Humane Religion Magazine
July - August 1996 Issue
Before he became a priest, or was canonized a saint, Hubertus was a hunter. He was a master with the crossbow and greatly admired by the people of his time for his prowess in killing the forest animals.
But one day the grace of God and the power of truth overwhelmed him. It broke through the rationalizations and conditioning of a society that justifies—and celebrates—the activities of the hunter.
Hubertus had been stalking a deer. His bow was drawn for the kill when, suddenly, he saw a shining cross radiating from within the antlers of the animal. At the same moment he heard a voice emanating from the creature: “Hubertus, Hubertus, why are you hunting me”? It was the voice of Christ.
Like Saint Paul who stopped his persecution of Christians after Jesus identified himself with them, Hubertus also changed his way of life. After Christ identified himself with the animals who were being killed, Hubertus never hunted again.
He became a priest and was eventually appointed Bishop of Maastrich and Luttig. He lived a life of dedicated service to God and after his death in A.D. 727, was declared a saint.
He was assigned a feast day—a day set aside to remember the accomplishments of a specific saint and to encourage the imitation of his particular virtues. In the case of Hubertus, the Church believed he had been granted a supernatural encounter with Christ; an encounter that led him to radically alter his lifestyle for the better. An encounter that led him to renounce hunting.
“They changed the truth of God into a lie”
October 3rd became his feast day. He could have been designated a patron saint of animals, or the protector of endangered creatures. He might even have been honored as a saint who became converted to nonviolence. But the Church did not venerate him in any of these ways. Instead, he was named the Patron Saint of Hunters.
So for hundreds of years, men have celebrated his feast day by organizing Hubertus-hunts. In countries all over the world, they begin their day of slaughter with fervent prayers to their Patron Saint. They ask him to grant them success in killing their prey. And when they succeed, they give thanks to Hubertus for helping them.
Both the hunters who kill in his name, and the churchmen who encourage this perversion of the Saint’s visionary experience, are described in the scriptures: “They did not believe the truth, but took pleasure in wickedness...They changed the truth of God into a lie.” (2 Thess. 2:12; Romans 1:25)