And for millions of Americans, autumn means something else besides the cranberry scones and the pumpkin spice lattes.
It means hunting season.
Books could be written (books have been written) on the virtues that hunting can help foster: fortitude, patience, stewardship, camaraderie, frugality, self-reliance…the list goes on.
Maybe some of those aren’t necessarily considered virtues, but whatever. They are things that are good for you. Call it character.
One of the things I love about hunting is the opportunity it offers for prayer. When you are sitting, alone, for hours on end, on a small patch of earth on the crest of a wind-swept rise looking out at a world painted with a thousand shades of brown and gray, the effect can be downright monastic. There’s simply nothing to do but pray.
I don’t mean to suggest that when I am out in the field I am praying non-stop, although some recent saints like St. Josemaria and St. John Paul II have strongly recommended the practice (pretty sure St. Paul said something too about praying without ceasing – I would check, but I’m sitting down and the Bible is over there).
Truth be told, I spend an inordinate amount of time while I am hunting thinking really deep thoughts like, “Do deer even exist?” and “I’m really cold now. Now I’m cold. Really cold. I’m cold now. It’s cold. I’m really cold.” I also resort to little mind games to pass the time, like trying to list the presidents in order (no chance, but I just killed fifteen minutes trying). Once I even had someone back at the house text me photos of Trivial Pursuit cards and a crossword puzzle. Nixon, Uncle Tom’s Cabin, shortstop, Dunkirk, helium, Nixon again. 31-Down is Yo Yo Ma. I’m freezing.
But back to prayer, and mercifully, the point of this post. I came across these two wonderful prayers for hunting, both written by Fr. Mitch Pacwa (via St. Louis Review). The first is a blessing for hunters, to be given by a priest. The second is a novena in honor of St. Hubert, the patron saint of hunters, to conclude on his feast day, November 3.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.