On this mid-January day, the 13th thereof, we celebrate Saint Hilary (+367), Bishop of Poitiers, proclaimed a Doctor of the Church by Pope Pius IX in 1851 for his clear and incisive writings against the pernicious heresy of Arianism, which denied the divinity of Christ, a heresy which would in turn have dissolved the Church (and very nearly did so, as the near-contemporary Saint Jerome would soon lament). His zeal earned him the epithet ‘Malleus Arianorum‘, the ‘Hammer of Arians’. With his contemporary, Athanasius in the East, Hilary is considered one of the most pre-eminent theologians of the fourth century in the West, leaving behind a corpus of profound theological works, laying the foundation for the full doctrine of the Trinity and of Christ. Upon his work, Augustine, Athanasius, the Councils of Nicaea, Ephesus, Chalcedon would build, and on into the Middle Ages, Scholastic, Aquinas, and the modern era, the whole ‘living Tradition’ of the Church. We stand on the shoulders of giants!
Hilary did much in his brief life (going to his reward at the tender age of 52), raising a family, converting to the faith after reading the Bible, raised to the episcopacy, standing firm in the truth, writing a whole corpus of profound theology, suffering exile for his teachings (a much more serious punishment then than now). Returning to his diocese, Hilary was a living martyr for the faith, but, we may presume from his name, joyful all the while, a joy that the world could not give. He was declared a Doctor of the Church by Pope Pius IX in 1851.
This is also the memorial of Saint Mungo (+614), whose birth and baptismal name was Kentigern, (Mungo was his common name, meaning in Celtic, ‘dear one’). He is the patron saint of the city of my own birth, Glasgow, evangelizing the area now known as Strathclyde, in the south of Scotland. His mother was Thenaw, daugther of a British prince; we know not who his father was (according to one legend, his mother was violated by King Uwen mab Urien, but she raised the child alone). Mungo eventually settled in what came to be known as Clasgu, ‘dear family’ in Gaelic, now, of course, Glasgow, or, in the common dialect, Gles’gah. Exiled for a time to Wales as the pagans and Christians battled for control of Scotland, Mungo eventually returned to his native, and now Catholic, land, and became renowned for his goodness and holiness. He is buried in the crypt of the beautiful cathedral that bears his name – now unfortunately a Protestant one, since the ‘Reformation’ under the fiery, apostate priest John Knox in the 16th century. I visited his tomb on my pilgrimage through Scotland in 2018, and, in the midst of a ‘Lego display’ around his sacred body, knelt and said a Rosary in that stolen cathedral, praying that Mungo intercede to make bonnie Scotland a Catholic nation once again. We must always hope.
Saints Hilary and Mungo, orate pro nobis!