et Hilaire s’est servi, sans doute un peu trop, de ce pouvoir, en nommant les évêques qu’il avait formés, à des sièges à peine vacants ou qu’il rendait vacants. De plus, il déposa, l’évêque de Besançon, Chélidoine, qui n’était pas sous sa juridiction, pour le simple motif qu’il aurait épousé une veuve avant son entrée dans l’Eglise et qu’il aurait décrété des exécutions (ce qu’interdisaient le Saint Siège et les statuts canoniques). Chélidoine se rendit à Rome pour protester contre sa déposition et obtint gain de cause auprès du pape Léon le Grand. Hilaire l’y suivit à son tour, (Il ne prêta pas attention à la rigueur de l’hiver, ni aux bruits stridents et fracassants des Alpes ; il ne s’effraya pas des dards transparents de la croûte de glace qu’il fallait dégager au fur et à mesure, ni des aiguilles qui pendaient d’en haut, pareilles à des glaces pointées, redoutablement durcies en glaces mortelles {par la violence du froid} comme semblables à une dextre brandie…il ne craignit pas d’entreprendre et d’achever le voyage à pied - , voilà qu’impavide, sans cheval ni bête de somme {ni manteau} toute difficulté surmontée, il se hâte de rentrer dans la ville de Rome. (Vita, 21). Hélas, il fut déjugé par un pape méfiant à l’égard de ce moine ascète et trop ambitieux selon lui. Léon lui retira la primauté de son siège épiscopal des Gaules et obtint un rescrit de l’empereur Valentin III contre Hilaire le jugeant devenu trop indépendant dans les élections épiscopales. 

Hilaire obéit et se retira dans la solitude pour prier et s’adonner entièrement à la prédication, continuant à jouir de la même estime auprès de ses fidèles. Tombé malade, consumé par son zèle et ses austérités, il mourut le 5 mai 449. (En s’abstenant de nourriture, en s’acharnant au travail, en effectuant ses voyages à pied, il s’affaiblit, se fatigua, s’épuisa à tel point qu’il accomplit tout juste le cycle de sa quarante-huitième année. (Vita 24). Même après sa mort, le pape Léon le Grand n’eut aucune indulgence à l’égard d’Hilaire : deux personnalités fortes s’étaient affrontées. 

La « Vita » écrite par Honorat de Marseille présente Hilaire comme évêque et saint. Evêque, il le fut en accomplissant sa mission de prédicateur de la foi et de bâtisseur d’églises. Chef spirituel de la cité, il exerça une grande influence sur le pouvoir politique de l’époque. 

Hilaire devint saint dans son imitation du Christ, il donna tous ses biens aux pauvres, vivant dans la pauvreté et la vertu. En de nombreuses circonstances, il agit comme le Christ, il guérit des malades, il pratiqua l’exorcisme en demandant de ne pas publier son nom. (Jésus t’ordonne, dit-il à un homme entravé par un esprit malin qu’il guérit, de ne faire aucune mention de ce nom-là (celui d’Hilaire). (Vita 16).

Lors de ses funérailles, une foule de fidèles, mais également de juifs furent présents, pleurant un père si bon pour tous. 

Valère De Pryck

Sources : Honorat de Marseille, La Vie d’Hilaire d’Arles, Sources Chrétiennes n° 404, Editions du Cerf, 1995.

Wikipedia, Saint Hilaire d’Arles, Internet.



St. Hilary of Arles
Archbishop, b. about 401; d. 5 May, 449. The exact place of his birth is not known. All that may be said is that he belonged to a notable family of Northern Gaul, of which in all probability also came St. Honoratus, his predecessor in the See of Arles. Learned and rich, Hilary had everything calculated to ensure success in the world, but he abandoned honours and riches at the urgent solicitations of Honoratus, accompanied him to the hermitage of Lérins, which the latter had founded, and gave himself up under the saint's direction to the practice of austerities and the study of Holy Scripture. When Honoratus, who had meanwhile become Archbishop of Arles, was at the point of death, Hilary went to his side and assisted at his latest moments. But as he was about to set out on his return to Lérins he was retained by force and proclaimed archbishop in the place of Honoratus. Obliged to yield to this constraint, he resolutely undertook the duties of his heavy charge, and assisted at the various councils held at Riez, Orange, Vaison, and Arles.

