Feast of Sts. Hilary of Poitiers and Martin of Tours (January 13)   Leave a comment

roman-gaul

Above:  Map of Roman Gaul

Image in the Public Domain

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SAINT HILARY OF POITIERS (CIRCA 315-CIRCA 367)

Roman Catholic Bishop of Poitiers, “Athanasius of the West,” and Hymn Writer

mentor of

SAINT MARTIN OF TOURS (CIRCA 330-NOVEMBER 11, 397)

Roman Catholic Bishop of Tours

His feast transferred from November 11

Alternative feast day = July 4

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One theme in this post is influence, whether direct or indirect.  We, as Christians, have a mandate to be positive influences in the world.  We will, if we pay attention, detect the influences of Sts. Hilary of Poitiers and Martin of Tours in the Church today.

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Sts. Hilary and Martin were converts to Christianity.  St. Hilary came from a wealthy and cultivated family in Roman Gaul.  Hilarius Pictaviensis, born circa 315, eventually became a Christian.  He also married and had a daughter.  In 350, when he was 35 years old and still married, he became the Bishop of Poitiers, his hometown and place of birth.

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St. Martin was the son of a Roman soldier.  The saint, born in Sabaria, Pannonia (now Hungary), grew up in Pavia, Italy.  The military was not his vocation.  He attempted unsuccessfully to evade the draft when he was 15 years old; authorities inducted him in chains.  Years later, when he was serving at Amiens and was a catechumen, St. Martin, according to a legend, encountered a nearly naked beggar.  The saint used his sword to cut his military cloak in half and gave half a cloak to the man.  That night, in a dream, Jesus, wearing half a cloak, appeared to St. Martin.  Saints and angels surrounded Christ, who told them,

Martin, a simple catechumen, covered me with this garment.

The saint completed his catechesis and became a baptized Christian.  Circa 339 he requested a military discharge, saying,

I am Christ’s soldier; I am not allowed to fight.

He received that discharge, along with an accusation of cowardice.  The former soldier dwelt in Italy and Dalmatia before becoming a hermit on an island off the coast of Luguria.

Between 350 and 353 St. Hilary ordained St. Martin to the priesthood; this set the stage for St. Martin’s great influence in the Church.  St. Martin founded the monastery at Liguge; this was the first monastery in Gaul.  His influence had just begun.

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St. Hilary was the leading opponent of the Arian heresy in the West.  He was, in fact, “the Athanasius of the West.”  He was so vigorous in his denunciation of the idea that Christ is a created being that Emperor Constantius II (reigned 337-361), who interjected himself into theological disputes, exiled St. Hilary to Phrygia (in modern-day Turkey) in 356.  The exiled bishop continued his campaign against Arianism.  He wrote On the Trinity and made himself sufficiently inconvenient to Arians in the East that some of them returned him to Gaul in 360.

The restored bishop tended to the needs of his diocese while engaging in theological debates.  He was, by all accounts, a compassionate and friendly man, as well as a vigorous controversialist and able debater.  Aside from treatises he composed biblical commentaries (on the Book of Psalms and the Gospel According to Matthew) and catechetical hymns.  (Certain modern hymnals, the editors and committees of which had good taste, include translations of some of these hymns.)

St. Hilary died at Poitiers circa 367.  He was orthodox by the standards of his time.  Nevertheless, he was, by the standards of subsequent developments in Christology, as ecumenical councils defined them, heterodox.  (Ex post facto heresy happened to more than one of the Church Fathers of the first five centuries of Christianity.)  In 1851 Pope Pius IX declared St. Hilary a Doctor of the Church.

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In 372, against his will, St. Martin became the Bishop of Tours.  He accepted the post on the condition that he continue to live ascetically.  As bishop the saint founded monasteries in Gaul.  Among these was the great abbey at Marmoutier; that monastery influenced Celtic monasticism in Britain.  The vigorous missionary preached orthodoxy while opposing the violent suppression (including the execution of people accused of practicing magic) of heresy.  He was not averse to destroying pagan shrines, however.  His asceticism and opposition to the harsh treatment of heretics made him unpopular with some of the other bishops.  St. Martin also defended the interests of the poor and the hopeless.

St. Martin died at Candes, near Tours in 397.  He was among the earliest non-martyrs venerated as a saint.

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Each of these saints has his separate feast day (or days, in the case of St. Martin) on official ecclesiastical calendars.  Nevertheless, I have decided that the better way to tell their stories here at the Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days is to cover them in one post and to emphasize what they had in common.  We Christians are supposed to encourage each other in our vocations from God and influence one another for the better, to the glory of God.  We can look to Sts. Hilary and Martin as role models in that regard.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 16, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF PETER WOLLE, U.S. MORAVIAN BISHOP, ORGANIST, AND COMPOSER; THEODORE FRANCIS WOLLE, U.S. MORAVIAN ORGANIST AND COMPOSER; AND JOHN FREDERICK “J. FRED” WOLLE, U.S. MORAVIAN ORGANIST, COMPOSER, AND CHOIR DIRECTOR

THE FEAST OF SAINT GIUSEPPE MOSCATI, PHYSICIAN

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARGARET OF SCOTLAND, QUEEN

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O God our heavenly Father, who raised up your faithful servants

Sts. Hilary of Poitiers and Martin of Tours

to be bishops and pastors in your Church and to feed your flock:

Give abundantly to all pastors the gifts of your Holy Spirit, that they may minister

in your household as true servants of Christ and stewards of your divine mysteries;

through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with

you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

Acts 20:17-35

Psalm 84 or 84:7-11

Ephesians 3:14-21

Matthew 24:42-47

Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), page 719

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