Saint Hubert


Bishop of Maestricht and of Liège
(† 727)

Nobility, sanctity, apostolic zeal and the gift of miracles have made this great man one of the most illustrious prelates of the first centuries of the French monarchy. The son of a non-Christian nobleman of Aquitaine (southwestern France), he was raised at the court of Thierry III, son of Clovis II, and was esteemed there for his probity and prudence. He remained nonetheless a man of the world, whose virtue, unscathed by the dangers of the court in a time of troubles, was natural rather than supernatural; he did not yet know what the spirit of mortification, prayer and fundamental humility of a Christian were. He married a daughter of a count of Louvain, who was virtuous and recommendable by her exceptional qualities.

Saint Hubert was passionately fond of hunting, and it was through this passion that God, taking pity on his soul, stopped him in the midst of a hunt one day, to make of him a zealous apostle fit to bring the light of the Gospel to the same regions that had been the theater of his vain amusements. One Sunday Hubert had gone to hunt in the forest of Ardennes. A beautiful deer he was pursuing suddenly stood before him, and to his amazement he saw a crucifix amid its antlers, and heard a voice saying to him, Hubert, Hubert, how long will this vain passion make you forget the salvation of your soul? Do you not know that you are on earth to know and love your Creator and in that way possess Him in heaven? If you do not turn to the Lord and live a holy life, you will fall into the depths of hell. This voice and this sight filled him with amazement and fear; he leaped down from his horse, prostrated himself on the ground, adored the cross of his Master before him, and protested that he would abandon the world and consecrate himself entirely to religion.

He went to Saint Lambert, bishop of Maestricht for instruction and under his direction made progress in the ways of God. He conceived a desire for a more perfect life. At that time his beloved wife died on giving birth to a son, Floribert, who would later succeed his father as bishop of Liege. He renounced all his dignities, military duties and the dukedom of Aquitaine which he inherited at the death of his father in 688, assigning his rights to his brother, and confiding to him his son, three years old. He distributed all he owned to the poor, braving the calumnies and insults of the world he had too long served. In 689 he went into a solitude of the forest of Ardennes near a monastery; there he lived a very austere life for several years, undergoing violent attacks from the ancient enemy, who did not cease to remind him of his former life of ease. His profound humility aided him to triumph over these ruses and become very alert to the presence of the Holy Angels and of God, assisting him at all times.

Saint Lambert desired that he make a pilgrimage in his name to the tombs of the Apostles in Rome, and Saint Hubert obeyed; while he was there his bishop was martyred, and he himself was miraculously designated to the Pope as his successor. The Pope dreamed he should give him the pastoral staff of the deceased Saint Lambert, and found that staff beside him when he woke in the morning; he could not doubt the reality of the admonition. Additional supernatural interventions assured Saint Hubert himself of the designation, and he was obliged to obey.

When the Saint returned to Maestricht in possession of the pontifical habits of his predecessor, which had been miraculously brought to him, the people too were obliged to recognize their new bishop. He proved himself humble, sober, chaste, vigilant, modest, assiduous in prayer, fervent, patient, and a great friend of the Cross. He became the refuge of the poor and afflicted; all the unfortunate were welcome to come to him. He received them as his children, and helped them in every possible way. He brought the intact remains of Saint Lambert to Liege, and built there a magnificent church dedicated to the Blessed Virgin and Saint Lambert, to receive his tomb; he also transferred the seat of the diocese to that town, which afterwards became a large city. Many miracles were wrought through his prayers, and he taught his people to have recourse to processions, carrying the relics of the Saints to obtain rain, to rid the fields of destructive insects, and for other public necessities. The humility of Saint Hubert never diminished through these divine favors granted his ministry; rather his fervor increased day by day.

Saint Hubert died after dedicating a church, despite his advanced age, at the request of his flock; he was seized by a fever which became violent. After bidding farewell to his son, and by means of holy water driving away a demon who would have affrighted him with horrible phantoms, the holy bishop died on May 30, 727, and was buried in the church of Saint Peter at Liege. In 743 his body was found intact and emitting a fine fragrance, when the tomb was opened on November 3rd; his feast day was assigned by the Church to this date. In the year 825 the body was still identically conserved when his tomb was again opened, and he was transported to a monastery at Andage, which town was renamed St. Hubert.

Les Petits Bollandistes: Vies des Saints, by Msgr. Paul Guérin (Bloud et Barral: Paris, 1882), Vol. 13

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