St. Hubert and a Catholic Defense of Hunting

Happy St. Hubert’s Day, everyone. By now, we are done with our soul cakes, our Hallowtide jack-o-lanterns, our cemetery visits, parties, and trick-or-treating. The carved pumpkins are getting softer, the candy is wearing out its welcome, and many folks are taking the fake spider webs and orange decoration lights off their houses. At this point, the English are preparing their ceremonial firecrackers and bonfires for Guy Fawkes Day, their perennial, Anglican, effigy-burning holiday that ridicules the fading Catholic struggle for power. Though, to be fair, some or many of the British don’t even realize what that holiday was all about.

And yet, it seems, the Hallowtide is capped off nicely with a holiday that most take for granted: St. Hubert’s Day. It is arguably the coolest Catholic holiday of November. And this day is a holiday for hunters.

The Story of St. Hubert and His Legacy

Once upon a time in the mid-600s, a young Frenchman, Duke Hubert of Aquitaine was out and about on Good Friday. He was out there on his horse partaking in his favorite pastime: hunting. The problem was that he was supposed to be in church that day. However, hunting stag seemed more important to him at the time, so a-stag-hunting he went. Hubert did find the stag he was looking for. Only, this particular stag was different from those he found in the past. When he trotted his horse over to investigate the animal that was cornered by his hounds, he found that there was a glowing crucifix above its head. And then a voice spoke to him that said: “Hubert, unless thou turn to the Lord, and lead a holy life, thou shalt quickly go to Hell.”

And so, Hubert swiftly converted in that moment. He climbed off of his horse and begged for forgiveness for his sins. He later became a priest, and he even replaced his late bishop. He is responsible for building St. Peter’s Cathedral in Liege, Belgium, and he became the patron of that city. Throughout his ministry, Fr. Hubert maintained his passion for hunting. He integrated hunting into his ministry, and he even kept his dogs and hunted in his clerical life. He was popular with his local huntsmen, and he spread Christianity throughout the Ardennes Forest.

Some have said (though I cannot substantiate this claim) that the deer lectured Hubert on how to hunt — that he should hunt only the older stags who are past their breeding age, that men should respect animals, and that a hunter should attack only when a quick kill is assured. Other legends attest to how St. Hubert worked a few miracles throughout his life. His miracles were aided by a special white and gold silk stole said to have been given to him by the Blessed Virgin Mary. Also, St. Hubert made use of a special key that was said to specifically cure rabies, which was later duplicated and used throughout the Ardennes region.

Interestingly, the incident of St. Hubert was prefigured centuries earlier in a similar event that happened to St. Eustace in second-century Rome. In those early days, a Roman general named Placidus, servant of emperor Trajan, was out hunting a deer, when a crucifix miraculously appeared between the stag’s antlers. This miracle inspired Placidus to change his name to Eustachius, which means “good fortune,” and he converted along with his family. And so, St. Eustace has also been known as a patron saint for hunters.

It is said that St. Hubert was a descendant of The Great Pharamond, the legendary first king of the Franks. And speaking of lineage, it is even claimed that today’s bloodhounds are the descendants of St. Hubert’s dogs. The popular liqueur Jagermeister, which literally means “hunting champion,” even bears the symbol of St. Hubert — a stag with a cross between his antlers.

Remembering St. Hubert Today

St. Hubert’s Day is celebrated in Europe and in some parts of North America. Special masses are held in France, Luxembourg, Germany, and Belgium. Other celebrations have taken place in Ireland, Poland, and even the Netherlands. During such masses, blessings are bestowed by the priest to hunters and their dogs for a safe and successful hunt.

As for North America, a blessing of the hounds takes place in Kentucky on an annual basis on the first Saturday in November. Further up north in Cap St. Ignace, Quebec, a St. Hubert Mass is normally given in early September. The NRA describes the scene of one of these masses:

Hunters file in dressed in their hunting clothes and bring their firearms and hunting dogs to be blessed. Then a procession of game wardens and clergy members enters and exits the church under an archway of guns held aloft by hunters wearing camouflage and hunter orange. Afterward the entire community shares nature’s bounty at a wild game dinner. Such pageantry solidifies the ethics, spirituality and community acceptance of hunting.

