We received an email requesting that we respond to a feature newspaper article and photos entitled: How a priest and his dad bond in the family tradition of hunting - Father, son and solitude: Sunday, December 12, 2010 By Gretchen McKay, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Andrew Rush/Post-Gazette. This is an excellent article for it accurately describes the true nature of hunters.
Father Mike Zavage, 28, parochial vicar at St. Anne Catholic Church in Castle Shannon, with his father, Mike Zavage, and his friend Mike Venesky in Oak Forest, Greene County.
In order for anyone to be able to take the life of another living being (human or animal), they have to first harden their heart so that they no longer have empathy for the feeling of that being. And one of the definitions of a person who lacks empathy is they they are a sociopath.
The Bible teaches us that we are to have a soft heart, and that it is counter to the will of God to lead a child astray by hardening their heart. Jesus says in Matthew 18:5-6:
5 "And whoever receives one such child in My name receives Me;
6 but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble, it is better for him that a heavy millstone be hung around his neck, and that he be drowned in the depth of the sea.
And in our opinion, the Church holds a major responsibility in allowing this to happen, because they have kept silent, and failed to teach their members to be the loving, compassionate, and peacemaking children of God that Jesus calls us to be.
They teach the people to recite the Lord's Prayer..."Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven"...yet at the same time they fail to teach them to do everything in their power to help make this prayer come true; for if there is no pain, suffering, or death in heaven, then we should end as much of it as we possibly can here on earth for the benefit of the whole of God's creation.
As we were writing this article our spell checker wanted to change the name, Zavage, to Savage or Ravage, and we thought how appropriate it was in this case, for that is exactly what they are.
Notice the way the reporter describes this priest, and in his own words, how these characteristics become evident.
The sun had barely started its creep toward the heavens when the Rev. Father Mike Zavage positioned himself against a tree, his .284 Winchester hanging at the ready on his right shoulder. Gusty winds made the 18-degree air feel more like an ungodly 2 degrees, but the 28-year-old priest was smiling, happy to finally be in the woods on this, the ninth day of deer season.
Why is he smiling and happy about his pending kill? 1 John 2:15-17 seems to explain it:
15 Do not love the world, nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.
16 For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world.
17 And the world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God abides forever.
If Mike Zavage enjoys killing, the love of the Father could not really be in him. Let's go on with what the reporter writes:
Insulated boots and gloves kept his extremities from turning to Popsicles while he stood, silent and still, for hour upon hour in the hillside hunting spot he'd scouted months before, when these state game lands in Greene County were still green with leaves. Warming his soul was the fact that his father, also named Mike, was trekking through the snow somewhere nearby.
From what we can see in these Bible teachings, the warming of his soul could not have been from God; therefore, his soul most likely is warmed by the fires of hell.
Families and community also play a major role is hardening children's hearts:
Deer hunting for many is a solitary sport, but in the Zavage household it has always been a shared experience. Father Zavage, parochial vicar at St. Anne Catholic Church in Castle Shannon, was born on the first day of buck season in 1982 and has been hunting with his dad since he was 12. His father, in turn, learned the sport at the same age from his father, Andy, who owned a grocery store near Uniontown.
"In Fayette and Greene counties, that's what all the young men did," said Mr. Zavage, 55, a coal miner-turned-mechanic who for the past 34 years has worked for Cumberland Coal Resources. "It's a tradition for the area. You turn 12 and take hunter's safety."
Back when he was a kid in the '60s, the group typically included a half-dozen or more dads, uncles and brothers all going out together, Mr. Zavage remembered. All but one of his brothers is now deceased. So the fact his only son is out here with him, well, "it's good you can pass it on," he said.
Deer hunting is popular enough in this corner of the state that countless boys (and some girls) take off school on the opening day of buck season, which this year fell on Nov. 29, the same day doe season began.
This is an excellent description of the ways of the world, and relatively few people seem to care or show any concern for hardening the hearts of children; but the reporter does question this lack of love and compassion, particularly when it comes to the life of a priest.
But a priest who hunts? Some might find that upsetting; St. Frances of Assisi, after all, is the Catholic Church's patron saint of animals.
Father Zavage understands he's more the exception than the rule; he knows of only one other priest who shares his passion for deer season, and this year he had to pass up the chance to join Father Zavage because of a funeral. Yet when you grow up in Greene County -- God's country, as he likes to tell his parishioners -- hunting isn't so much a hobby as a way of life.
Mike obviously sees nothing wrong with being set apart from his fellow priests, nor does he see anything wrong with taking a life in God's country. This, too, is part of the character description of a sociopath, which also seems to be a family and community trait.
Hunting is also a way for men who find it difficult to tell one another how much they care to demonstrate it. In his Father's Day homily this past June, Father Zavage recounted for his congregation how last year, his father couldn't hold a gun because he'd had shoulder surgery. Instead, he spent many hours over several days trying to drive deer toward his son. On the last day of hunting season, with his help, his son bagged a button buck.
"My dad is not a man of many words, but his actions definitely speak louder than words," he said in his sermon. "Not only did he not get to hunt, but he had to walk miles every day to push the deer to me."
If that's not love, what is?
Well, in our opinion, it certainly isn't a Godly love.
Father Zavage argues there are two kinds of hunters: those looking to get the biggest trophy buck they can and those who do it only for the venison. He and his father fall into the latter category.
But as we have seen, they still enjoy killing, no matter how they try to disguise it.
"I feel that if you kill a deer, you're obligated to eat it," he said. "I am insulted when someone throws the meat away."
To that end, anything they kill ends up on the kitchen table in form of chili, steaks, stews, roasts and a jerky so delicious that all three of his sisters fight over it.
True hunters, Father Zavage added, should be viewed as stewards of the environment in that they're helping to thin overpopulated deer herds in a humane and controlled fashion. If people didn't hunt, many of those deer would end up starving to death, he said.
And from everything we learned, this really isn't true, and it is not the stewardship God wanted us to have, for He said that His stewards should eat a plant-based diet as we are told in Genesis 1:28-31.
28 God blessed them; and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”
29 Then God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the surface of all the earth, and every tree which has fruit yielding seed; it shall be food for you;
30 and to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the sky and to every thing that moves on the earth which has life, I have given every green plant for food”; and it was so.
31 God saw all that He had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.
Let us resolve in our hearts, minds, and souls to follow the will of God and not the teachings of priests like this, or those who support a worldly way of life.