St. Hilarion: from his life written by St. Jerome
by Bishop Challoner, 1841
Hilarion was born at a village called Thabatha, five miles from the city of Gaza in Palestine, of infidel parents, who sent him, when very young, to study at Alexandria, where he gave proofs of an excellent genius for his age, and of his good dispositions to virtue. Here he embraced the faith of Christ, and young as he was, could find no pleasure either in theatrical shows, incentives to lust, or any other wordly diversions, but delighted only in frequenting the church, and in religious exercises. Hearing of the fame of St. Antony, he went to visit him in the desert, and put off his secular habit, in order to embrace the same institute. He remained with the Saint about two months, making it his study to observe and learn perfectly the whole order and method of his life;–his continual prayer–his humility–his charity–his mortification–and all his other virtues. Then returning into his own country with some other religious men, and finding that his parents were dead, he distributed his whole substance between his brethren and the poor, without reserving any thing for himself, bearing in mind that saying of our Lord: He that doth not renounce all that he possesseth, cannot be my disciple, Luke xiv. 33. Thus stript of the world, and armed with Christ, being only in his sixteenth year, he took the resolution of retiring into the wilderness (which lies on the left of the road that leads from Gaza into Egypt), without apprehending the dangers which his worldly friends objected, from the robberies and murders for which that place was infamous; but rather despising a temporal death, that he might escape that which is eternal nor regarding the tenderness of his own constitution, which made him very sensible of cold, heat, and other injuries of the weather, and of the hardships and austerities that are incident to that kind of life which he was going to undertake.
On going into the desert, he took on other clothing with him than the frock of a peasant, a sackcloth and hair-cloth, with a leathern habit to wear over it, which St. Antony had given him. Here he built himself a little hut, covered with sedges and rushes, to modify the inclemency of the weather, which served him from the sixteenth to the twentieth year of his age, and afterwards in a cell, which, according to St. Jerome’s account, who had seen it, was but four feet wide, five feet high, and in length but a little longer than his body, so that as he could not stand in it upright, it seemed rather a tomb for a dead corpse, than a dwelling for a living man. Here his diet was suitable to his lodging; his food for the first years being but fifteen dry figs in the day, and that not till after sunset. Afterwards, from the twenty-first to the twenty-seventh year of his age, he took only about eight or ten ounces of lentiles, steeped in cold water, or a little dry bread, with salt and water. For the space of three or four years more, he lived upon nothing but the wild herbs, or roots of the shrubs of the wilderness. From the thirty-first till the thirty-fifth year of his age he confined himself to six ounces of barley bread per day, and a few pot-herbs without oil; which rule he continued to observe to his sixty-third year, when he began to allow himself a little oil with his herbs, but tasted nothing else, either of fruit or of pulse, or of any other kind of food. From that time, as he now supposed that by course of nature he could not have long to live, instead of relaxing in his austerities, he redoubled them; so that from the sixty-fourth year of his age till his death, that is, till he was eighty years old, he totally abstained from bread, and eat nothing, during the four and twenty hours, but a kind of mess composed of meal and herbs, which served him both for meat and drink: and this in so small a quantity, that his whole daily sustenance did not weigh above five ounces. Such was his austerity, with respect to his food, that, throughout these different periods of his life, he ever observed it as a constant rule, never to eat or drink till after sun-set, how weak soever his health might be, not even on the greatest solemnities.
Hilarion had no sooner, in imitation of his great model and master St. Antony, entered upon this course of life, in a vast and frightful desert, where no man before had ventured to dwell, and, like him, applied himself incessantly to God in prayer, than the devil, not bearing to see himself thus trodden under foot by a young man, began to assault him with violent temptations of the flesh, filling his mind with impure imaginations, and inciting him by sensual allurements, to carnal pleasures, of which before he had no conception. The chaste youth perfectly abhorred himself,
He struck his breast, as if he meant by this exterior violence to put those lewd suggestions to flight: he condemned himself to longer, and still more rigorous fasts and hard labour, saying thus to himself: “thou little jack-ass, I will teach thee to kick; instead of corn thou shalt feed only on straw;–I will tame thy courage with hunger and thirst: I will lay heavy burthens upon thee:–I will make thee work both in summer and winter, that instead of wanton pleasures thou mayest think of thy meat.” The Saint was steadfast in his resolution: fasting without intermission, sometimes for three or four days together, and then taking only a little juice of herbs and a few figs for his meal: incessantly praying, singing psalms, and working at the same time, either in digging the earth or in making baskets, till at length, by these exercises, he reduced his body to a mere skeleton. Wherefore the enemy perceiving he could not prevail this way, began to trouble him with fantastic apparitions and other temptations.