Hunters’ Patron Saint Celebrated This Month, James Swan, NRA website

The regalia, the ritual, and the bombast of a St. Hubert’s Mass sound too good to pass up. There is even special music composed in the honor of this occasion. My favorite performance of this music is the work of Hermann Baumann and his Folkwang Horn Ensemble (organ played by Wolfgang Kläsener). His album is a fitting start to the month of November.

Spread the Feast of St. Hubert

Here in my humble state of Oklahoma, we are in the deep parts of deer hunting season. In this state, hunting deer with muzzle-loaded rifles ends on St. Hubert’s Day. But the season picks up again on November 23, when hunters are allowed to use modern arms. It would behoove Oklahomans and any other person of means to partake of this noble activity. Those who have this opportunity do not realize how fortunate they are. In centuries past, hunting was often seen as the sport of noblemen. And, in fact, hunting is a privilege that most people in the world can never have the chance to enjoy.

In hunting, we learn about the wildlife that we pursue, and we come to respect the animal in a very real and visceral way. Walking away from a hunt leaves a man with a sense of wonder and appreciation for creation:

Think about the adaptations a mature mule deer buck has either been born with or developed to get to that point. That buck has evaded predators, both natural and human, for several seasons year after year. It is a living breathing animal that has thrived in harsh country and possesses an incredible instinct for survival. In my opinion, it demands a healthy respect and that respect should dictate how we choose to pursue it.

The Importance of Hunting Ethics and Values by Trail Kreitzer

The best conservationists are actually the hunters. Being close to the animal teaches us to cherish nature and the world that God gave us.

If Pope Francis were to entertain the notion of hunting, he’d probably claim that eating game meat is some kind of syncretic form of the Mass. But unlike this heretic pope and his nature-worshiping idolatry-enablers, a hunt will teach a man about the world and nature in the correct way. Pope Francis and his unnatural Gaia-worship bend the understanding of the natural world. Those who’ve never set foot in a field have no grasp of what a hunter naturally comes to realize. At least one Englishman out there has already complained about this disconnect:

The unnatural and entirely artificial world of the Blairite secularists and bogus spiritualism has decreed that hunting shall be banned in the United Kingdom. They think that food comes out of refrigerators and not from nature, so febrile and plastic is their grip upon reality. In fact, food grown in factory farms is the least healthy and food that has been chased in the wild is the most healthy. Man was meant by God to subdue nature and turn it to his use. But the atheists and secularists of “NuLayba” [New Labor] are in thrall to the animal liberationist loonies who seem to think that snails have souls and microbes have equal rights with rational human beings.

—St Eustace and St Hubert: The Patron Saints of Hunting , from the blog Roman Christendom, by Tribunus

Legally sanctioned hunting helps preserve wildlife. Fees for licenses and taxes are used to preserve countless acres. It keeps animal populations in balance. It helps to manage growing numbers of predators (such as wolves, coyotes, and mountain lions). It helps to keep our highways safe. It supports over half a million jobs. Game is a great source for lean, non-farmed organic meat. The list can go on.

But most of all, as St. Hubert surely understood, hunting prevents us from losing our ties to wildlife and each other. A hunt will bring fathers and sons together, as their physical and mental limits are tested by the elements and the circumstances. Patience, steadiness, and fearlessness are qualities lacking in today’s men. An annual hunt could be the remedy for a chest-less society.

Men, consider the hunt. Take your sons. Consider doing it at least once in your lives. And consider popularizing the Feast of St. Hubert in your own parish. In fact, consider going on a hunt with your priest. He has no excuse; St. Hubert hunted throughout his clerical life. Such an event would be a good balm to fight against emasculation.

In fact, in this effeminate day and age, perhaps St. Hubert can even save our society. We’ll never know if we don’t try.

This is the hunter’s badge of glory
That he protect and tend his quarry
Hunt with honour as is due
And through the best to God is true.

—a poem by Oskar von Riesenthal

Editor’s note: This article was published on November 3 at The Forge and Anvil. It is edited and posted here with the author’s permission.

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