Doctor of the Divinity of Christ- Saint Hilary of Poitiers

Patron saint against rheumatism, snakes and snake bites, and patron saint of children learning to walk and mothers

Hilary was born at Poitiers in what is now France in either the late 200’s or the early 300’s.  His parents were pagan.  His parents believed in education and Hilary studied Greek.  He later studied the Old and New Testament with his wife and his daughter.  His daughter is Saint Abra. The family was baptized and joined the Church when he was 35 years old. 

The Christians respected Hilary so much around 350 they elected him as their bishop. The heresy of Arianism was disrupting the Church.  The Arians did not believe that Christ was divine. Hilary fought against the Arianism heresy. The Arians had a lot of power. The Emperor Constantius was an Arian. This resulted in many persecutions in the Church. Hilary refused to support the persecution of Saint Athanasius. He didn’t know very much about the controversy with the Arians.  Hilary’s support of Saint Athanasius caused him to be exiled to the East.  Exiled means to send someone away from their country usually as punishment or for political reasons.

Hilary hadn’t known much about the Arians.  He supported Saint Athanasius because he didn’t like the way Saint Athanasius was being treated. After he was exiled, away from his home he didn’t have duties at home or in his duties as a bishop. He had much more time to study and write.  He learned everything he could about the Arians. He wrote books against the Arians and their thinking.  After three years the Emperor sent him back to Poitiers because the emperor was tired of dealing with the trouble Hilary’s writings were causing. 

No one told Hilary he had to go straight home. So he planned his trip home through Greece and Italy, so he could preach against the Arians on the way home.  On his way home he heard songs sung by Arians used as propaganda. Propaganda is often misleading information used to promote a specific point of view. When Hilary returned home he also began to write songs.  Some of his songs are the first with a known author. When the emperor Constantius died in 361 the persecutions ended.  Hilary died in 367 or 368 and was proclaimed a doctor of the Church in 1851.  He was also called The Athanasius of the West.

Saint Hilary wrote this about God’s love for us. “We have been raised up because He has stooped down to us.”

Saint Basil the Great

Saint Basil the Great was born at Caesarea of Cappadocia in 330. He was one of 10 children. His father was Saint Basil, the Elder and his mother was Saint Emmelia. His grandfather was a saint and martyr of the early Church. Several of his brothers and sisters are also saints.  Many of his family became canonized saints.  He became the best known of them.

 He went to school in Caesarea, Constantinople, and Athens. He met Saint Gregory Nazianzen in 352. He opened a school to teach and began practicing law.

His life changed when he met Eustathius of Sebaste. Eustasius was a great bishop. Basil became a monk and began a monastery.  Basil asked Saint Gregory to join him as a monk.  Basil thought prayer, studying scriptures, and work was important in a monastery.  In 370, Basil has ordained a priest. Basil replaced Eusebius after he died. 

In 374, Basil was the Bishop of Caesarea. He had a temper but was generous and kind.   Arianism was teaching against the Church.  Emperor Valens persecuted people who were true to the faith.  This was hard for Basil.  Many people wanted him to go along instead of being faithful.  Basil stayed true to the faith. Valens eventually backed down. When Saint Athanasius died, Basil was left to continue to defend the faith. He also fought against the buying and selling of religious privileges. He called evil everywhere he saw it. Basil stayed in Caesarea until he died in 379.

Basil was called “Great” during his lifetime. He was declared a Doctor of the Church after his death.  He is considered one of the three Cappadocian Fathers, with Gregory of Nazianzus and Gregory of Nyssa.

Basil the Great is the patron Saint for both hospital administrators and reformers.

Prayer of St. Basil the Great
O Lord our God, we beseech you, 
To ask for the gift we need. 
Steer the ship of our life to yourself, 
The quiet harbor of all storm-stressed souls. 
Show us the course which we are to take. 
Renew in us the spirit of docility.
Let your Spirit curb our fickleness; guide and strengthen us 
To perform what is for our own good, 
To keep your commandments and 
Ever to rejoice in your glorious and vivifying presence. 
Yours is the glory and praise for all eternity. 

Evangelical Doctor of the Church – Saint Anthony of Padua

Saint Anthony of Padua was born near Lisbon, Portugal, August 15, 1195.  He was christened with the name Fernando Martins of Bulhoes. His parents were wealthy, lesser nobility. So he was educated at the local Catholic school.  When he was 15, he joined the Augustinians. In 1212, he was transferred to an Abbey further away from his home. While there, he studied theology and Latin.