One night he was on a sudden surprised with hearing the crying as it were of children, the bleating of sheep, the bellowing of oxen, the lamentations of women, the roaring of lions, and the confused noise of an army of barbarians, with strange and frightful voices. Suspecting them to be nothing but diabolical illusions, he armed himself with the sign of the cross, and with a lively faith, cast himself down upon the ground, to be the better enabled, in this humble posture, to encounter the proud enemy. Then looking forward, it being a clear moon-light night, he perceived, as it were, a coach, drawn by furious horses, coming with a violent gallop towards him: at the sight of which he called upon the name of Jesus, when behold on a sudden the whole fantastic scene sunk down into the earth before his eyes: upon which he burst forth the praises of his Deliverer. At several other times this indefatigable enemy sought various ways, both by day and night, to molest him: either by exhibiting naked figures to excite him to concupiscence, or by seeking to interrupt his devotion and distract him at prayer by a variety of either comic or tragic scenes: but none of these, or any other of his attempts, were able to shake the resolution of the servant of God, or prevent his perpetual application to the love and service of his Maker. One day whilst he was praying with his head fixed on the ground, it happened that his mind wandered on some other thoughts, the watchful enemy, taking advantage of this distraction, jumped upon his back, as if to ride upon him; and whipping and spurring, cried out: “What, art thou asleep? Thou a saint! come shall I give thee some provender?” But this, like the rest of his vain efforts, only served to excite the Saint to still more vigilance and fervor.
About the eighteenth year of his age, the robbers that frequented the desert, took it in their heads to pay him a visit; expecting either to find something in his hut to take away, or looking upon it as a rash attempt in a single boy to venture to dwell alone in their dominions and not be afraid of them. They therefore began their search after him in the evening, and continued it till the sunrising, without being able to find his lodging: but meeting him at day-light, they asked him as it were in jest, “what he would do if he were visited by robbers?” “Oh!” said he, “he that has nothing to lose fears no robbers.” “But,” said they, “perhaps they may kill thee.” “True,” said he, “but I do not dread death: and therefore am not afraid of them, because I am prepared to die.” Amazed at his constancy and faith, they acknowledged that having sought him during the night, they were so blinded as not to be able to find him; and so deeply were they affected with his words, that they promised to amend their lives.
Hilarion had now spent twenty-two years in perfect solitude in the wilderness, conversing only with God and his angels, and only known to the world by the fame of his sanctity, which was spread over all Palestine, when a certain woman of the city of Eleutheropolis, who had lived fifteen years in the state of wedlock without bearing a child, finding herself despised by her husband on account of her barrenness, ventured to break in upon his solitude; and coming unexpectedly upon him, cast herself upon her knees before him, saying: “Pardon my boldness; pity my distress: why do you turn away your eyes from me? Why do you flee from your petitioner? Do not look at me as a woman, but as a distressed fellow-creature. Remember that a woman brought forth the Savior of the world, those that are well stand not in need of a physician, but they that are ill.” At these words he stood still; and having learnt of her, the first woman he had seen since his retiring into the desert, the cause of her grie£, he lifted up his eyes towards heaven, bid her be of good heart, and weeping for her, sent her away; but behold within a twelvemonth she returned, bringing her son with her to visit him. This, his first miracle, was followed by a greater.
