He became a bishop of Poitiers (where he was born) three years after becoming a Christian, and so he was most likely a layman at the time of his election.
Hilary was very much a defender of orthodoxy in the face of heretics and their movements, esp. Arianism. The distinction “the trumpet of the Latins against the Arians”, was given to him by St. Jerome who of course studied Hilary’s writings and life.
The Arians evidently referred to Hilary as “the troublemaker”.
Constantius II, the Arian emporer at the time, sent Hilary into exile for not condemning Athanasius, who like Hilary faught against Arianism. For this, he is the patron saint of exiles.
He preached the truth and didn’t water anything down. Story goes that one Sunday while Hilary was preaching, some people began to leave the church. Why? They didn’t like what he was saying, what he was challenging them to do. So they began to walk out. Hilary yelled to them: “You will not so easily get out of Hell!”
This is one of my favorite quotes.
I love that story for many reasons, not least because it should serve as a reminder that clergy must preach the faith as it is, without watering things down or simply making people feel good so they don’t get offended. That is a huge disservice to the people, the Church, and God. Preaching like that might earn a priest popularity, but one must wonder about his eternal reward.
Not only clergy, though. We, too, have a duty to teach the faith (probably more by example than anything) without watering it down.
Preaching (in word and deed) like St. Hilary, now that will win souls.
Of course, it might not be so prudent these days to yell out during a homily like that. haha!!
St. Hilary: Pray for us!