A Garner of Saints – Saint Hilarion

detail of an old holy card of Saint Hilarion of GazaArticle

Born at Thabatha, about five miles from Gaza, in 291, of heathen parents. Being sent to Alexandria when a boy he was converted and became animated by a desire to see Saint Anthony. Accordingly he sought out the renowned hermit and lived with him in the wildemess for two months. His parents being dead he returned home and divided the inheritance between his brother and the poor. Although only fifteen and very frail and delicate, he again retired to the desert wearing sackcloth and a robe of skin given him by Anthony, and here he ate no more than fifteen figs daily. As he advanced in age Satan attacked him through his desires, but he determined to beat down the devil by fasting, praying, and singing psalms. He further employed himself by digging and making baskets with bulrushes. One night he thought he heard the crying of infants, the bleating of sheep, the lowing of cattle, the weeping of women, the tramp of armed men, and other portents; but he recognised all this as the work of the devil, and making the sign of the cross on his forehead waited what would happen. On a sudden a chariot and horses dashed upon him, but as he called on Jesus it all disappeared. Many other temptations were laid for him by the devil, who once leaped upon his back and spurred his sides, beating his neck with a scourge. From his sixteenth to his twentieth year Hilarion inhabited a hut made of bulrushes and sedge, but afterwards he built a small cell, and continued to practise the strictest abstinence. After he had passed twenty-two years of solitude, and had acquired a great reputation throughout Palestine, he was visited by a woman who had been married for fifteen years without issue. Learning the cause of her visit he bade her have faith, and after a year she brought forth a son. A woman who had been blind for ten years was brought to him, and when he saw her he exclaimed, “If you had given to the poor what you have thrown away upon physicians, the true physician would have healed you.” However, he had pity on her, and spitting in her eyes restored her sight. Orion, a rich man, but so terribly possessed by devils that it was necessary to load him with chains, was brought to him, and while there he broke loose to the terror of all. Hilarion, however, smiled, and drawing the man towards him caused the devils to depart out of him, which they did, making a great tumult. His fame continually increasing, great multitudes flocked to see him, but as he desired above all things to have solitude he resolved to leave his cell. After much journeying he reached the lofty mountain which Anthony had inhabited and found two monks there. After visiting Anthony’s cell he retumed to Aphroditopolis and settled in the neighbouring desert. But still fearing publicity and desiring to go to some place where he was unknown, Hilarion was taken by a disciple to Epidaurus, a city of Dalmatia. But even here he could not be hid. A great dragon was laying waste the province and his aid was requested. Hilarion prepared a funeral pile, and after he had prayed he commanded the dragon to mount on to it. Upon this being done Hilarion set fire to the pile and the dragon was consumed. While Hilarion was meditating another flight, an earthquake took place and caused the sea to forsake its bounds. Then the natives of Epidaurus took the old man and placed him on the shore, for they feared that the waves would destroy the city. But when Hilarion had drawn three crosses on the sand and stretched out his hand towards the sea, it towered over him, but gradually subsided to its bed. The miracle being noised abroad Hilarion fled to Cyprus. On the way they were chased by pirates, but Hilarion encouraged those who were with him, and though the pirates came close up to them theycould not take them, and their vessel was carried away from its expected prey. Hilarion then went to dwell in the desert in the interior of the island of Paphos, and being very old he wrote an epistle to his disciple Hesychius, and prepared for death. Before his departure he was visited by many holy men and a devout woman named Constantia. After his death they buried him there, but Hesychius came and stole away the body. 21st October.

Attribute

  • Hermit forcing dragon to cast itself on the fire.

MLA Citation

  • Allen Banks Hinds, M.A. “”. A Garner of Saints, 1900. CatholicSaints.Info. 19 April 2017. Web. 25 June 2017. <>