Subsequently began between him and Pope St. Leo the famous quarrel which constitutes one of the most curious phases of the history of the Gallican Church. A reunion of bishops, over which he presided in 444 and at which were present St. Eucherius of Lyons and St. Germain of Auxerre, deposed for incapacity provided against by the canons a certain Cheldonius. The latter hastened to Rome, was successful in pleading his cause before the pope, and consequently was reinstated in his see. Hilary then sought St. Leo in order to justify his course of action in the matter, but he was not well received by the sovereign pontiff and was obliged to return precipitately to Gaul. Several priests afterwards sent by him to Rome to explain his conduct met with no better success. Moreover, several persons who were hostile towards him profited by this juncture to bring various accusations against him at the Court of Rome, whereupon the pope excommunicated Hilary, transferred the prerogatives of his see to that of Fréjus, and caused the proclamation by the Emperor Valentinian III of that famous decree which freed the Church of Vienne from all dependence on that of Arles. Nevertheless there is every reason to believe that, the storm once passed, peace was rapidly restored between Hilary and Leo. We are too far removed from the epoch in which this memorable quarrel occurred, and the documents which might throw any light on it are too few to allow us to form a definitive judgment on its causes and consequences. It 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, and that the right of appeal to the pope, among others, was not explicitly enough recognized. There exist a number of writings which are ascribed to St. Hilary, but they are far from being all authentic. Père Quesnel collected them all in an appendix to the work in which he has published the writings of St. Leo.

Sources

Albanez and Chevalier, Gallia Christ. noviss. (Arles, 1900), 29-36; Sevestre, Dict. patr. (Paris, 1854), II, 192-201; Ceillier, Hist. des auteurs eccl. (Paris, 1747), XIII, 523-538; Baronius, Ann. (1595), 445, 9-18.

Clugnet, Léon. "St. Hilary of Arles." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 7. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1910. 4 May 2015 <http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/07349a.htm>.



St. Hilary, Bishop and Confessor

THIS saint was nobly born, about the year 401, and was related to St. Honorates of Arles, and of the same country in Gaul, which was probably Lorrain, or some other part of Austrasia. He was brought up in a manner suitable to his birth, in the study of the liberal arts, and of every branch of polite learning, especially of eloquence and philosophy. But how little value we ought to set on all things that appear great in the eyes of the world he himself has taught us. “We are all equal,” says he, “in Jesus Christ; and the highest degree of our nobility is to be of the number of the true servants of God. Neither science nor birth, according to this world, can exalt us, but in proportion to our contempt of them.” Before God had put these sentiments into his heart, he seems to have been not altogether insensible to the advantages of this world, in which he was raised to the highest dignities. His kinsman, St. Honoratus, who had forsaken his country to seek Christ, in the solitude of the isle of Lerins, where he had founded a great monastery, was the instrument made use of by the Almighty to open his eyes. This holy man had always loved Hilary, and thought he could not give him more solid proof of his friendship than by endeavouring to gain him entirely to God. He therefore left his retirement for a few days to seek him out, and endeavour to move him by the same powerful weighty reflections, which had made the deepest impression on his own mind, and induced him to break the chains of the world. “What floods of tears,” says St. Hilary, “did this true friend shed to soften the hardness of my heart! How often did he embrace me with the most tender and compassionate affection, to obtain of me, that I would take into serious consideration the salvation of my soul! Yet, by an unhappy victory, I still remained conqueror.” Honoratus, finding his endeavours to wean him from the charms of a deceitful world ineffectual, had recourse to prayer, his ordinary refuge. “Well,” said he to Hilary, “I will obtain of God, what you will not now grant me.” Upon which they took leave of each other. Hilary, reflecting on what Honoratus had said to him, was not long before he began to feel a violent conflict within himself. “On one side,” says he, “methought I saw the Lord calling me; on the other the world offering me its seducing charms and pleasures. How often did I embrace and reject, will and not will the same thing! But in the end Jesus Christ triumphed in me. And three days after Honoratus had left me, the mercy of God, solicited by his prayers, subdued my rebellious soul.” He then went in person to seek St. Honoratus, and appeared before him as humble and tractable as the saint had left him haughty and indocile.

