Editor’s note: This column entitled “Hunting and Faith” seeks to connect two common avenues in the lives of thousands of people in Northwest Pennsylvania. Ben and Luke Daghir, Catholic seminarians studying for the Diocese of Erie, grew up hunting deer with their father, younger brother and extended family in Elk County. They credit hunting (which includes the beauty of nature, silence in the woods, family time at camp and much more) as helping them to listen to God’s voice and enter the seminary.

The buck was bigger than I thought when he lifted his head up out of the small ravine.

My eyes were locked in on this buck for a while as my location was between two large fallen trees. I was in an in-between and was unsure if I should go up over the fallen tree or under to get a good shot. The buck was only 20 yards away. He was eating and moving from undergrowth to undergrowth and all I could see were his antlers.

I had been kneeling down and was able to maneuver quietly to get a good rest for the crossbow looking under the fallen tree. In my scope I could see some weeds, but it was not enough to disrupt the trajectory of the arrow (or so I thought). The buck was moving swiftly and then he stopped. At that moment I had an open shot and I took it.

I felt very confident.

And then I missed.

The buck ran up to the oak tree patch up above me and just looked at me. I knew I had missed. However, I still went to look for evidence of a good shot. How could I have missed? The buck was only 20 yards away.

Saint Augustine, an incredible theologian and bishop in the 4th century, was once asked, “What are 3 ways one can get to heaven?” Augustine’s response was, “humility, humility, humility.”

One of the best gifts received in hunting is humility. When I missed that big 8-point a couple of years ago, the hunter’s pride within me was diminished and I was struck with hunter’s humility.

I replayed the hunt. I thought of all the possibilities of why I had missed. Maybe the undergrowth was more than what appeared in my scope. Or perhaps my awkward body positioning under the fallen tree made me miss the deer.

Then I finally said, “I missed. That is what happened.”

The humility received from that hunt of missing a nice 8-point buck actually helped me to appreciate hunting all the more. Humility enhances human life as it demands the person to lower themselves before God [humility stems from the Latin root humilitas which means low, grounded, from the earth]. Think of the word “humus” –the organic component of soil.

Saint Thomas Aquinas described humility as “a virtue that restrains and tempers the mind from immoderately going after high things.” In other words, humility keeps a hunter in their boots, down in the ground.

What are 3 ways one can enjoy hunting more? Saint Augustine would likely say, “hunter’s humility, hunter’s humility, hunter’s humility.” Be thankful for the moments in hunting that have helped in developing hunter’s humility.

Each hunter ought to reflect back on the moments in hunting when the gift of hunter’s humility was received. The hunter might also ask God for humility, for it is the most valuable arrow in the quiver of the human soul.

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Luke Daghir is a seminarian for the Diocese of Erie from St. Marys, Pa. He is a deer hunter. He learned how to hunt and respect nature from his father and extended family in the woods of Elk County. He credits hunting as helping him in the spiritual life, in understanding how to pray in silence, and in learning from others. He currently studies at St. Mary’s Seminary & University in Baltimore.

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