When Aristeneta, the wife of Elpidius, a Christian nobleman (who was afterwards advanced to one of the first posts in the empire), was on her return from Egypt, where she had been with her husband and her three sons, to see St . Antony, she stopped at Gaza on account of the illness of her children, who were all seized by a semitertian fever, and brought so low that their lives were despaired of by the physicians. The disconsolate mother, hearing of the sanctity of Hilarion, whose wilderness was not far distant from Gaza, went in haste to visit him, accompanied by some of her servants, and thus addressed herself to him: “I beg of thee for God’s sake: for the sake of Jesus our most merciful God; through His cross and His blood; that thou wouldst vouchsafe to come and restore health to my three sons, that the name of the Lord our Savior may be glorified in that pagan city: that when His servant comes into Gaza, Marnas (the idol which they there worship) may fall to the ground.” The man of God excused himself, alleging, that he never went out of his cell, not so much as into any village, much less into a populous city; but she, casting herself down upon the ground, ceased not to importune him with many tears; often crying out,” O Hilarion! thou blessed servant of God, restore to me my sons: Antony has laid his hands upon them in Egypt, but do thou save their lives in Syria.” Her earnest entreaties at length obliged him to promise her that he would come to Gaza after sun-set. No sooner had he arrived at their lodgings, and seen them confined to their beds in burning fevers, bereft of sense, than he called upon our Lord Jesus, when immediately a copious sweat, issuing as it were from three fountains, followed his prayer, and in the space of an hour they took their meat, knew their mournful mother, blessed God, and kissed the hands of the Saint.
No sooner was his miracle published abroad, than multitudes of the inhabitants of both Syria and Egypt began to visit him. Many infidels were by his mean converted to the faith of Christ, and many also, by his example, embraced a monastic life; for, before his time, there were neither monks nor monasteries in Palestine or Syria: he must therefore be considered the father, founder and first teacher of the monastic institute in those provinces. And now it was that he began to be joined by many disciples, whom he trained: up to religious perfection, who were witnesses of the wonderful miracles that God wrought by him. St. Jerome, as one perfectly well informed, has recorded several of the most remarkable, with all their circumstances. A woman of the neighborhood of Rhinocorura, (a city on the confines of Egypt,) who had been blind for ten years, was brought to the Saint to be healed: after having told him that she had, expended her whole substance on physicians, “you had done better (said he) if you had given it to the poor; you would then have given it to Jesus Christ, the true physician, who would have healed you.” She earnestly begged that he would have pity on her; and he, with spitting on her eyes, restored her to her sight. A charioteer of Gaza was also brought to him on his bed, struck in such a manner by the devil, that he could not stir any of the members of his body except his tongue, with which he besought the servant of God to heal him. The Saint told him, that if he desired to be healed, he must first believe in Jesus Christ, and promise to renounce a profession which exposed him to the immediate occasion of sin. To these conditions he agreed, and having received his cure, he returned home, rejoicing more for the health of his soul, than for that of his body.
Marsitas, a young man of the territory of Jerusalem of an extraordinary bulk and strength, who had been possessed by an evil spirit, and done much mischief to many, was dragged? by ropes to the cell of the servant of God, like a mad bull bound in chains. The brethren at the very sight of him were affrighted, but the saint bid the people bring him up and let him loose; which when they had done, he commanded him to bend down his head and come to him. The poor man trembling bent his neck, when laying aside all his fierceness, and falling down he licked the feet of the man of God; and after seven days’ exorcisms was entirely cured. Another man, named Orion, a principal citizen of Aila, a city near the Red Sea, who was possessed by a whole legion of devils, was brought in like manner loaded with chains to the Saint, who happened at that time to be walking with his disciples, and interpreting to them some passages of the Scripture: when behold the possessed man broke loose from those that held him, and running up to the man of God, whose back was turned towards him, lifted him up from the ground on high in his arms: at which all that were present cried out, apprehending that he would do the Saint some mischief; but Hilarion said smiling, “suffer me to wrestle with my antagonist.” Then putting back his hand, he laid hold on the hair of Orion, and bringing him before his feet, kept him down howling, and turning back his neck, so as to touch the ground with the top of his head. Then praying, he said: “O Lord Jesus, I am a poor wretch; do thou release this captive; thou canst as easily overcome many as one.” On this occasion they were all astonished to hear so many different voices issuing from the mouth of the possessed person, and a confused out-cry, as it were of a whole people: but their wonder ceased when they saw the multitude of wicked spirits that was expelled from him by the prayers of the humble servant of God. Orion came shortly afterwards with his wife and children to return thanks to the Saint, and brought him large presents out of gratitude, which he absolutely refused to accept: but when he besought him with tears to take at least what he had brought, and to give it to the poor, he answered; “thou canst better distribute thyself what thou wouldst have to be given to the poor; for thou frequentest cities, and knowest the poor; why should I, who have left my own, covet the goods of others? Many have been imposed upon by avarice, under the name of the poor. Do not make thyself uneasy; it is for both thy sake and mine I refuse thy presents: for if I should accept of them, I should offend God, and the legion of devils would return to thee.”
