This staunch defender of the divinity of Christ was a gentle and courteous man, devoted to
writing some of the greatest theology on the Trinity, and was like his Master in being labeled a
“disturber of the peace.” In a very troubled period in the Church, his holiness was lived out in
both scholarship and controversy.
Raised a pagan, he was converted to Christianity when he met his God of nature
in the Scriptures. His wife was still living when he was chosen, against his will, to be the bishop
of Poitiers in France. He was soon taken up with battling what became the scourge of the fourth
century, Arianism, which denied the divinity of Christ.
The heresy spread rapidly. St. Jerome said “The world groaned
and marveled to find that it was Arian.” When Emperor Constantius ordered all the bishops of the
West to sign a condemnation of Athanasius, the great defender of the faith in the East, Hilary
refused and was banished from France to far off Phrygia (in modern-day Turkey). Eventually he was
called the “Athanasius of the West.” While writing in exile, he was invited by some semi-Arians
(hoping for reconciliation) to a council the emperor called to counteract the Council of Nicea. But
Hilary predictably defended the Church, and when he sought public debate with the heretical bishop
who had exiled him, the Arians, dreading the meeting and its outcome, pleaded with the emperor to
send this troublemaker back home. Hilary was welcomed by his people.