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

St. George a key figure in Scouting and in diocese’s missing banner

by Father Terence Tully, for the Inland Register

(From the June 15, 2001 edition of the Inland Register)

Possibly in somebody’s attic or closet is a valuable piece of Scouting history. It is the St. George banner, some six feet high, depicting the patron saint of Scouting in his combat with evil. The banner was designed and crafted by Father John Rompa, priest artist of our diocese, who is celebrating his 50th anniversary of priesthood this year. He created the banner at least 47 years ago, because the photo above is dated March 28, 1954, showing the banner at a Scout gathering in the Cathedral of Our Lady of Lourdes where Bishop Charles D. White conferred the Ad Altare Dei Cross on Scouts who had earned it by passing its requirements.

St. George was named patron saint of Scouting by the English founder of world Scouting, Lord Robert Baden-Powell. George is also patron saint of England, and his characteristic red cross is in the “spiderweb” of crosses in the British flag.

For some years our banner was a traveling trophy given to the troop which had the highest percentage of its membership wearing the Ad Altare Dei cross. But in the process of passing the banner from one troop to another, with the inevitable changes in adult leadership, the banner was misplaced and cannot be found. I am hoping.

St. George, martyr

April 23 is an optional memorial of St. George, who was a martyr for the faith. Probably he had been a soldier in the Roman Army around the year 300. But along with these two reliable facts there grew a colorful legend that he was a knight in shining armor; that he saved a princess from being devoured by a fire-breathing dragon; that George alone was strong enough, brave enough, and clever enough to fight the dragon and slay it.

Pictures of George nearly all show him fighting the dragon and killing it with a lance. In Father Rompa’s artwork, George holds his signature red shield and does a sure thrust at the dragon’s heart with the spear.

Baden-Powell’s idea

For a long time I thought it was Catholic Scouters and chaplains who chose St. George to be patron of Scouting. But it did come from Baden-Powell himself, who reasoned that if the knights of the Middle Ages looked to St. George as their patron, so should Boys Scouts who live up to the ideals of chivalry.

As for the dragon legend, the evils that Scouts promise to resist are tougher and more dangerous than dragons.

A detail of the legend is that the community whose princess was saved offered a large sum of money to George in gratitude. But George asked the people to spend the money on food for the poor. Let Scouts imitate George on that point as well, as they do in their annual Scouting for Food action of collecting food from countless households to deliver to food banks. Food banks do a huge work of passing free food to the thousands who desperately need it.

It bothers me that so many Scout troops are in affluent areas and relatively few in the low-income places. I read once that Baden-Powell instituted the merit badge program to give boys a taste of the trades and professions in which they could find a proper career. Some troops encourage Scouts who outgrow their uniforms to give them to a committee that can outfit new Scouts unable to buy a uniform.

My hope

The lost banner of St. George could be just misplaced, waiting for someone to find it and get it circulating again. It may boost the Ad Altare Dei program, which is based in the seven sacraments. It brings Scouts closer to Jesus Christ in the seven great signs of spiritual living which he instituted, initiating them in that life, repairing it when damaged by sin or sickness, enlarging on it by the service sacraments of priesthood and marriage — states of life to which God calls various people.

Scouting helps the Ad Altare Dei program and is in turn helped by it.

Coming events

  • Catholic Camporee, Camp Easton on Lake Coeur d’Alene, Saturday, Sept. 8, 2001. For information or registration contact Sam Richart, 5512 N. F St., Spokane, WA 99205; (509) 328-8448.
  • Bishop’s Recognition Day, Cathedral of Our Lady of Lourdes, 1115 W. Riverside Ave., Spokane. Sunday, Feb. 10, 2002, 2 p.m. Bishop Skylstad will confer religious emblems on Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, and Camp Fire Boys and Girls.

Information

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. Click here for the National Catholic Committee on Scouting’s web site!


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