One Italicus, a Christian of Maiuma, the haven of Gaza, who bred horses for the public races that were to be exhibited at Gaza, came to the Saint to beg his prayers against the enchantments wherewith his pagan antagonist, one of the magistrates of the city, had bewitched his horses. Hilarion, who disliked all these pubhe games, was unwilling to employ his prayers on so vain an occasion. But the other representing to him that it was not by his own choice, but by his office, he was obliged to do what he did; and that the honor of God and religion was here at stake, because the men of Gaza, who, for the most part, were infidels, would take occasion, from his being worsted, to insult, not so much over him as over the church of Christ: the Saint, at the request of the brethren, ordered his earthen pot, in which he used to drink, to be filled with water, and given to him. Italicus took the water, and with it sprinkled his stable, his horses, his chariot, and his drivers, in the sight of the pagans, who made a jest of it, whilst the Christians, confiding in the prayers of the Saint, made no doubt of success. Wherefore, as soon as the signal was given, the horses of Italicus sprung forth-with incredible speed, whilst those of his adversary were presently distanced, and could scarce keep within sight of them that were gone before. Upon this a loud cry of all the people was immediately raised, and even the very adversaries cried out, that Marnas, the God of Gaza, was worsted by Christ. This miracle gave occasion to the conversion of many.
There was also in the same town of Maiuma, a virgin dedicated to God, with whom a young man in the neighborhood was vehemently in love. After having employed, without success, flattering speeches, idle jokes, and other freedoms, which too often pave the way to greater crimes, he went to Memphis in Egypt, to seek a remedy for his wound from the priests of Esculapius. They furnished him with certain magical spells and monstrous figures, graven upon a plate of copper, which he buried under the threshold of the house where the maid dwelt, when behold immediately (in punishment of her having laid herself too open to the enemy, by not flying, as she ought, or not resisting former freedoms) the maid ran mad with love, tearing off her head clothes, whirling about her hair, gnashing with her teeth, and calling upon the name of the young man. Her parents, therefore, took her to St. Hilarion, when presently it appeared how the case stood; for the devil began to howl within her, and to cry out: “I was forced in hither; I was brought from Memphis against my will: where I succeeded well, in deluding men with dreams. But, oh! what torments dost thou make me suffer here! Thou compellest me to depart, but behold I am bound fast, and kept in by the thread and plate that lie under the threshold. I cannot go out till the young man who keeps me here, lets me go.” “Thou art very strong indeed!” said the Saint, “if thou art held by a thread and a plate. But tell me, how didst thou dare to enter into a maid dedicated to God!” “It was,” said he, “to preserve her virginity.” “What! thou preserve her virginity,” said the Saint, “who art the mortal enemy of chastity. Why didst thou not rather enter into him that sent thee?” “Oh,” said the devil, “there was no necessity for my entering into him, who was already possessed by my comrade, the demon of wanton love.” The Saint would hear no more, nor send for the young man, not order the things mentioned to be taken away, to show the little regard that is to be had to the devil’s speeches or signs, but instantly delivered the maid from her wicked guest, and sent her away perfectly cured, after severely reprehending her for admitting of those liberties which had given the devil the power to possess her.
