A mountain that tried to hide
This hermit's urge for solitude thwarted by people who sought his guidance
By Tony Staley
When: c. 291-c. 371
What: Hermit and miracle worker in Egypt, Palestine, Sicily, Dalmatia and Cyprus
Feast: Oct. 21
Jesus once advised that a city built on a mountain cannot be
hidden (Mt 5:15). St. Hilarion spent most of his life both
resisting and proving the wisdom of that saying as countless
numbers of people sought out this hermit miracle worker.
Hilarion grew up in Tabatha, south of Gaza, in Palestine, the
son of pagan parents. He converted to Christianity when he was 15
while attending school in Alexandria, then went to live in Egypt
under St. Antony, the most famous desert father.
But soon Hilarion wanted more solitude than the crowds who came
to Antony made possible, so he returned to Gaza. On learning that
his parents had died, Hilarion gave his inheritance to the poor and
became a hermit in Majuma, Palestine.
He never bathed, wore only a sackcloth shirt, leather tunic and
short cloak. He grew his own food -- he ate only 15 figs a day for
several years until expanding his diet to include vegetables, bread
and oil. He made baskets and even used reeds and rushes to weave
his own shelter, which he eventually replaced with a tomb-like
structure four-feet wide and five-feet high.
But soon, like Antony, he began attracting large numbers of
people who heard that he could work miracles. In about 356, he
decided to leave, but the people refused to permit it. Finally they
allowed him to go only after he began a hunger strike.
First, he went to Egypt to visit Antony, who by then had died.
He stayed for a while in Egypt, but again people found his hiding
place. He decided to seek a remote island and moved with a
companion to Sicily, settling 20 miles inland.
One of his disciples, St. Hesychius, began looking for him and
was advised in Greece, by a Jewish peddler, that a prophet and
miracle worker had arrived in Sicily.
When Hesychius got to Sicily, he stopped in the first village
where the citizens told him exactly where Hilarion was living.
Hilarion sought some place even more remote and moved to
Dalmatia. But again, his ability to perform miracles, led people to
seek him out.
Off he and his disciple went again, this time to Cyprus, where
in a short time the people learned who he was and began coming to
see him. They moved one final time to an inaccessible spot a dozen
miles into the interior of the island where he finally found
After his death, Hilarion was buried on Cyprus, until Hesychius
dug up the body and had it moved back to Majuma.
(Sources: Butler's Lives of the Saints, Dictionary of Saints, Lives of the Saints and Voices of the Saints)