He was ordained a priest around this time.  A small group of Franciscan arrived near his abbey. They settled into a hermitage and lived based on the teachings of Saint Anthony of Egypt. He was drawn to their lifestyle. After the first Franciscans were martyred for their faith, he petitioned to join the Franciscan order. When he joined the order he changed his name to Anthony.  He started to travel to Morocco but turned back when he became ill. The ship he was on was blown off course and landed in Sicily, Italy.

From Sicily, he traveled to Tuscany and was assigned to a convent. He was sent to a cell in a nearby cave. He spent his time in prayer and study.  In 1222, at an ordination, there was a misunderstanding over who would be preaching. The Franciscans expected a Dominican would preach. The Dominicans expected a Franciscan would. The head of the convent asked Anthony. The abbot asked Anthony to speak whatever the Holy Spirit put into his mouth. Anthony objected but was overruled. Everyone was impressed. He was sent to Francis of Assisi.  Francis distrusted the study of theology. He was thought it might cause the friars to abandon poverty. Anthony understood Francis’s vision. In 1224, Francis trusted Anthony to teach his friars. Anthony was a great preacher. Once when he tried to preach and people wouldn’t listen, he preached to fish. He wasn’t teaching the fish, but for God’s glory.

According to a story, Anthony had a book of psalms. This book had notes he used for teaching. This was before the invention of the printing press.  Books were very valuable. Someone took the book. Anthony prayed it would be found or returned. The book was returned to Anthony.

In 1231, Anthony became ill with ergotism. Ergotism, is also known as Saint Anthony’s fire.  It is a poisoning which comes from a fungus in rye grain. He died on June 13, 1231. He was declared a saint by Pope Gregory IX, in 1232.  He was proclaimed a Doctor of the Church in January 1946. He is the patron saint for recovering lost things, lost people and the poor.


Where did our time notation come from? Saint Bede the Venerable

Bede was sent to the monastery of St. Peter when he was seven years old.  He was one of two people who survived a plague, which killed everyone else. He spent nearly all of his life in the monastery becoming a priest at the age of 30. Bede studied his entire life. He is known as one of the smartest men of his time, and was a major influence on English literature. He hand copied many books. He also wrote 45 of his own on science, literature, history, theology and the Bible including 30 commentaries on books of the Bible.

He is the one who began the method of dating events in history from the time of the incarnation, or Christ’s birth, AD. AD means anno Domini in the year of our Lord.  This is the system we still use.

He died in 735 after finishing a Anglo-Saxon translation of the Gospel of John.  Pope Leo XIII declared him a Doctor of the Church in 1899. Saint Bede the Venerable is the patron saint of scholars.

Magnificent Doctor – Saint Anselm

Saint Anselm was born to noble parents in Italy in 1033.  At age 15 he wanted to enter a monastery, but was refused because his father didn’t want him there. After several additional years, he went to a French monastery to lead a quiet life of quiet life of prayer and study. He was there three years when he was made prior of the monastery. He was put in charge of the school  With Anselm leading the school, it became one of the great centers of learning during the medieval years.

In 1087, Anselm was elected abbot of the monastery. In 1092, the archbishop of Canterbury died.  King William Rufus would not allow the position to be filled. The king took the money from the Church. The king promised there would be no archbishop  of Canterbury while he was living. The king immediately became so ill, it was believed he would die. Anselm had been recommended to be the archbishop, but Anselm didn’t want the job.  He was afraid of the king.

As the king recovered from being ill, his greed returned.  The king demanded huge sums of money from Anselm. Anselm was forced to flee to Rome. The king refused to allow Anselm to return to England. He king was nearly ex-communicated. Ex-communication is an extreme penalty for the most severe sins. This means  you aren’t part of the Church until you are sorry for your sins. Anselm kept the king from being excommunicated. He was afraid of what that might do to everyone in England.

King Rufus died in 1100. Archbishop Anselm was able to return to England.  He was greeted by the people and by King Henry I. King Henry claimed he had the right to appoint all bishops. King Henry insisted he reinvest Anselm.  Anselm refused. Many letters were sent between the king and the pope, who supported Anselm. The argument between the pope and the king continued and grew more intense. It seemed that England would separate from the Church after all. King Henry was threatened with excommunication. Anselm was exiled again. The king finally backed down. He not only made up with Anselm, but he also returned the money to the Church. He also agreed he did not have the right to invest bishops or abbot.

The last two years of Anselm’s life were spent as the Archbishop. He died on Holy Wednesday, April 21, 1109.  At the Council of Tours in 1163, Thomas Becket asked Pope Alexander to make Anselm a saint. Anselm was declared a Doctor of the Church by Pope Clement IX in 1720. He is known as the Magnificent Doctor.