Hunting is unquestionably a manly sport. Here in the U.S., deer season is in full swing, and over the next few months, thousands of heavily camouflaged hunters will take to the woods with rifles and bows in pursuit of a trophy buck.
But what many Catholic hunters don’t realize is that there is an ancient and venerable tradition of Catholic hunting, and the Church has even appointed a patron saint for those who crave the thrill of the chase. His name is St. Hubert.
The Conversion of a Master Hunter
Have you ever seen a bottle of Jagermeister? If so, you’ll no doubt have noticed a majestic looking deer with a cross suspended between its antlers. Jagermeister is not known as a particularly Christian company, so what does this image mean? It’s a reference to the story of St. Hubert, the master hunter.
Born around 705 A.D., St. Hubert was quite the playboy. As nobility, he had the freedom and wealth do as he pleased, and what pleased him more than anything was hunting. But after his wife died in childbirth, hunting went from a hobby to an obsession, and Hubert devoted nearly all his time to the spot. What he didn’t know, however, was that all the while, God was hunting him.
On Good Friday morning one year, faithful flocked to the churches for mass. But Hubert was not among them. He had no time for pious devotions, and he was in the woods pursuing a magnificent stag. Hubert was closing in for the kill when, without warning, the stag he was pursuing turned and looked directly at him. Suspended between its majestic antlers was a glowing crucifix. Hubert was dumbfounded. A voice from heaven boomed, “Hubert, unless thou turnest to the Lord, and leadest an holy life, thou shalt quickly go down into hell.” Deeply moved, Hubert asked what he must do. He was instructed to go seek Lambert, the holy bishop of his diocese, to learn what God required of him.
The vision was the beginning of a profound conversion for Hubert, a conversion that led him to renounce his wealth and titles, study for the priesthood, and ultimately to be consecrated a bishop. As a bishop, Hubert was known for his great holiness, and especially for his daring evangelization of the rather dangerous pagans who lived in the Ardennes forest. This zealous missionary efforts earned him the reputation of being a skillful “hunter of souls.”
St. Hubert is also known as one of the first to promote ethical hunting practices, encouraging hunters to avoid cruelty and treat animals with respect and dignity as God’s creatures.
Prayers to St. Hubert for a Holy Hunt
St. Hubert teaches us that holiness and hunting need not be mutually exclusive. If you want to sanctify your next hunt, here are some hunting prayers, composed by Fr. Mitch Pacwa, calling on the intercession of St. Hubert and asking for a virtuous and holy hunt.
Blessing from a priest:
By the intercession of St. Hubert, patron saint of hunters, may you always honor God the Creator, who set man in dominion over all the animals.
May the Lord God make you an honorable hunter who respects fellow hunters, the animals, and all creation;
May He keep safe you and all who share the field or the forest;
May He make all hunters proud of their kill, generous with their meat, and thankful in all circumstances.
May God bless you: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
Novena prayers in honor of St. Hubert, patron saint of hunters, for Oct. 26 to Nov. 3:
Prayer to be an honorable hunter
By the grace of God may I always honor, thank and adore the Lord God who created the animals and saw that each species was good. Let me love the God who made humans in His own image and likeness and set them over the whole world, to have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth (Gen 1:26). By my honorable conduct as a hunter let me give a good example and teach new hunters principles of honor, so that each new generation can show respect for God, other hunters and the animals, and enjoy the dignity of the hunt.
Prayer for honest hunt
Lord, may I make an honest count of game, respecting the legal limits of game in order to preserve the balance of life and death among the animals. May I so love the truth that I always give an honest recounting of the hunting stories while keeping them interesting to my friends. May I also listen to my friends’ stories with enjoyment and without envy.
Prayer against selfishness
Lord, I do not need to take every animal in the forest, nor must I take the best or nothing. Guide me to seek the best and to accept what I get. May I never take more than my limit and let me always help maintain the balance of nature in relationship to the environment and the numbers of animals there. Keep me aware of the needs and desires of other hunters while I always try to hunt at my own best skill.
Prayer for conservation of natural resources
Lord God, You have put all things under man’s dominion. Guide us to take the animals that need to be culled for the preservation of their species and the rest of the ecosystem. Let me always respect the animals I have hunted. Never let me torment them, mock them, or made them objects of ridicule. When I take an animal’s life let me always maintain respect for the wonder of its existence and the importance of its meat to those who need it for sustenance.
Prayer for safety
Pray for the good sense to care for my weapon and to carry it and fire it responsibly. Pray for the animals, that the shots are clean and do not cause unnecessary suffering to the animal.
Prayer for successful hunt
Lord, I pray that I may take down the game in as painless a way as possible. May I recognize my limits and take the shots I know I can make, not taking a shot that risks maiming or wounding an animal unnecessarily.
Prayer of thanksgiving for the hunt
Lord, I thank You for the opportunity to go out on the hunt. I thank You for the time alone to think and reflect on life. I thank You for the time with hunting friends, enjoying good fellowship, good stories, meals and drinks. Thank You for the beauty seen during the hunt and for the game taken and shared. I thank You especially for a safe hunt for myself and for all the hunters who share the field.
Prayer to share the fruit of the hunt
Lord, I am so blessed to be able to hunt and I appreciate the blessings You have bestowed upon me. Yet I know that so many others are in great need. Give me the grace to share the food of the hunt not only with my family and friends but also with those who have greater need: the hungry and the poor. May my sharing with them be one small part of my continuing care for your poor. As they ask You, Father, for their daily bread, use me as one small instrument to help provide it to them.
Prayer to hunt for souls, like St. Hubert
Lord, you spoke to St. Hubert and converted him to You during a stag hunt. You changed him into a hunter of souls, yet you continued to use his skills as a hunter to open minds to your Gospel. I ask that you make me into a hunter of souls above all other hunting activities. May I look for the opportunities to speak of You and Your salvation. Let the hunting camp itself be a place that uplifts the soul. May my time alone be an opportunity to pray and listen to You. May all the actions of the rest of my life be a constant hunt for You, for the opportunities you give me to evangelize, and to target the souls most in need of Your love.