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A Publication of

From Number 191 - Summer 2002

Saints and Hunting

Between the hunting vote in Parliament in March and the final decision on how the government will proceed with it, to be given in September, Ark readers may like to know which saints to invoke on this issue. There are three particular saints who have been connected with hunting, a little-known Welsh lady, a Roman soldier and a French nobleman.

St Melangell (pronounced Melangeth)

Latin name, Monacella.  The ancient Welsh legend concerns a young Irish (or Scottish) girl, (embellishments include - daughter of a king - but they always do!) whose father in A.D. 607 had arranged for her to marry a chieftain.  She did not want to marry this old man, so joined a band of Irish hermits who crossed the sea to preach the Christian Gospel to the pagan Welsh.  She travelled to the Pennant Valley, in Powys, and lived alone in a cave in the hillside.

One day Brochwel, (or Ysgythrog) the Prince of Powys, was out hunting with his men and his hounds.  The hounds raised a hare that took refuge in a thicket. The hounds were urged on but fled, howling.  Their huntsman raised his horn to his lips but was unable to remove it.  On pursuit, the Prince found the young Melangell standing there - the hare had run under her long skirts to hide. The young woman told Brochwel that she lived in the valley, where she had come to take refuge, like the hare.  The Prince was so impressed by her that he granted her the valley as a sanctuary for people and animals.  Here she founded a religious community, serving as abbess for thirty-seven years.

There is an Anglican shrine-church (Church in Wales) in Pennant Melangell, Powys, dedicated to the saint, which has been a focus for pilgrimage for centuries.  Parishioners and devotees have recently created a 15-mile pilgrims’ walk, the Pererindod Melangell, between the Vyrnwy and Tanat valleys. Known as a place of healing, it attracts an increasing number of visitors, while people suffering particularly from cancer are drawn to the counselling service available there (Cancer Help Centre, telephone: 01691-860408). At present there is an appeal to raise funds to buy a property nearby to expand their counselling service.

* For more information write to The Administrator, The Parish Office, Pennant Melangell, Llangynog, Via Oswestry, SY10 0HQ; telephone: 01691-860408

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St Eustace

Latin name: Eustachius. Placidius, a pagan Roman soldier served as a general in the army under the Emperor Trajan (98 - 117 AD).  He was a passionate hunter.  One day he lost his way during a hunt in a wood by the banks of the Tiber.  Whilst he wandered a golden stag with silver antlers and gem-like eyes confronted him, bearing a crucifix between its antlers.  As he gazed on the beast, Placidius heard a voice, urging him to give up hunting and become a Christian, warning him that he would suffer for Christ.  He was baptized with his wife and two sons, and given the name Eustachius.

Denounced as a Christian, he lost his property, was reduced to abject poverty, and the Roman authorities took his wife and children.  However, being a capable general, he was recalled to duty by Trajan to help repel barbarians from Rome, which he did. He and his family were reunited with the expectation they would sacrifice to idols in thanks for a military victory.  When they refused, an enraged Trajan ordered them thrown to the lions.  However, the lions played like kittens around them, so they were martyred together in A.D.188 by being cooked to death in a bronze bull.  His feast day is 20th October.

(The Order of St Eustace is an order of hunters!  They are supposed to be compassionate to the animals they hunt and insert the word ‘unfettered’ before ‘hunting’ in accounts like the one above.)

St Hubert of Liege, known as the Apostle of the Ardennes.

Born c.656, grandson of the King of Toulouse and eldest son of Bertrand, Duke of Aquitaine, Hubert was a worldly, popular and dissolute layman courtier at Nuestria in northwest France in his youth. For political reasons he emigrated to the border area between modern France and Germany and married in 682.

Hubert was passionately devoted to hunting.  While hunting a stag on a Good Friday morning, he received a vision of a crucifix between its antlers.  A voice warned him, ‘Hubert, unless you turn to the Lord, and lead a holy life, you shall quickly go down to hell.’  It was a conversion experience for Hubert.

When his wife died soon after this incident, Hubert renounced all his worldy positions, titles and wealth, handed his patrimony, and the care of his only son, to his brother, and studied for the priesthood. After ordination he served as assistant to Saint Lambert.  Known for his excellent preaching and his generosity to the poor, he became the first bishop of Liege and evangelized the Ardenne region, converting the pagans.  He died in 727 while reciting the Our Father.  His feast day is 3rd November.

Return to The Ark No. 191 - Summer 2002

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