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 has been Scouting’s patron from the beginning

by Father Terence Tully, for the Inland Register

(From the Aug. 1, 2002 edition of the Inland Register)

St. George became patron of Scouting when Lord Robert Baden-Powell, founder of the Scout movement, wrote in his book Scouting for Boys, “St. George is the Patron Saint of Boy Scouts everywhere."

All we know about St. George was that he died as a martyr for the Christian faith around the year 300. But strong tradition says George was a soldier in the Roman army, and Baden-Powell believes George was a horseman. In the age of chivalry around the year 1000 and later, St. George was considered to be the ideal knight ready to fight for goodness and piety against forces of evil. In concrete form evil became a dragon, a giant reptile too savage and strong to be defeated by anyone except George. And so the dragon came to be part of nearly all pictures of St. George.

George is a fairly common name. President Washington, our first president; President Bush, who is president now; and his father, former President Bush, all have George as their first name.

‘Trail of the Saints’

For several years our annual Scout retreat has featured speeches by Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts or Camp Fire girls in which they impersonate a saint, wearing the costume of the saint and giving a message to the youth at the retreat. Each one speaks as if he or she were the saint they impersonate. The Scout who does St. George wears the uniform and armor of a Roman soldier. His speech follows:

Scouts, Scouters, and other youth: My name is George, soldier of the Roman cavalry. I salute you with a Roman salute, which is something like your Scout Sign, I think.

I was pleased when our Lord Jesus Christ assigned me to be your patron saint in 1909, the year Lord Baden-Powell in England founded the Boy Scout movement and declared I was your patron saint. Baden-Powell also said: "Prepared and alert, a Scout follows the lead of our patron saint and his spirited steed." I like those words, but I must admit that after a seven-hour march my horse was not so spirited.

I know you want to ask if I really fought and killed a dragon, as pictures of me usually show. Well, if you mean by a dragon a giant snake with scales and wings, breathing fire and giving a foul odor, causing an epidemic of sickness, then the answer is "No!"

But I am here to tell you that I fought a fight tougher than any dragon combat, and you in your lifetime may have to do the same. Our dragon includes drug abuse, child abuse, big stealing and fraud, murder, and all kinds of offense to people close to home and far away. You know what I mean.

But I say, learn the dragon legend anyway. It teaches a good lesson and would make a great movie.

What I want to talk about is honor – your honor. It means the dignity each one of you has, the dignity of being a child of God and being created in the image and likeness of God.

When you say, "On my honor I will do my best," you can count on the help of God to keep your Scout oath. Believe me, I know about an oath.

When I joined the Roman cavalry I swore to defend the Emperor with my life, and for many years I kept this oath with no problem. Then something big happened. While I was assigned to duty in the Province of Judea, I met Alexis, a Christian bishop. He taught me about Jesus Christ, and I grabbed at the chance to be baptized as a Christian. I resigned from the Army, so I could devote my life to preaching Christ and helping "other people at all times," especially the weak and the helpless.

Then the Emperor decided that Christians were a danger to the Empire because so many people were being baptized and they refused to worship the pagan gods of Rome. He ordered the Army to stamp out Christianity by arresting Christians and putting them to death if they did not deny their faith in Christ.

About that time I was riding my horse into Sylene, a town in North Africa, and soon had everybody there interested in being baptized. But we got word that the Roman cavalry was on its way to raid the town and stop my work with the people. When they arrived I rode my horse out to meet them, recognized some of the troopers as my old buddies, and got them to introduce me to the commander. I tried to show him that Christianity was good for the Empire and would provide it with strong good citizens.

But no good. He arrested me and sent his troops to arrest the people of the town too. I was tried, found guilty of treason, and my head was cut off. That's the way I became St. George, the martyr.

But Jesus Christ, my Leader and my God, sent me and my horse to appear in the prison where about 100 people of the town were awaiting death by the teeth of lions in a big stadium for the entertainment of a big crowd. I appeared to the prisoners in a vision. I got them all baptized and bucked up their courage to die for Christ. They told me the authorities of the Empire had put them through a lot of soft talk and a lot of torture to make them pagans again.

But somehow they had the strength to keep the faith. I know what happened. I prayed for them every minute before the throne of God. It was a battle between Christ and the pagan gods, and our dear Lord won a big victory.

My own fight had been rough as well. My old buddies in the cavalry had appealed to me to keep my oath to the Emperor and to the gods of Rome. But I decided by the grace of God that my honor made me obey God and country by prayer and helping people.

The prayers worked. After the Emperor died, the new Emperor was Constantine, who stopped the persecution of Christians, became a Christian himself and helped the Church grow.

Thank God, you Scouts do not have that kind of fight. You can, on your honor, obey God and country and keep the rest of your Scout Oath.

I pray for you all the time at the throne of God. I am glad to be your patron saint.

Coming Events
  • Catholic Camporee (Scout retreat), Sept. 13-15, 2002, Camp Cowles, Diamond Lake.
  • Bishop's Recognition Day, Sunday, Feb. 9, 2003, 2 p.m., Cathedral of Our Lady of Lourdes, 1115 W. Riverside Ave., Spokane. Bishop Skylstad will confer religious medals on Scouts and other youth who have earned them.

    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 Joe Schmitz, chair of Diocesan Catholic Committee on Scouting, 400 S. Jefferson St., Suite 112, Spokane, WA 99204, phone 509-747-7499. Click here for the web site of the National Catholic Committee on Scouting!

    *****

    Diocese’s St. George Banner has long, colorful history – and a bit of a mystery

    by Father Terence Tully
    for the Inland Register

    Photo: The St. George Banner was recently rediscovered and returned to service for Scouts and Scouters in the Spokane Diocese. Father Tully graciously held the banner straight against the breeze for this new picture. (IR photo)

    Some 50 years ago, Father John Rompa, retired priest of the Spokane Diocese and a sketch artist, designed the St. George banner. He does not remember the name of the skillful person who enlarged and sewed the sketch onto cloth.

    For many years the banner was carried in Scout processions. And it was awarded to a troop each year who had the highest percentage of its membership receiving the religious emblem, the Ad Altare Dei Cross. This meant the banner traveled from place to place, and when we discontinued its travels, it rested somewhere, we knew not where.

    I made inquiries but no one could remember. The banner was lost! I kept hoping it would show up. But hope faded.

    Then on May 9 this year, at a Scout celebration of my 60 years as diocesan Scout chaplain, the St. George banner was again carried in procession. Somebody had found it and delivered it to the Diocesan Catholic Committee on Scouting.

    May it never be lost again.

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