Pope Hilarius is one of the first popes of whom we hear stories before his consecration. It is a little complicated, so just follow along:
Under Pope Leo I, Hilarius, from the island of Sardinia, was a deacon. In 445, Flavian, a godly man, was raised to Bishop of Constantinople, Politics got between him and the Emperor Theodosius. The monk, Eutyches, a leader of a monastery outside of Constantinople, was in trouble. He had denounced Nestorius, who claimed that Mary could not be considered the Mother of God, by going to the extreme opposite. The energy and imprudence with which he asserted his opinions led to his being misunderstood. He was accused of heresy by Domnus II of Antioch and Eusebius, bishop of Dorylaeum, at a synod presided over by Flavian at Constantinople in 448. His explanations being deemed unsatisfactory, the council deposed him from his priestly office and excommunicated him. In 449, however, Eutyches protested against this verdict and received the support of Dioscorus I of Alexandria. The Emperor then convoked another Council in Ephesus. Because of the speed involved, many Western bishops did not come. Pope Leo sent two legates to read a letter from him and to argue his points. One was Hilarius.
Dioscurus, a longtime acquaintance of Eutyches, both being from Alexandria, was leading the synod. He did not let the legates read the letter from Pope Leo nor speak during the council. At this council, which assembled on August 8, 449, Eutyches and Dioscorus verbally attacked the archbishop, Flavian. The council reinstated Eutyches. Flavian died shortly afterwards, on August 11, 449, from injuries incurred from a physical assault brought about by the followers of the two Alexandrians. Apparently feeling he had won, Dioscorus tried to hinder the return to Rome of the legates. Hilarius told how he had to hide in the chapel of St. John the Evangelist and walked, taking all back roads, to Rome. Hilarius' safe arrival back to Pope Leo was the occasion of Hilarius being granted the title of archdeacon.
Nine days after Pope Leo's death, Hilarius was raised to the throne of Peter. In his six and one-third years, he had several accomplishments:
1. He developed episcopal discipline in the heretofore undisciplined areas of Gaul and Hispania, by insisting on a formal hierarchy. Priests answer to bishops, bishops answer to metropolitans and popes, metropolitans answer to popes. Synods answer to popes. He did this in a number of ways, including insisting that a bishop could not leave his diocese without written permission from the metropolitan. He also insisted that church property could not be sold without a synod examining the situation.
In 465, at a synod in Rome, it was declared that an authority could not name his own successor without the approval of Rome. This synod is the first whose original records are still extant.
2. The new emperor, Arthemius, who reigned after the death of Theodosius, wrote an edict allowing tolerance of schismatic sects. He was moved to do this by a favorite official. Hilarius took the matter in hand and waited for the emperor to come to Rome, at which time he have him a lecture on allowing people to be exposed to heresies. He stood by St. Peter's grave to accent his own words.
3. In 467, there were many heretics who were coming into understanding and returning to the Church. There were also many people coming to the Church for the first time. Hilarius completely revamped the liturgy to make it more understandable to these people.
4. Hilarius built two oratories for the Basilica of St. John Lateran, one dedicated to St. John the Baptist and one dedicated to St. John the Evangelist. Hilarius felt that these two saints had protected him during his escape from Ephesus years before. He also had built a chapel, several convents, two public baths and libraries near the Basilica of St. Lawrence Outside the Walls.
This last basilica was where Pope Hilarius was buried when he died February 28, 468.
Pope Saint Hilarius, pray for our Church, which you helped direct!