It would be endless to recount all the other miracles that God wrought by this Saint, which rendered his name illustrious, even in the most remote provinces. St. Antony himself, hearing of his life and conversation, wrote to him, and gladly received letters from him; and when any diseased came to him for their cure from any part of Syria, he blamed them for giving themselves the trouble to come so far, since you have, said he, in those parts my son Hilarion. His bright example attracted great numbers to the service of God, so that now there were innumerable monasteries, or cells of religious, throughout Palestine, who all looked upon him as their father, and resorted to him for their direction. These he exhorted to attend to their spiritual progress; ever reminding them, “that the figure of this world passeth away, and that eternal life can only be purchased by parting with the pleasures and affections of this life.” He visited all their monasteries once a year for their instruction and edification: and such was his diligence and charity on these occasions, that he would not pass by the cell of the least or meanest of the brethren without calling in to instruct and console him, insomuch that he went as far as the desert of Kadesh, on purpose to visit one single monk who dwelt there. In this journey he was accompanied by a great number of his disciples into the city of Elusa, on the confines of the Saracens, on a festival day, when the people were all assembled in the temple of Venus, who was there worshipped by the Saracens on account of the star that bears her name. No sooner had they heard that Hilarion, of whose sanctity and miracles they had been previously informed by several of their nation whom he had delivered from evil spirits, was passing by, but all the men, women, and children ran out in crowds to meet him and to beg his blessing. The Saint received them all with the utmost tenderness and humility, and begged that they would henceforth worship the living God, rather than stocks and stones: shedding at the same time many tears, and looking up towards heaven, he promised, if they would believe in Christ, that he would frequently come to see them. So wonderful was the grace that accompanied the words and prayers of the man of God, that they would not suffer him to quit their city, till he had first marked out a plot of ground for the building of a church; nay, their very priest had received the sign of the cross of Christ, in order to his baptism.
Another year, when the Saint was making his visitation, a little before the time of the vintage, he came with all his companions to the monastery of one of the brethren, who was remarkable for being a niggardly miser. This man had a vineyard, and apprehending lest the multitude of the monks that accompanied the Saint should eat up his grapes, he set several men to keep them off with stones and clods in slings, and would not so much as let them taste of them. The servant of God smiled at the treatment they had met with, but taking no notice of it to the niggard, he went on the next day to another monastery, where he and his whole company were kindly received by a monk named Sabas, who kindly invited them (it being the Lord’s day,) to go and feast themselves in his vineyard. The Saint ordered that they should first take the food of their souls, by applying themselves to their religious exercises of prayer, singing psalms, and paying their duty to God: and then after giving them his blessing, he sent the whole multitude of his disciples to the vineyard to take their corporal refection. The blessing of the man of God was attended with so miraculous an effect, that whereas the vineyard of Sabas was not before thought capable of yielding more than a hundred gallons of wine, it yielded that year three hundred, whilst the vineyard of the niggard yielded much less than usual, and the little that it produced turned into vinegar, a circumstance which the man of God had foretold. Hilarion could never endure in religious men any thing that looked like covetousness, or too great an affection to any of those things that pass away with this transitory world: he was moreover endowed by God with the gift of discovering who were addicted to this, that, or any other kind of vice, by the stench that proceeded from their bodies or garments.
And now the Saint, seeing that his hermitage was converted into a great monastery; and that the wilderness about him was continually crowded with the people who resorted thither, bringing their diseased, or such as were possessed with unclean spirits, and that not only the common sort of people from all the neighboring provinces, but even the gentry,–ladies of the first rank,–clerks, monks, priests, and bishops, were daily visiting him, and interrupting his devotions, he bitterly regretted the loss of his former solitude, perpetually lamenting, weeping, and saying, that since he had returned back into the world, he apprehended he should have his reward in this life, because all Palestine and the neighboring provinces took him to be somebody, &c. nor did he cease to mourn and bewail his condition, till he took a fixed resolution to quit his monastery, and retire into some place where he might be unknown, and more freely enjoy his God without the interruption of so many visits. In the mean time, whilst he was meditating upon his flight, the lady Aristeneta, whose three sons he had cured, came to see him, acquainting him with her design of returning into Egypt, to make a second visit to St. Antony. He replied, with tears in his eyes, that he could have wished to have taken the same journey, if he were not kept prisoner in his monastery, but that it was now too late to find Antony alive; for, said he, two days ago the world was deprived of so great a father. Having believed him, she did not proceed in her journey, and, behold, after some days the news of his death was brought from Egypt.
