Sunday, January 31, 2010

St Hubert, D. & M.

Some groups of people have been going on about the cultus of a certain monarch supposedly worthy of veneration as a martyr-saint.

Well, I would like to tell the true tale of another whom a certain group also venerated as a holy martyr: St Hubert.

The real St Hubert, being converted while out hunting by a vision of a stag with a crucifix between its antlers

(Don't confuse this Hubert with the better-known, but arguably related, St Hubert, Bishop of Maestricht, patron saint of hunting dogs and hounds.)

Some time in the mediæval period, a Dominican out on a preaching tour came to a little village, and was surprised to find the locals very piously tending the shrine of one St Hubert, Martyr - a saint of whom the Dominican had not previously heard.  Being an inquisitor in his spare time, he decided to investigate this unknown cultus...

"Tell me," quoth the Blackfriar, "what is the legend of this Hubert?"  "He is a very great saint and martyr, yea, and a miracle-worker forsooth," said the eager villagers, adding, "Many times he works wonders in favour of women in childbirth, that their babes be preserved, just as in life and death he was ever solicitous for protecting his master's child."

Next the priest asked of the circumstances of his holy life and martyrdom.   It was explained to him that he eagerly served his master in all things throughout his brief span of life, never failing in all his duties nor ever doing ill; and - his master being away from the house - he set to guard his master's newborn, left in the cradle, from any and all dangers, as is most pious and just (for the village is in remote and wild parts, on the edge of forests dark and dangerous).  

How fortunate and providential this was - for a serpent came slithering into the house, and headed for the cradle, thinking to feed: Hubert immediately sprang upon that devilish snake, and killed it, besmearing himself with its foul blood in the process, but undoubtedly saving the child's life.

Yet - oh tragedy - at that very hour, the master returning, and seeing his faithful Hubert all bloodied beside the cradle, thought that he had in madness murdered the infant, and so, himself horrified and enraged, ran upon him with a stave and killed him by a blow, before realizing that his son still slept safe, and Hubert was the innocent victim of his own rash act of imagined revenge.

The villagers, hearing this piteous tale, at once acclaimed the faithful Hubert a holy martyr, enshrined his body and bones as sacred relics, and fell to praying him to assist them in all their fears and dangers, particularly as regarding their children: sure enough, they felt satisfied that he had not ceased to defend the young even after his own death, and praised his wonders and intercession.

"So Hubert was his master's good and faithful servant, unjustly slain?" asked the good friar.

"No," the villagers chided him, "his dog!"

The whole township had invented the cult of St Hubert, Dog and Martyr.

 You will not be surprised to learn that, in his capacity as licensed inquisitor against heretical depravity and error, the good Dominican at once denounced this superstition as veneration gone mad, paid not to a true martyr, nor even to a baptised Christian, but to an animal without an immortal soul.  

As a new Ezechias (who of old smashed Nohestan, the brazen serpent whose just memory the people of Judah had corrupted into idolatry - see IV Kings xviii, 4), he forthwith destroyed the shrine and its pretended ex votos, burnt the dog's carcass and bones and scattered them to the four winds, warning the deluded rustics never again to presume to set up their own fond cult without due ecclesiastical approval.

Need I point the moral?

1 comment:

Mark said...

I think you maybe ought to go and argue the point for a degree of ultramontanism here, then. :D