GLEN JEAN, West Virginia – The day before Donald Trump caused controversy with his highly politicized speech on Monday at the Boy Scout of America National Jamboree, Catholic scouts gathered for Mass with the Pope Francis’s representative to the United States.
Trump’s speech focused on his political victory in November, made various potshots at his enemies, and spoke about the need for “more loyalty;” French Archbishop Christophe Pierre spoke about how Scouting develops generosity, service and fraternity, which are all values “our world sorely needs.”
“These values are the antidote to the selfishness and individualism of our society,” Pierre said in his homily on July 23. “Scouting also encourages you to work together as a team, to share adventures, and to have a greater vision of life and creation.”
The July 19-28 jamboree drew 25,000 Scouts and troop leaders from around the country; about 7,500 attended the Mass.
Since 1937, every president has been invited to attend the quadrennial event.
In his speech, Trump also jokingly threatened to fire Health Secretary Tom Price – an Eagle Scout who joined him on stage – if lawmakers do not repeal and replace Obama’s health care law. He called Washington a “swamp,” a “cesspool” and a “sewer.” He repeatedly trashed the media, directing the crowd’s attention to the reporters in attendance. The Boy Scouts’ chief executive, Michael Surbaugh, apologized on Thursday to members of the scouting community who were offended by the aggressive political rhetoric.
The words of the papal nuncio the day before did not cause any controversy, but were just as memorable for the Catholic scouts at the 10-day event, challenging them to live out their baptism in the Scouting movement.
As he began his homily, Pierre assured everyone of Pope Francis’s prayers and his “personal closeness to all gathered here.”
The French-born archbishop recalled his own years as a Scout and how Scouting has benefited members of his family.
“This jamboree brings back a flood of memories from my youth. I was a Scout for five years, right up until I entered the seminary,” he said in his homily. “I know the value of Scouting in my own life as I have traveled all over the world serving as a diplomat, and I have seen the real fruits of Scouting in my own family, especially in the lives of my nephews and nieces.”
Turning to the spiritual, he said that “amid the beauty of creation, Scouts ponder the God who made all things and who invites us to a relationship with Him. Scouting demands that we do our duty toward God, including worshipping him.”
Drawing on the first reading from the Book of Wisdom, he told the Scouts: “We have a God who cares for us and he sent his Son to be born, not in power and majesty, but in poverty and weakness – as a child.”
Jesus “wanted to be close to the people and to teach them about the kingdom of his father,” Archbishop Pierre said. “It was not a kingdom of power or violence, but one of justice, love, and truth. To teach the crowds, Jesus told parables – stories – just like we share stories in Scouting. Jesus’ stories point us to something new, something beyond this world.”
With God, “our lives are filled with joy, blessing, and fruitfulness,” he said.
“Before we can make known to others this joyful message of the kingdom, we must first attend to the ‘field’ of our hearts,” he said, urging them also to be vigilant in safeguarding “the seed of faith and the power of the Holy Spirit” sown within each of them.
“Jesus reminds us of the need to be vigilant – to stay awake, to be vigilant and keep watch, to be ready to preserve the grace we first received in baptism,” Pierre continued. “Scouts know about staying awake and keeping vigil by the camp fire; about being ready and alert; about watching for danger. We need to do the same with our souls, guarding them from the enemy.
“After keeping watch over our souls, we can look to the needs of others, as a church that goes forth,” he said. “Our own commitment to holiness, to our neighbor, to the environment, and to being honest and decent can be an antidote for our culture and world.”
He quoted Francis: “An evangelizing community is always concerned with fruit, because the Lord wants her to be fruitful. It cares for the grain and does not grow impatient at the weeds.
“The Holy Father is asking you, the Scouts, to be vigilant – to look out for your brothers and sisters and to be patient,” Pierre said. “The important thing is to persevere, to not give up in your mission and to not give up on others, hoping that they might have new life.”
He said the pope “constantly refers to all the baptized as missionary disciples.”
“Scouts cultivates in young people a real spirit of adventure, a zeal for exploration and for mission. The Lord is counting on you,” he added.
Pierre said the Scouts are called to be “leaven” in a world today that “is plagued by isolation, selfishness and individualism. In contrast, Scouts know something about being together, including others, and teamwork. Everyone must contribute something.”
He said he has always been impressed by Scouts’ spirit of “commitment and generosity.” He closed his homily “with a prayer for generosity” – the Scout Prayer – “which I learned many years ago.” He asked the Scouts to make the prayer their own reciting it first in French and then in English:
“O Lord, teach me to be generous; To serve you as you deserve; To give and not to count the cost; To fight and not to heed the wounds; To labor and not to seek for rest; To toil and not to seek any reward; Except that of knowing that I am doing your holy will.”
This story incorporated wire reports from the Associated Press. Crux staff contributed to this report.