When it was known abroad that the man of God was upon the point of quitting Palestine, the whole province took the alarm, and no less than ten thousand people, of all degrees and conditions, were gathered together, in order to stop and detain him. But his resolution was not to be altered; and as he had learnt by revelation the havoc that the infidels of Gaza were about to make in his monastery, and all through that neighborhood, under the reign of Julian the Apostate, he gave them broad hints of this his fore-knowledge, saying, that he could not call in question the truth of what God had said; nor could he endure to see the churches destroyed, the altars of Christ trodden under foot, and his children massacred. In short, he assured them he would neither eat nor drink till they let him go. And thus, after he had fasted seven days, they were contented at last to suffer him depart, accompanied by about forty of his monks. With these he made the best of his way to Pelusium, (now called Darmietta) in Egypt, and after visiting the holy solitaries who lived in the neighboring deserts, he waited upon Dracontius and Philo; two illustrious confessors of Christ, of the number of those catholic prelates who had been banished from their sees by the fury of the Arians, under the emperor Constantius. After paying these visits, he hastened to keep the anniversary day of the happy decease of St. Antony in the place where he died: and being conducted by the deacon Baisanes upon dromedaries, three days’ journey through that vast and dreary wilderness, he arrived at length at the mountain of the Saint. Here he found his two disciples, who showed him all the places where their master had been accustomed to sing psalms–to pray–to work–and sit down to rest himself, after being wearied with his labour; as also the garden he had cultivated–the trees he had planted–the instrument with which he had dug the earth–the private cells to which he often retired towards the top of the mountain, &c. and then agreeably entertained him with divers particulars of the acts of the latter part of St. Antony’s life. Hilarion was much moved to devotion with the sight and recital of all this; and after watching in prayer the whole night of the anniversary of the Saint, he returned the same way he came, through the dreary wilderness to the neighborhood of the town called Aphroditon. Here in an adjoining desert, with two of his disciples whom he kept with him, he led so abstemious, abstracted, and silent a life, that on feeling the fervor he now found within himself, he seemed never to have before begun to serve Christ in earnest.
He had not been above two years in this wilderness, when the fame of his sanctity brought all the people of the neighboring country to him, to beg his prayers for rain. For from the time of the death of St. Antony, no rain had fallen upon their land, for the space of three whole years, so that being afflicted with a great famine, they resorted to him, whom they considered as the successor of St. Antony, for a redress of their misery. Moved to pity by the sight of their distress, he lifted up his hands and eyes to heaven to pray for them, and his prayer was immediately followed by plentiful rains. But the rains, whilst they fertilized the earth, having, in falling on the dry hot sand, also produced an incredible multitude of venomous reptiles and insects, with which innumerable persons were struck, they were again forced to have recourse to the Saint, who gave them some oil which he had blessed, with which they were cured. But now finding himself after these miracles greatly honored, he would stay no longer in this place, but departed in order to go and hide himself in the desert of Oasis. In his way thither he passed through Alexandria: and as he made it a rule never to lodge in any city, he went on to a place in the neighbourhood, called Bruchium, where there was a monastery of the servants of God. From hence, when night drew on, he hastened away, telling the brethren, who were greatly afflicted, that they should soon know the reason of his sudden departure. Accordingly, on the next day their monastery was searched by the Gazites, accompanied by officers sent from the governor of Alexandria to apprehend Hilarion, of whose arrival there they had received intelligence. For the infidels of Gaza, who bore a mortal hatred to the Saint, as soon as Julian came to the empire, destroyed his monastery, and obtained an edict from the tyrant, that both he, and his disciple Hesychius, should be sought for and put to death wherever they were found. Of this the Saint had a fore-knowledge by prophetic light, and thereupon withdrew himself: so that the infidels, who had thought themselves, certain of seizing their priest, finding he was gone, departed, saying to each other, that now they were sure he was a magician, and had a foresight of things to come.
