A plan for living as Catholic Scouts

Given by Arlington Bishop Paul S. Loverde for the annual Scouting Mass, at the Cathedral of St. Thomas More in Arlington.

Do good. Share what you have and sacrifice for others. Obey your leaders. As we heard in today's first reading, this is a "how to live well" list that the author of the Letter to the Hebrews writes to the early Christians. Don't they sound familiar? Of course, because they also match the formation of the Catholic Scout, so it is fitting that we reflect on them this morning at our Annual Diocesan Scout Mass!

Yes, the lessons of God are eternal, and from the start, He has asked each of His disciples to do good, to avoid evil and to serve others. All the scouts here today are blessed to be a part of organizations that incorporate these moral codes into their teaching and activities, just as all the scout leaders are called to exemplify and instill these values into the young people they serve. By participating in scouting life, our young people are formed in virtues that will serve them well both as followers of Jesus Christ, and as active and productive citizens of this great nation!

Let us take a closer look at the guidance provided by the author of the Letter to the Hebrews. First, he writes, "Do not neglect to do good. ..." As scouts, you are recognized by your goodness. Each of you is called to service, to kindness, to generosity. As Catholic scouts, you recognize that doing good and avoiding evil is the path to heaven and the means to serving God and others here on earth.

In light of that service, the author of the Letter to the Hebrews says, "… (D)o not neglect … to share what you have; God is pleased by sacrifices of that kind." As scouts, you are called to share actively with the communities in which you live, including your families, your schools, your fellow scouts and those you meet through your various service projects. The most common way you will share as scouts will be in your service to others, and as Jesus teaches us, whenever we serve our brothers and sisters - especially our brothers and sisters in need - we are serving Him.

As scouts, you perform service projects in your communities. But outside of those, what does the service of sharing look like to a young scout? It may take on many different forms. Perhaps it is helping a little brother or sister with homework, or offering to do the dishes without being asked. Maybe it is praying a rosary for someone who needs God's help, or spending time with the member of your scout troop that needs a friend, like the new member, or the one who is sometimes ignored by the others. It is through sharing of yourselves, your attention and your gifts that you offer a sacrifice pleasing to the Lord.

Finally, the author of the Letter to the Hebrews gives us this instruction: "Obey your leaders and defer to them, for they watch over you and will have to give an account ..." As scouts and scout leaders, you know how important it is to listen and be obedient to your troop leaders, den mothers and others in positions of authority. When scouts are disobedient, it leads to chaos, anxiety, injury and even danger. Yet when scouts are obedient, things run smoothly and in sync.

As Catholic scouts, the same obedience holds true when it comes to the Church and the teaching of Our Lord. When we know our Catholic Faith and practice what the Church teaches, that is, when we are obedient to how Jesus instructs and guides us through His Church, we find our lives and our families run more smoothly and in sync. When we don't, there is more chaos, more anxiety, more risk of spiritual danger.

As scouts, your obedience goes beyond the Church and beyond your scout leaders as well. You are, like all children, called to be obedient to your parents. You did not choose them for yourselves. God chose them for you when He created you, and tasked them with the duty of raising you in the faith that you may be Christian disciples.

Even the young scouts among us know that we often fail at doing good, sharing and obeying. As disciples of Jesus, though, we know that we are strengthened by the Lord for our journey. In our Gospel account today, Jesus called His disciples aside to rest with Him for a while. Each of us is called to do the same in our busy lives, no matter what our age. Jesus wants to strengthen us by spending time with Him in prayer. At the Mass, He wants to give us His Body and Blood to transform our hearts to be more like His.

Pope Francis recently told a group of scouts in Italy, "Your scouting formation is a good training! … (T)he Christian … trains to be a good missionary disciple of the Lord Jesus, listening assiduously to His Word, always trusting in Him, who never disappoints, pausing with Him in prayer, seeking to be a living stone in the ecclesial community" ("Address to Italian Scout Movement for Adults," Nov. 8, 2014).

As members of our diocesan-wide Catholic scouting family, may you always seek to love God, to do good, and to serve our neighbor and our nation!

Comments on Servant of God Frank Parater at the Closing of the Annual Scout Mass

Today, we recall the death of Frank Parater, who died in Rome on this very day in 1920. Why do I project him before you as we conclude our annual Scout Mass? Because Frank was a Boy Scout himself, and from the day he enlisted, scouting was very much a part of his life. He later went on to study for priestly service in the Diocese of Richmond (Remember: We became a diocese in 1974), and he offered his whole life for "the spread and success of the Catholic Church in Virginia." At the reception downstairs in Burke Hall, prayer cards and a brochure summarizing Frank Parater's life will be available. Please take these and imitate this fellow-Virginian Scout, who, we pray, one day will be called "Blessed" and eventually "Saint."

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2015