From this moment there appeared in Hilary that wonderful change which the Holy Ghost produces in a soul which he truly converts. His words, looks, and whole comportment breathed nothing but humility, patience, sweetness, mortification, and charity. Every one saw in him a man who began to labour in earnest to save his soul, and who had put his hand to the plough to look no more behind him, or to send a single thought after what he had left for Christ’s sake. Aspiring to perfection, he sold all his several estates to his brother, and distributed all the money accruing from the sale among the poor, and the most indigent monasteries. Thus disengaged from the world, and naked, no less in the inward disposition of soul than in his exterior, he, like Abraham, took leave of his own country, and made the best of his way to Lerins; where, from his first entrance, he made it appear that he was worthy to live in the company of saints. He set out in the pursuit of monastic perfection with such zeal and fervour, as to become in a short time the pattern of those on whose instructions and example he came to form his own conduct. His application to prayer and mortification, and his watchfulness and care to avoid the smallest faults and imperfections, prepared him to receive the gift of tears. It is thought that his baptism was posterior to his retirement. St. Honoratus having been chosen archbishop of Arles, in 426, Hilary followed him to that city; but it was not long before his love of solitude occasioned his return to Lerins. All the holy inhabitants of that isle testified as great joy to receive him again, as he felt to see himself among them. But God, who had other designs upon him, did not permit him to enjoy long his beloved retirement. St. Honoratus begged his assistance, and the comfort of his company, and as he did not yield to entreaties, went himself to fetch him from Lerins. Soon after God called St. Honoratus to himself, his death happening in 428 or 429. Hilary, though sensibly afflicted for the loss of such a friend, rejoiced however, to see himself at liberty, and set out directly for Lerins. But no sooner were the citizens apprized of his departure, than messengers posted after him with such expedition that he was overtaken, brought back, and consecrated archbishop, though only twenty-nine years of age.

In this high station the virtues which he had acquired in solitude shone with lustre to mankind. The higher he was exalted by his dignity, the more did he humble himself beneath all others in his heart. He reduced himself in everything to the strictest bounds of necessity: and he had only one coat for winter and summer. He applied himself diligently to meditation on the holy scriptures, and preaching the word of God, was assiduous in prayer, watching and fasting. He had his hours also for manual labour, with a view of gaining something for the poor; choosing such work as he could join with reading or prayer. He travelled always on foot, and had attained to so perfect an evenness of temper, that his mind seemed never ruffled with the least emotion of anger. He had an admirable talent in preaching. When he spoke before the learned of the world his elocution, his accent, his discourse, his action, were such as the greatest orators justly admired but despaired ever to come up to. Yet when he instructed the illiterate, he changed his manner of address, and proportioned his instructions to the capacities of the most simple and ignorant, though always supporting the dignity of the divine word by a manner and expression suitable to its majesty. He preached the truth in its purity, without flattering the great. He had often in private admonished a certain judge in the province of a criminal partiality in the administration of justice, but without effect. One day the magistrate came into the church, attended by his officers, while the saint was preaching. The holy bishop broke off his sermon on the spot, and gave his surprised audience for reason, that he who had so often neglected the advice he had given him for his salvation, was not worthy to partake of the nourishment of the divine word. The judge no sooner heard his reflection, but withdrew in confusion, and the saint resumed his discourse. Observing one day that many went out of the church immediately after the reading of the gospel, just as he was going to preach, he prevailed with them to return, by saying; “You will not so easily get out of hell, if you are once unhappily fallen into its dungeons.” He had such a love for the poor, that to have the more to bestow on them, he lived himself in the greatest poverty: he never kept a horse, and laboured hard in digging and manuring the ground, though educated according to the dignity of his family. To redeem captives he caused the church plate to be sold, not excepting the sacred vessels; making use of patens and chalices of glass in the celebration of the divine mysteries. If his compassion for the corporal miseries of the faithful was so tender, we may judge how much more he was moved to pity at their spiritual necessities. He bore the weak with tenderness, but never indulged the passions or sloth of any. When he put any one in a course of penance he was himself bathed in tears; whereby he both excited the penitent to the like, and with ardent sighs and prayer obtained for him of God the grace of compunction and pardon. He visited the bishops of his province, and endeavoured to make them walk in the perfect spirit of Christ, the prince of pastors. He established many monasteries, and took particular care to enforce a strict observance of monastic discipline among them. He had a close friendship with St. Germanus, whom he called his father, and respected as an apostle. He presided in the council of Ries in 439, in the first council of Orange in 441, in the council of Vaison in 442, and probably in 443, in the second council of Arles, in all which several canons of discipline were framed.

