Scouting and the Two-Fold Commandment of Love

The following homily was given by Arlington Bishop Paul S. Loverde on February 10, 2007, the Memorial of St. Scholastica, during the annual Scout Mass at the Cathedral of St. Thomas More in Arlington.

"Scholastica" is a name not often heard or used in our day, but it is the name of the saint whom today's liturgy honors. Who was she? She was the sister — some say the twin sister — of St. Benedict. She was born about the year 480 and died around 547. Both St. Benedict and St. Scholastica have been remembered and honored these many centuries. Why? Because they are clear and strong examples of what it means to love God and to love others.

The two-fold commandment of love lies at the center of the Christian life. Recall that Jesus told us that the two greatest commandments are to love God and to love one's neighbor as ourselves. Today's first reading from the Song of Songs clearly refers to love — love not as a feeling or even an emotion — but as a decision to seek the total good of another person, a commitment rooted in our wills. Today's Gospel reading from St. Luke projects before us Martha and Mary. They can be seen as symbols: Martha as loving others, and Mary as loving God above all else. Moreover, the friendship which they experienced with Jesus likewise points to the reality of love.

Loving God and loving others: this is how both St. Benedict and St. Scholastica lived, and in doing this, they attracted others to follow them, to imitate them and to join them. So, St. Benedict gathered his followers together, wrote a Rule for them, guidelines or principles of how to love God and one another in everyday living. He formed these men into communities; they lived in monasteries, like Monte Cassino in Italy. St. Scholastica did the same for the women who gathered around her; she likewise used the Rule of St. Benedict. If you read his rule — and I hope that you will — you will see that the basis of that rule is this two-fold love of God and neighbor. Yes, St. Benedict and St. Scholastica are good models for Catholic scouts: St. Benedict for the Boy Scouts, and St. Scholastica for the Girl Scouts.

Dear scouts, in living scouting, do you not try to love God and to love others? Do you not try to encourage each other to live out this two-fold love by gathering in troops and packs? Do you not follow guidelines, principles, like the Scout Law, and take an oath or promise to love God, country and other people? For example, listen to the Scout Oath: "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." Or, listen to the Girl Scout Promise: "On my honor, I will try to serve God and my country, to help people at all times and to live by the Girl Scout Law." Notice how in each text, the two-fold love of God and others is present.

In so many ways, often not publicized, you do love God and love others. Each day, when you pray at home; each Sunday, when you take part in the Mass or Eucharist; or when you celebrate the other sacraments, like penance or confirmation; you are living out your love for God Who so loves us and sends us Jesus to be our Savior and the Holy Spirit to be our guide.

Every time you help others: do a good deed; support and protect the gift of life; reach out with patience, or forgiveness or compassion; every time you show respect for our country; salute the flag, or make the environment safer and cleaner you are living out your love for others.

Every month, Boys Life magazine has a short article on how scouts made a difference by helping someone in trouble or injured, or even by saving a life. This past summer, two Boy Scouts in Nebraska, Christian Nansen and John Fitzgerald, saved a baby from drowning in a river. A Girl Scout in New Jersey, Theresa Harrtz, organized a chastity program at her high school as a project to earn the Scouts' Gold Award.

This year 2007 marks the 100th anniversary of scouting, which began in England in 1907. The theme for the 21st World Jamboree in England in July is "One World, One Promise."

Dear scouts, scout leaders and all who support scouting in our diocese as a very tangible form of youth ministry, St. Benedict and St. Scholastica do speak to us today by reminding us to love God and to love others. If this two-fold love of God and neighbor increases and deepens — and this you are committed to do as scouts — I repeat, if this two-fold love of God and neighbor increases and deepens, then, the world will become more one, more united and the promise of peace will come true.

Scouts, here is your challenge: being faithful to your scout oath or promise, and following the Scout Law, make real wherever you go love of God and love of other people. "Scholastica" may be an unfamiliar name, but "love" will be very familiar, present and life-giving if we love God and our neighbor every day.

Bishop Paul S. Loverde


Bp. Paul S. Loverde is the bishop of the Diocese of Arlington in Virginia.

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