Priest to bless deer hunters before annual hunt

·4 min read

When deer hunters in the Powassan area take to the woods in November, they could have a little help from above to keep them safe.

This Saturday, hunters can meet at St. Joseph's Catholic Church in Powassan following the 5 p.m. mass to receive a blessing from Father Eric Mason.

Mason will recite three prayers, which take about five minutes, to keep the hunters safe during the hunt.

It's the second time Mason is offering the blessings at the local church.

Shortly after his arrival to St. Joseph's a little more than a year ago, Mason carried out a similar blessing for about 12 hunters last fall.

Mason says the idea for the blessings isn't his and he picked it up while overseeing a church in Peterborough.

"A group of hunters there asked me to perform the blessing," Mason said.

Saturday's blessing is just ahead of the annual fall hunt, but Mason adds it's also just a few days before the Feast Day of St. Hubertus (Nov. 3), who is the patron saint of hunters.

It's believed Hubertus was born around AD 656 in Toulouse, France.

The story goes that after his wife died during childbirth, Hubertus turned to a life of hunting in the Ardennes Forests.

The Ardennes Forests are extremely large and extend into Belgium, Luxembourg, France and Germany.

As legend has it, Hubertus was pursuing a stag in Northern Germany on a day very important to Christians.

"Hubertus was hunting on Good Friday when he should have been in church, and while he pursued the stag, it stopped and turned toward him," Mason said.

Hubertus then saw a crucifix between the stag's antlers. The stag spoke to him and said 'Hubertus if you continue on the path you are on now, you will surely go to Hell.' That was enough for Hubertus, who changed his way of life and later became a bishop.

Over time, Hubertus has come to be regarded by sports hunters as the founder of ethical sporting behaviour.

Mason is also a hunter and belongs to the Fraternity of St. Hubertus, which is a group of Catholic hunters whose goal it is to promote ethical hunting.

Mason says the deer hunt blessings are common in Quebec and it's "also a longstanding tradition in parts of Germany and France.

"It's a little newer tradition in English Canada," he said.

Mason doesn't restrict his blessings only to deer hunters.

In September, he and OPP Const. Tom Green connected and Mason gave a blessing to the officers to keep them safe during the performance of their duties.

The timing coincided with the Feast Day of St. Michael's, who is the patron saint of police officers.

Before the blessing to the officers, Mason reached out to St. Gregory Catholic Elementary School in Powassan where the students were asked to make pictures or cards.

"The pictures and cards were to express their prayers and good wishes for the officers," Mason said.

"The students did a tremendous job and made all these beautiful drawings for the police officers. The officers were really impressed."

Some of the students and their parents were present for the blessing and Mason says the number of participants was kept to a low figure to respect social distancing because of COVID-19 and masks were worn.

Despite the event, Mason doesn't take any credit for all that happened saying he "simply passed along the cards" to the officers.

With this weekend's blessing for deer hunters, Mason says all hunters are welcome.

He says you don't need to be a parishioner of St. Joseph's Catholic Church.

As a deer hunter himself, Mason admits he's had a string of bad luck two straight years.

The last time he got a deer was three years ago and he says with a smile he may have to pray a little harder to St. Hubertus this year to break his bad luck streak.

Rocco Frangione is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works out of the North Bay Nugget. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.

Rocco Frangione, Local Journalism Initiative, The North Bay Nugget