The Compass: Official Newspaper of the Catholic Diocese of Green Bay, Wisconsin Saint of
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Official Newspaper of the Catholic Diocese of Green Bay, Wisconsin
October 18, 2002 Issue

A mountain that tried to hide

This hermit's urge for solitude thwarted by people who sought his guidance

By Tony Staley
Compass Editor
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St. Hilarion

When: c. 291-c. 371

Where: Palestine

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 solitude.

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)

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