He had not been a year in the wilderness of Oasis, before he found that fame had also followed him thither; and therefore now despairing to be able to conceal himself upon the continent, he formed a resolution of seeking out a place in some of the islands of the Mediterranean, where he might hide himself. In order to this he embarked with one only disciple, at Paretonium, a haven on the coast of Lybia, on board a vessel bound for Sicily; hoping that henceforward no one should know him, or become troublesome to him in his retirement. When, behold, in the midst of the voyage the son of the master of the ship, or rather the devil by his mouth, cried out: “Hilarion, thou servant of God, let me alone, at least till we come to land; how comes it to pass, that even at sea thou art still persecuting us.” The Saint would have disguised the grace which God had given him, fearing lest the sailors and passengers should publish his fame when they came to land, and therefore mildly replied: “If my God permits thee to stay, stay if thou wilt; but if he cast thee out, what hast thou do do to complain of me, who am but a poor beggar and a sinful man.” However, upon the solemn promise of the father, and of all the rest, that they would not discover him, he cast the devil out of the boy. When they arrived at Pachynum (now Capo Passaro), he would have paid for the passage of himself and his companion, by giving the captain the book of the gospels, which was all his wealth, but he, seeing their poverty, would not receive it. Wherefore the Saint leaving the sea-coast, withdrew himself into a little kind of wilderness, about twenty miles within the land, and there fixed his abode; living upon what little he could get, by making up faggots, which his companion carried to a neighboring village, bringing from thence in exchange what they stood need of for their food.
But the Saint could not long he concealed here; for soon after his arrival, a man possessed with an evil spirit, being under the exorcisms of the church at St. Peter’s in Rome, the devil cried out thus by his mouth: “Hilarion, the servant of Chiiet, is some days since come into Sicily, where no man knows him, and he thinks himself secret: but I will go and discover him.” This man therefore taking some of his servants with him, and going on board a ship sailed immediately for Sicily; and after coming to shore, being conducted by the devil, he went straight to the hut of the servant of God, and there casting himself at his feet, was perfectly cured. This being noised abroad, great multitudes, who labored under various corporeal diseases, resorted to him to obtain their cure; whilst numbers also of devout and religious people applied to him for their spiritual profit. Amongst the rest, he cured upon the spot one of the principal men of the island, who was swollen up with the dropsy, and who on the same day, returned home in perfect health. This man offered to make him considerable presents, which the Saint absolutely refused, alleging the precept of our Savior, Matt. x. 8. Freely have you received, freely give: which rule he invariably observed in all the other innumerable miracles which he wrought, whether in Sicily or elsewhere, for, he never would receive any thing, no not so much as a morsel of bread from any one of those on whom he had wrought those miracles.
And now his beloved disciple Hesychius, after having sought after him in vain through many different regions came at length to Sicily, upon the report he had heard at Modon in Greece, from a Jewish pedlar, that a Christian prophet had appeared in Sicily, who wrought all kinds of wonderful miracles. No sooner had he found him than the Saint gave him to understand, that he wanted to depart from Sicily into some strange country where he might be utterly unknown. Wherefore, in compliance with his desire, he conveyed him away by a ship to the coast of Dalmatia, where for a short time he led a solitary life, not far from the city of Epidaurus, now called Ragusa. But neither here could he remain long concealed, his miracles every where betraying him. There was at that time, in the neighborhood of Epidaurus, a monstrous serpent, of that species named boas, which did great mischief in destroying both men and cattle; the Saint, to put a stop to this calamity ordered the country people to heap up a pile of wood, and after addressing a prayer to Christ he called the serpent out of his den, and commanded him to go on the top of the pile of wood, and then setting fire to it, he burnt the monster in sight of a great multitude of people. This miracle was followed by another still greater. About this time, viz. the second year of the reign of Valentinian the first, there happened so remarkable an earthquake that, according to Amianus, a cotemporary historian, its like was never recorded, either in authentic or fabulous history. On this occasion, the swelling seas, in several places, broke in and overflowed the land in such a manner as to threaten the earth with a second deluge, and in some places the waves ran so high as to carry the ships along with them, and leave them hanging on the cliffs. The Epidaurians perceiving the danger in which their city as well as many others were in of being destroyed, had recourse to Hilarion, and opposed him to the mountains of water that were just upon the point of overwhelming them. No sooner had the Saint made three crosses on the sand, and lifted Up his arms to heaven, than the swelling waves, though they raged, foamed, and rose up to an incredible height, not able to advance, gradually returned back again and subsided. This wonder, says St. Jerome, who was then a boy in the same province, the city of Epidaurus, as well as the whole country, recount to this day–the mothers relate it to their children, in order to transmit the memory of it to posterity.
