If you are an outdoorsman, November is the most wonderful time of the year! Hunting is in the air, and although hunting is an interest of both sexes, I certainly see more wives alone at Mass during this time than I see husbands. Often, women will refer to themselves as hunter’s widows.
Though I was born and raised in northeastern Minnesota, I was never a big hunter. For several years, I would hunt pheasant on my family’s property, but I personally never got into big game like deer or bear. But I sure appreciate hunters, and I have to admit I am attracted to the idea of going hunting more often than I do. (Last time I went, I got a tick with Lyme disease.)
Some of the more rural parishes in our diocese have special hunters’ Masses—Masses that are added or scheduled in such a way to make it easier for the hunters to make it to church. I like this idea. One of the parishes I used to be pastor of had such a practice, and we would pack the church ever year with blaze orange. A lot of venison would come my way because of it!
Now, at this point in the column, I have a message to those readers who are hunters: Do not skip Mass to go hunting. It is a bad idea.
The story of the patron saint of hunters makes this perfectly clear. St. Hubert, whose feast day is fittingly in November (the 3rd) had his conversion due to a stern and miraculous warning from God after the future saint skipped the church to hunt.
Because the story is ancient and legendary, there may be different versions, but the gist of it is as follows: Hubert (656-727), when he was a young man, was very fond of hunting. One Good Friday, the most solemn day of the Christian calendar, he skipped church to go hunting. It is one thing to skip Sunday Mass frivolously, but to skip Good Friday was just plain dumb. As he was chasing a stag, they reached a clearing in the woods, and when the stag turned around to face its pursuer, Hubert was amazed to see a crucifix between the horns of its rack!
As if that weren’t enough, the crucifix started to speak! The voice from the crucifix said, “Unless you turn to the Lord, Hubert, you shall fall into hell.” What do you suppose the young Hubert did in response? He dropped to his knees and probably even wet himself! Then the future saint asked the crucifix what he should do, and the voice told him to go to the local bishop, named St. Lambert, who would guide him as a spiritual director.
Not long after this encounter, with the spiritual guidance of the holy bishop, Hubert divested himself of noble family honors, as well as giving his money to the poor. Eventually he became a priest. According to the legend, St. Lambert encouraged Father Hubert to go on pilgrimage to Rome, and during the time he was away, St. Lambert was killed. The legend states that at the time Lambert was killed, the pope had a vision of his death and was told by God to make Hubert his successor bishop.
As bishop St. Hubert became known for many miracles and his evangelization of the pagan population in his diocese. Soon after his death, he was considered a saint by the local population, but the story of the stag and his conversion experience made his popularity extend far beyond his native Netherlands.
St. Hubert’s popularity continues to grow all throughout the world. This otherwise obscure saint has had many new devotees as the popularity of hunting continues. It is fairly easy to find new holy cards and medals being produced of St. Hubert because of his being the patron saint of hunters. The emblem of this hunting saint is also found on bottles of the liqueur, Jagermeister, which literally means “master hunter.”
So as you plan your hunting trips this month, make sure you do not repeat the mistake of the young Hubert, who thought it was a good idea to skip church in order to hunt. And while you are out on your deer stand, maybe say a little prayer for the hunting saint’s intercession. Who knows, you may end up bagging the legendary 30-point buck.
St. Hubert, pray for our hunters!