Starting at the age of 10, and continuing until I went away to the seminary, I was active in the Boy Scouts of America. Some of my best friends and best experiences come from that time in my life. If you were a boy scout, you know what I mean: summer camps, hikes, the Order of the Arrow, competing against other patrols, etc. But there's even the stuff people think you're nuts for saying that you enjoyed: that smell you took home with you after your clothes absorbed that campfire odor, pancakes that were slightly burnt and powdery because the mix wasn't dissolved all the way, and comparing knife wounds that you and your friends got while working on your Woodcarving Merit Badge. Oooh, I'm getting misty; aren't you?
Anyway, this year marks the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Boy Scouting movement, and Pope Benedict issued a message on the value of Scouting:
"For one century, through play, action, adventure, contact with nature, life as a team and in service to others, you offer an integral formation to anyone who joins the Scouts. Inspired by the Gospels, scouting is not only a place for authentic human growth, but also a place of strong Christian values and true moral and spiritual growth, as with any authentic way of holiness.
The sense of responsibility that permeates Scout education leads to a life of charity and the desire to serve one's neighbor, in the image of Christ the servant, based on the grace offered by Christ, in a special way through the sacraments of the Eucharist and forgiveness."
The Pontiff encouraged the brotherhood of the Scouts, "which is a part of its original ideal and makes up, above all for young generations -- a witness of that which is the body of Christ, within which, according to the image of St. Paul, all are called to fulfill a mission wherever they are, to rejoice in another's progress and to support their brothers in times of difficulty."
"I thank the Lord for all the fruits that, throughout these last 100 years, the Scouts have offered," he said. He encouraged Catholic Scouts to go forward on their path, offering "to boys and girls of today an education that forms them with a strong personality, based on Christ and willing to live for the high ideals of faith and human solidarity."
Benedict XVI's message ends with advice from Baden-Powell: "Be faithful to your Scout promise, even when you are no longer young, and may God help you to do so!"When man seeks to be faithful to his promises, the Lord himself strengthens his steps."