His zeal exasperated several tepid persons; and some of these, by misconstruing his actions, gave the holy pope St. Leo a disadvantageous character of him. His zeal, indeed, had been on some occasions too hasty and precipitate: but this was owing in him to mistake, not to passion; for the circumstances of his actions, and of his eminent piety, oblige us to interpret his intention by the same spirit by which he governed himself in his whole conduct. This disagreement between St. Leo and St. Hilary, proved a trial for the exercise of zeal in the former, and of patience in the latter, for his greater sanctification by humility, submission, and silence. Chelidonius, bishop of Besançon, had been deposed by St. Hilary upon an allegation, that, before he was consecrated bishop, he had married a widow, and had condemned persons to death as magistrate; both which were looked upon as irregularities or disqualifications for holy orders. Chelidonius hereupon set out for Rome to justify himself to the pope, St. Leo, who received his appeal from his metropolitan, and acquitted him of the irregularity with which he stood charged. St. Hilary, upon hearing that his suffragan was gone to Rome, followed him thither on foot, and in the midst of winter. The pope having assembled a council to judge this affair, St. Hilary took his seat among the other bishops that composed it: but from his not attempting to prove the irregularity which had been alleged against Chelidonius, the saint seemed to own that he had been imposed on as to the matter of fact. But he pretended, that the cause ought not to be judged otherwise than by commissaries deputed by the pope to take cognizance of it in the country that gave it birth, a point for which some Africans had contended. This plea was overruled, the contrary having been frequently practised, when both parties could appear at Rome: though the manner of judging appeals is only a point of discipline, which may vary in different places. Another affair brought St. Hilary into a greater difficulty. Projectus, a bishop of his province, being sick, St. Hilary, upon information, hastened to his see, and ordained a new bishop: after which, Projectus recovering, there were two bishops contending for the same see, and Hilary supported the last ordained; perhaps, because the first might remain disabled for his functions. The author of St. Hilary’s life does not clear up his conduct in this particular: but we cannot doubt of the sincerity of his intention. Moreover, the discipline of the church in such matters was not at that time so clearly settled by the canons as it has been since. St. Hilary therefore imagined a metropolitan might have a discretionary power in such matters. However, St. Leo rightly judged such an ordination irregular, liable to great inconveniences, and productive of schisms. Wherefore he forbade St. Hilary to ordain any bishops for the future. Our holy prelate cancelled his mistakes by his patience; and St. Leo, writing immediately after the saint’s death to his successor Ravennus, calls him, Hilary of holy memory. 1 Exhausted by austerities and labours, St. Hilary passed to a better life on the 5th of May, 449, being only forty-eight years old. St. Honoratus, the eloquent bishop of Marseilles, 2 who has given us an abstract of his life, relates several miraculous cures wrought by the saint whilst he was living. His body lies in a subterraneous chapel, under the high altar, in the church of St. Honoratus at Arles, with an elegant ancient epitaph. The name of St. Hilary stands in the Roman Martyrology.

That this saint never gave into the Semi-Pelagian doctrine, though it had not been then condemned by any decree of the pastors of the church, is clearly shown by Tillemont 3 and Dom. Rivet. 4 This is proved from several passages in his life by St. Honoratus; and in the Martyrologies of Rabanus and Notker it is mentioned that he rigorously exerted his zeal in bringing to light and in correcting the Pelagian heresy, which is taught in the conferences of Cassian. 5 His exposition of the creed, commended by the ancients is now lost: his homilies on all the feasts of the year were much esteemed, but are not known at present. The best edition of his works is given by John Salinas, regular canon of St. John Lateran, in Italy, in 1731.

