Patron of Hunters
On November 3, the universal Church celebrated the feast of St. Hubert, Bishop of Liege, Apostle of the Ardennes, and Patron Saint for Hunters – particularly for deer hunters. His intercession is also asked to ward off rabies.
St. Hubert is one of the most popular patron saints in south Louisiana. We have a lot of hunters, and we have a lot of Catholics. Put them together, and voila, you have a lot of hunters asking St. Hubert for help in bagging that buck.
His story is sometimes confused with that of St. Eustace, who lived in the second century under the Roman Emperor Trajan. However, the story of St. Eustace is generally considered to be a pious invention.
(I wanted to post this on Nov. 3; but, well, you know … I just didn’t get around to it. Anyway, we’re still in the thick of hunting season, so this post is still appropriate.)
As a side note: Catholics do not adore or worship (latria) the saints. Catholics give special honor (dulia) to the saints. Catholics rightly accord the Saints their due respect. Because of their holiness, we ask them to help us – to pray for us and with us – as we approach Jesus Christ with our requests. The Holy Saints in Heaven are not dead; THEY ARE ALIVE IN CHRIST, and they are aware of our needs on Earth. I’ll need to post something about this soon.
Getting back to St. Hubert:
- In the late 600s, St. Hubert was born into a life of nobility, privilege, and luxury (or as luxurious as it can get in the Early Middle Ages). His dad was the Duke of Aquitaine, and his grandfather was the King of Toulouse.
As the Catholic Encyclopedia says, “He was a worldling and a lover of pleasure, his chief passionbeing for the chase, to which pursuit he devoted nearly all his time.” Soon, he made his way to the Merovingian Mayor of the Palace Pepin of Herestal.
Hubert married the daughter of a great Count, and he had very little interest in anything spiritual. He gave himself up “to the pomp and vanities of the world.” When his wife died in childbirth, he headed off to the Ardennes Forest of Belgium to hunt the abundant wild game there.
Today, one of the best tracking dogs in the world is the Bloodhound. The breed is also called St. Hubert’s Hound. Credit for the breed goes to St. Hubert’s Monastery in Belgium. Doubtless it was bred in homage to the great hunter-saint.
On the morning of Good Friday (around 682), while the faithful packed the churches, Hubert went off into the woods to hunt. He spied a magnificent stag. He chased the animal, who suddenly turned to him. Hubert then perceived a crucifix between his antlers. The stag then spoke to Hubert, “Hubert, unless thou turnest to the Lord, and leadest an holy life, thou shalt quickly go down into hell.”
Needless to say, this had a profound affect on Hubert. He fell on his face before the deer and asked what the Lord would have him do. The stag told him to seek out Lambert, who was Bishop of Maastricht. So, he did.
Lambert died a martyr, becoming St. Lambert. He reproached Pepin for having extra-marital affairs, which included siring Charles Martel with Alpais. Alpais had her brother kill St. Lambert WHILE HE WAS AT THE ALTAR in a chapel at Liege, Belgium. His relics were brought to his see in Maastricht.
I was able to visit the very place where St. Lambert was murdered. In Liege there is a very famous square, The Place St. Lambert, where the Cathedral of Liege used to stand. It was torn apart during the French Revolution, and the world lost a truly holy place. Underneath this square are wonderful ruins going back to Roman times, and you can tour them, including the chapel where St. Lambert was murdered.
- Back to St. Hubert — After visiting with Bishop Lambert, Hubert decided to renouce all of his wealth, titles, and worldly ways. He distributed his wealth to the poor and became an ordained priest.
- Once St. Hubert made a pilgrimage to Rome. While there, the pope received a vision telling him to name Hubert to the episcopal see in Maastricht, which was vacated by St. Lambert’s martyrdom, and St. Hubert became a Prince of the Church.
- He was diligent in fasting and prayer; and eloquent at the pulpit. He was beloved by the poor for the way he distributed the wealth of the Church for their needs.
- St. Hubert was told in a vision to transfer the relics of St. Lambert to Liege and to transfer the seat of his episcopal see there. So, Liege became an episcopal see under St. Hubert, laying the foundation for its greatness.
- During this time, paganism was still widely practiced in the area. St. Hubert was very brave to venture into these areas and preach the Gospel, converting many pagans to Christianity, bringing the abolishment of the worship of idols there.
- St. Hubert died of an illness with the Our Father on his lips. He was buried at the Church of St. Peter in Liege, but in 825 his body was translated to the Abbey Amdain. During the Protestant reformation, his coffin disappeared.
- Today, the Abbey Amdain has been renamed St. Hubert, Belgium, in honor of the saint. In the early 1990s, I was fortunate enough to hear a choral group practising in the Basilica of Sts. Peter and Paul in the town of St. Hubert. Let me tell you: there is nothing like good, old-fashioned church buildings to bring out the holy in everything.
As an interesting tidbit, a somewhat popular digestif (alcoholic beverage for after meals) includes an image that relates to St. Hubert.
The image is from Jagermeister, which German for “Master Hunter”.
When I was in college (and of legal drinking age), an ice cold shot of Jagermeister was all the rage. I didn’t particularly like it. I thought it tasted too much like cough syrup. But I did always wonder what was up with that cross between the antlers.
You’ll never have to wonder.
St. Hubert, pray for a safe and successful hunting season for all of our hunters!