From the

Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane

Deacon Eric Meisfjord, Editor
P.O. Box 48, Spokane WA 99210
(509) 358-7340; FAX: (509) 358-7302

Scouting provides good platform for building strong devotion to God

by Father Terence Tully, for the Inland Register

(From the Feb. 8, 2001 edition of the Inland Register)

St. Francis de Sales, Bishop of Geneva, Switzerland around 1600, was not a Scout leader, but as a spiritual leader he can help chaplains and other adult leaders today. He wrote a book, Introduction to the Devout Life, in which he said a life devoted to God is for all people, the wealthy and the powerful, the laboring man, the housewife, the student, the nurse, the soldier, and so on, and that his spiritual program can be tailor-made to fit any individual.

Why not investigate whether Scouts and their adult leaders can develop devotion to God in Scout fashion?

St. Francis does not make spiritual growth easy but he makes it inviting. For him devotion to God is the chief activity of being human, enlivening all the work and play, the planning and the energy of a person, without detracting from the person’s profession, trade, career, or talent.

The thought occurs to me that St. Francis may be a spiritual guide for Scouts in a Scout-like manner. The National Catholic Committee on Scouting has established religious emblem programs for Scouts to bring Cubs, Webelos, Boy Scouts, and Venturers close to God and alert them to Gods calls and opportunities. But does not Scouting’s religious tone itself open a Scout to a life of devotion to God?

Scouting Paradise
Scouting at its best may be at Philmont Scout Ranch in northern New Mexico where thousands of Scouts have done 50-mile high adventure treks in the Rocky Mountains. One of these Scouts, John Westfall, used his gifts for writing poetry and music to show the beauty of Philmont. His verses, now called the "Philmont Hymn," read in part:

Silver on the sage, starlit skies above
Aspen covered hills, country that I love.
Wind in whispering pines. Eagle soaring high
Purple mountains rise against an azure sky.
Philmont here’s to thee, Scouting paradise
Out in God’s country tonight

Available to Scouts who do the 10-day trek at Philmont is a booklet on worship on the trail. A rabbi wrote the section on Judaism, and a Catholic priest and Protestant minister collaborated for the section on Christianity. There is an All-Faiths section as well.

In the booklet each of the 10 days has a page for meditating on some aspect of the trek, connecting with our lives.

Title of the booklet is “Eagles Soaring High,” a phrase borrowed from the Philmont hymn.

Scouting leads to God?

A drawback of this trail worship is the need to compose prayers, hymns, and reflections. Is there a way in which Scout activities themselves bring God to mind, and readily lead to prayer?

The Old Testament book of Daniel has a unique story about three young men of Scout age or little older. Their names in Daniel 1:7 are Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.

The Scripture tells of the three Jewish youth among the many in Babylonian captivity around 587 B.C. They were selected by the King of Babylon for their intelligence and personal charm to be trained for the royal service.

But faithful to their Jewish heritage the three refused to worship a pagan god in the form of a golden statue. This angered the king so much that he condemned the trio to be burned alive in a superheated furnace.

The Lord protected the young men from death in the flames. The three youth did not even suffer discomfort. They began to sing together a canticle, calling upon all creation in a Scout-like way. Enveloped in roaring flames Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego called upon all the creatures in created universe to praise and bless the Lord. They even called upon fire and heat to praise the Lord as it closed them in on all sides. They called on dolphins and other water creatures, birds of the air, beasts wild and tame, and humans too.

Think what an artist could do to depict stars of heaven, sun and moon, ice and snow, nights and days, ice and snow, lightnings and clouds, mountains and hills, seas and riverspraising God by their existence and their functions.

People of Bible times were likely more at home in the out-of-doors, like their modern counterparts, the Boy Scouts. King David sang the praises of the Lord of nature. His great descendent, Jesus, wove the lilies of the field and the growth of a seed to a fully grown plant to explain his teachings. Is not Scouting another manifestation of God’s power in our midst?


For information on the Diocesan Catholic Committee on Scouting and its activities, contact Father Terence Tully, diocesan Scout chaplain, 221 E. Rockwood Blvd., Apt. 308, Spokane, WA 99202-1200, phone (509) 458-7674; or James Burgen, acting chairperson, Diocesan Catholic Committee on Scouting, 3303 W. 8th Ave., Spokane, WA 99204; pager phone (509) 880-5498. For the National Catholic Committee on Scouting’s web site click here!.

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