Note 1. Ep. 37, ad Ravenn. p. 256. [back]

Note 2. This St. Honoratus of Marseilles, who was many years a disciple of St. Hilary of Arles, and was bishop of Marseilles from 483 to 494, is commended for his eloquence and piety by Gennadius, a priest of his church, in his catalogue of illustrious men, which he wrote in 494, for a continuation to that of St. Jerom. See the life of St. Honoratus of Marseilles in Doni. Rivet, Hist. Littér, t. 2, p. 644. [back]

Note 3. T. 12, p. 480, t. 15, p. 63. [back]

Note 4. Hist. littér, t. 2, p. 274. See also Henschenius, 5, Maij. p. 34. [back]

Note 5. The authority of Cassian drew many in the territory of Marseilles into the error of the Semipelagians, who denied the necessity of grace to the beginning of faith, or to the desire of a good work. Some have thought St. Hilary of Arles to have been of this number, because St. Prosper says, that some of these adversaries of St. Austin had been lately raised to the episcopal dignity. But this may be understood of some others. Or St. Hilary perhaps did not relish St. Austin’s manner of expressing himself on the doctrine of gratuitous predestination to glory. But as to the Semipelagian error, though it was not yet condemned by the church, St. Hilary always adhered to the doctrine of the church. And St. Honoratus tells us, that when he lay on his death-bed, in his last exhortation to his clergy to resist the enemy of their souls, he made use of these words: “We cannot fail meeting with conflicts in our road to bliss; but we may attain it by the succour of preventing grace, and its consequent labours.” See L’Histoire du Pelagianisme, à Avignon, 1763, t. 2, c. 7, p. 53. [back]

Rev. Alban Butler (1711–73).  Volume V: May. The Lives of the Saints.  1866.



Hilary of Arles B (RM)

Born in Lorraine, France, c. 400; died 449.


While still a pagan, Hilary attained a high office in the local administration because of his excellent education and native abilities. His friend and close relative Saint Honoratus recognized that Hilary was being called to the special service of God. For a short time Honoratus left his recently founded monastery of Lérins to seek out Hilary and invite him to join him on the island, but his friend 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."

When Hilary made up his mind, he never looked back. He gave away all that he possessed to the poor, then he was baptized, made his profession, and joined the community at Lérins as a monk. Honoratus treated Hilary as his favorite son. When Honoratus became bishop of Arles in 426, he made Hilary his secretary, and groomed him to succeed 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.

Hilary was an energetic, devoted, and impetuous bishop, zealous in charity and zealous in asserting the rights of his episcopate. In the latter he twice went too far and was censured by the pope. But each time Hilary, even though he had defended himself, submitted to the superior authority.

The limits of his province as metropolitan of southern Gaul had never been settled. On a visitation in a disputed area, he deposed a bishop called 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. A council was called, during which Hilary contended that the case ought to have been tried by the papal commissaries in Gaul. Hilary left Rome before a decision was rendered against him.

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 Leo the Great wrote of 'Hilary of sacred memory.'

Perhaps Hilary's impetuous zeal arose because he was still a young man, barely thirty when he became bishop of Arles. Even as bishop, the saint lived as though he were still in the monastery, observing the regular monastic hours of prayer. He presided over several church councils. He is chiefly remembered for the discourse he delivered on the life of Saint Honoratus, the text of which has survived (tr. by F. R. Hoare in The Western Fathers, 1954); however, the sanctity of his life is what won for him popular veneration in life and after death (Attwater, Benedictines, Bentley, Walsh).
In art, Saint Hilary is portrayed as secretary to the bishop with the chain of office, biretta, book and a dove at his ear. He may also be shown (1) as bishop consecrating a virgin with a dove at his ear; (2) at a council of bishops, the earth rises to enthrone him and an empty tomb is seen nearby; or (3) driving serpents or dragons from the island of Lérins (Roeder).