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The Catholic Defender: Saint Hilarion


Saint Hilarion or Ilarion, as he was known, was born in the village of Tabatha in 291 A.D, about five miles south of Gaza, Palestine. He grew, according to the proverb, like a rose from a thorn, because he was born into a family that worshiped idols.


Saint Hilarion, (born c. ad 291, Tabatha, Palestine [near modern Gaza]—died 371, Cyprus; feast day October 21), monk and mystic who founded Christian monasticism in Palestine modeled after the Egyptian tradition.


Miracles. Miracles were attributed to him. His first miracle was when he cured a woman from Eleutheropolis (a Roman city in Syria Palaestina) who had been barren for 15 years. Later, he cured three children of a fatal illness, healed a paralysed charioteer, and expelled demons.


After his conversion to Christianity, he spent some time with Saint Anthony of Egypt, another holy man drawn to solitude. Hilarion lived a life of hardship and simplicity in the desert, where he also experienced spiritual dryness that included temptations to despair. At the same time, miracles were attributed to him.


Despite his best efforts to live in prayer and solitude, today’s saint found it difficult to achieve his deepest desire. People were naturally drawn to Hilarion as a source of spiritual wisdom and peace. He had reached such fame by the time of his death that his body had to be secretly removed so that a shrine would not be built in his honor. Instead, he was buried in his home village.


Saint Hilarion the Great, as he is sometimes called, was born in Palestine. After his conversion to Christianity, he spent some time with Saint Anthony of Egypt, another holy man drawn to solitude. Hilarion lived a life of hardship and simplicity in the desert, where he also experienced spiritual dryness that included temptations to despair. At the same time, miracles were attributed to him.


As his fame grew, a small group of disciples wanted to follow Hilarion. He began a series of journeys to find a place where he could live away from the world. He finally settled on Cyprus, where he died in 371 at about age 80.

Hilarion is celebrated as the founder of monasticism in Palestine. Much of his fame flows from the biography of him written by Saint Jerome.


We can learn the value of solitude from Saint Hilarion. Unlike loneliness, solitude is a positive condition in which we are alone with God. In today’s busy and noisy world, we could all use a little solitude.


May the intercession of the Blessed Abbot Hilarion commend us to you, O Lord, so that through his merits we may obtain that which we cannot accomplish by our own. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

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