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

Signs: important part of life of faith, life of Scouting

by Father Terence Tully, for the Inland Register

(From the Dec. 6, 2001 edition of the Inland Register)

Signs of faith — signs of Scouting — are they a parallel?

The Sign of the Cross, the Sign of Peace at Mass, the Rainbow in the Book of Genesis as a sign of God’s promise never to destroy humankind again by a great flood, the sign of Circumcision in the book of Exodus as a sign of membership in the Chosen People of God, the miracles of Jesus which St. John always called signs in writing his Gospel, signs identifying Christ as a divine Person. In fact, the greatest Sign of God is Christ himself living a human lifetime within a human body.

Our God is a spirit, not to be perceived by our eyes, our ears, our nose, our taste buds, or our feeling hands. But by signs we learn about God. Our ears listen to teachings about God. Our eyes observe the lives of persons who illustrate Gospel teachings. The greatest of the signs are the Seven Sacraments instituted by Christ to cause our rebirth into supernatural living and our growing in this super life. Feeling the water of Baptism and hearing the words of Baptism are perceived by body and ears. Detected by the sense of smell is the fragrance of balsam or other perfume which the bishop mixes into olive oil at the blessing of Holy Chrism for persons confirmed or to be ordained as priests and bishops. The taste of bread and wine which remains after these elements are consecrated to become the body and blood of Christ. Of course, all these sacramental activities are also observed by the eyes of persons present.

Incidentally, the Scouts’ Ad Altare Dei program offers all seven of the sacraments as primary means of helping Scouts develop a fully Christian way of life.

Signs of Scouting

Why does Scouting need signs? Its rugged hiking, climbing, and camping out among mountains, forests, and streams, close to animals, birds, and other creatures is real enough to do without signs, it would seem. Still, the ideals of Scouting are abstract enough to need labels and reminders.

The Scout Sign — right hand held up with three fingers extended and thumb contacting the little finger — is a meaningful sign. The three extended fingers stand for the three parts of the Scout Oath. Thumb contacting the little finger represents the bond that unites Scouts throughout the world. In this time of world tension and worry about world hostilities, the hope expressed in the Scout Sign is heartening.

Many features of Scouting are Scout signs in their own way. The Scout uniform is a Scout sign. Scouts and adult leaders traveling to a national Jamboree notice that their uniforms cause strangers to speak kindly and even mention that they once lived in the area the Scouts are coming from.

The phrasing of the 12 points of the Scout Law is challenging. It does not say, for example, that a Scout should be trustworthy. Rather it says: A Scout is trustworthy. We can say all the points of the Law are Scout signs: trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean, reverent. And every one of the 100-plus merit badges are Scout signs, as are the badges of rank, Eagle rank especially.

The full text of the Scout Oath is a Scout sign that deserves to be spelled out:

“On my honor I will do my best
To do my duty to God and my country
And to obey the Scout Law;
To help other people at all times;
To keep myself physically strong,
mentally awake, and morally straight.”

Signs and reminders of faith, of Scouting, and many other interests are all around us. We need them. They help us realize who we are.

Coming events

  • 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.

    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 Joe Schmitz, chairperson of the Diocesan Catholic Committee on Scouting, 400 S. Jefferson, Suite 112, Spokane, WA 99204; (509) 747-7499. For the National Catholic Committee on Scouting’s web site, click here!

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