The applause that followed these miracles would not suffer the humble servant of Christ to remain any longer in Dalmatia; therefore taking boat privately by night he fled away, and within two days found a ship departing for Cyprus, on which he embarked. In this voyage his ship being pursued by some pirates in two light vessels, there appeared no hopes of escaping them. The ship’s crew being in the utmost consternation, the Saint turning to his disciples said: “Why are you afraid, O ye of little faith?” And when the pirates were now come within a stone’s cast of the ship, he stood on the foredeck, and stretching out his hand to them, he said: “You have come far enough when behold immediately their vessels fell back, and the more they, tugged and rowed, in order to push forward towards their expected prey, the more rapidly were they carried away from it. The Saint landed at Paphos, a noted city of Cyprus, and chose himself a dwelling place about two miles from thence; being now wonderfully pleased that he had found rest, at least for a short time, in this solitude; but scarcely had twenty days elapsed when the devils in different parts of the island published his arrival by the mouths of those that were possessed; and several of these, both men and women, hastened to him and were delivered. Here he remained about two years meditating upon some private place of retirement.
In the mean time he sent Hesychius into Palestine, to salute the brethren there, and to visit the ashes of his monastery; and upon his return proposed that they should sail into Egypt, and advance a great way into the country, to some place inhabited only by pagans. But Hesychius opposed this; and after a long search, discovered a place in the island about twelve miles distant from the sea, amongst mountains and woods that were almost inaccessible, which proved quite to his mind. In this solitude, to which no one could arrive in several places but by creeping, on hands and knees, they found springs of water on the sides of the hills,–a little garden within, with several fruit trees, of which however the Saint would never eat, and near the garden the ruins of an ancient temple, from whence, as both he and his disciples related, were often heard, both night and day, a great noise, like the voices of a whole army of devils. In this solitary abode the man of God dwelt for the last five years of his mortal life, seldom visited by any one but Hesychius, on account of the difficulty of coming at his dwelling, as also because the people were persuaded that the neighborhood was haunted with a multitude of demons. However, there were some that ventured to come to him for the cure of their maladies; their necessities overcoming all difficulties, especially after it was known, that he had cured upon the spot, the bailiff of the place of a palsy, which had deprived him of the use of his limbs, by only stretching out his hand to him, and lifting him up with these words: In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, rise up and walk.
But now the time arrived which was to put a period to all the labors of his mortal pilgrimage, and unite him eternally to his God, when being now eighty years old he was seized with his last illness. Although Hesychius was then absent, he nevertheless bequeathed to him by will all he had, viz. his book of the gospels, his sackcloth, cowl, and habit. Many religious men from Paphos came to attend him in his sickness, who had heard of his having said, “that he was now going to our Lord;” and with them a holy woman named Constantia, whose daughter and son-in-law he had delivered from death by anointing them with oil. And now he was drawing near his end, when in the very agony of death he distinctly spoke these words: “Go forth my soul: what art thou afraid of? Go forth, why art thou at a stand? Thou hast served Christ almost seventy years, and art thou afraid to die?” and with these words he gave up the ghost. He was immediately buried as he had desired, in the same place: where the devout lady Constantia frequently passed whole nights in prayer at his sepulcher, speaking with him as if he were alive, and desiring the assistance of his prayers. His disciple Hesychius, after ten months, privately conveyed his body away to Palestine, where it was solemnly interred in his own monastery; at which time it was found entirely incorrupt, and sending forth a most fragrant odor. Many great miracles were daily wrought through his intercession, even to the time when St. Jerome published his life, as well at his sepulcher in Palestine, as at the place where he was first buried in Cyprus.