Catholic Scouting Blogs

Exploring Our Faith Volume II: Mary the First Disciple Part III

Continuing with our crash course in Mariology for our Scouting blog, I want to begin with addressing the issue of Jesus’ brothers and sisters and then move onto two more important types of Mary from the Old Testament.  The Catholic Church 100% believes that Jesus had no brothers and sisters from Mary.  Did he after step-brothers or step-sisters through Joseph?  Maybe, but I personally do not believe so.  I think that it is more likely that Jesus’ so called brothers and sisters were really his cousins.  I think Scott Hahn explains it very well:

“This is virtually a nonissue for anyone who has a glancing familiarity with Hebrew customs.  The Hebrew word for “brother” is a more inclusive term, applying to cousins as well.  In fact, in ancient Hebrew there is no word for cousin.  To a Jew of Jesus’ time, one’s cousin was one’s brother.  This familial principle applied in other Semitic languages as well, such Aramaic, the language Jesus spoke.  Furthermore, precisely because Jesus was an only child, His cousins would even assume the legal status of siblings for Him, as they were His nearest relatives.  Finally, the word “first born” raises no real difficulty, because it was a legal term in ancient Israel that applied to the child who “opened the womb,” whether or not the mother bore more children afterwards”. – Scott Hahn: Hail Holy Queen: The Mother of God in the Word of God.

Exploring Our Faith Volume II: Mary the First Disciple Part II

Welcome back to Mariology 101.  One of the problems that people of good faith have when it comes to Mary is that there is not much material in the Bible concerning her directly.  There seems to be only a few places where she is mentioned at all.  The truth of the matter is though that the Bible is filled with information about Mary if one only knows where and how to look. 

As Catholics when we read the Bible we do so on at least two levels.  We read it first on the historical/literal level to see what the passage says directly but we also read it on a spiritual level.  What does this passage tells us about Jesus Christ?  In praying the Scripture it is good for example to see how God worked in the story of Joseph being sold into slavery only to rise to a high place in the Egyptian government and save people from famine, it is good to see how God delivered His people from physical slavery in Egypt, and to listen to the prophets tell the people about a better time to come after their exile is over with.  On the other hand there is much more to these passages.  We see in the story of Joseph a foreshadowing of Jesus being sold by Judas only to be elevated to not to a new position of human power but rather eternal life. We see in Moses a foretaste of Jesus saving us not from physical slavery but from our slavery to sin.  We see in the story of the prophets a glimpse of the better life in heaven that Jesus won for us after our earthly exile is over with.

Exploring Our Faith Volume II: Mary theFirst Disciple Part I


One of the highest religious awards in Girl Scouts is the Mary the First Disciple Award. Mary is not only a great role model for young women, the Church holds her up as a role model for all of us. Growing up I knew there was something about Mary but what I exactly did not know.  I did not understand why we Catholics put so much emphasis on Mary.  I learned in the seminary that Mary was more important to understanding our Catholic faith than what I was giving her credit for.  Part of the reason why I had such trouble with Mary was that I was under the impression that people who were highly devoted to Mary were way too emotional and not very logical.  As I learned more and more about our Catholic faith the more I have come to understand that the Catholic Church’s teaching including her teaching on Mary is grounded in sound logic and not emotions.  For my next set of blogs, I will like to reflect on the role of Mary in salvation history and in the Church today.
In my opinion the first and most important title of our Blessed Mother is “Theotokos.”  The word “Theotokos” means God bearer or as more popularly translated “Mother of God.”  It may be hard for us to believe that there was actually debate in the early Church about to whether or not we could apply the title “Theotokos” to Mary.  The debate though was not so much about the role of Mary in the Incarnation but rather what exactly was the “Incarnation” how and to what extent did God and man become one?  There were some early in the Church who were led by a bishop named Nestorius who believed that there was no unity between “God part” of Jesus and the “human part” of Jesus.   Therefore according to Nestorius you could say that the “human part” of Jesus was born of Mary but not the “God part” of Jesus.  The Church rejected this disunity in Jesus because it would mean that God was using the “human part” of Jesus in a sense fake his own death for the “God part” of Jesus according to the Nestorian way of thinking would be unable to suffer and die.  The Church affirming that Mary was both the mother of the “God part” of Jesus  and the “human part” of Jesus by declaring her the “Theotokos” proclaimed that God really did join with man in such a way that it allowed God to die for us.  I hope that the above paragraph made some sense to you.  I know I could write for months on this subject and never explain it clearly.  The main point I was hoping you got from the preceding is that Marian titles help us come to a better understanding of who Jesus Christ is. 
Marian doctrine (what the Church teaches about Mary) because it helps us understand the mystery of the Incarnation must therefore be grounded in solid theology.  Scott Hahn in his book Hail Holy Queen: The Mother of God in the Word of God goes one step more and declares that Marian doctrine helps us understand the mystery of the Trinity itself.


All Mariology, all Marian devotion,must begin with solid theology and firm creedal faith.  For all that Mary does, and all that she is, flows from her relationship with God and her correspondence to His divine plan.  She is His mother.  She is His spouse.  She is His daughter.  She is His handmaid.  We cannot begin to know her if we do not, first have clear notions about Him—about God, His providence, and His dealings with His people.
Mary had a unique relationship with God but it is one that we should imitate.  Now none of us can be exactly like Mary but we should look up to her in a similar way that children look up and try to imitate Albert Pujols.  For a kid today considers Albert Pujols the best in the game and desires to be just like him and we Christians should desire to be like Mary the best ever in the game of salvation (except for Jesus). 
Mary was first of all the daughter of God the Father.  She was a creature like you and me.  She had free will like you and me but she chose not to seek any glory other than that of being a child of God.  Her humbleness and childlike trust is something each one of us should imitate in our relationship with our Creator with our Heavenly Father. She was the mother of Jesus, she brought God literally to others.  We are called to bring Christ to others.  Mary was the spouse of the Holy Spirit in a way since it was through the Holy Spirit that she conceived the Son of God.  We are called to be filled with the Holy Spirit and to bring life into the world.  While it will not be as miraculous as Mary the more we open up to the Spirit the more life we will have within us. 
I pray that I have done some good with this first Mariology blog.  If you have any questions please do not hesitate to e-mail me @ (please put something about “Scouting Blog” in your subject heading so I do not delete it as spam.).

Exploring our Faith Vol. I - Scouting Oaths Part VIII – “duty to self”

This will be my last reflection on Scouting Oaths. I must admit that when I sat down to write this one that I was caught off guard by the fact that the Girl Scout Promise does not say something directly about one’s duty to oneself but it is a part of the Girl Scout Law. Talking about duty to oneself, I am drawn to a book by Henri Nouwen called Reaching Out.

The first section of this book deals with the difference between loneliness and solitude.   The premise is that a person can is lonely when he or she is not happy with who they are and a person is living in solitude when a person is comfortable with who they are. For Henri Nouwen it is only by moving from loneliness to solitude from self-hate to self-acceptance does one become able to help others and form a proper relationship with God.
The Boy Scout Oath suggests three areas of personal growth. A scout is to keep himself physically strong. This is so important because our body and soul are connected. He is to keep himself mentally awake for as a person maturing it is important to never stop learning and to always be aware of one surrounding. Finally a scout is to keep himself morally straight. A moral life is not living a life of don’ts but rather is living a life of virtues. 

Exploring our Faith Vol. I - Scouting Oaths Part VII – “obey the scout law”


We are coming quickly to the end of our reflections on the Boy Scout Oath and Girl Scout Promise. It should be no surprise that both refer to their respective “law”. For while making the oath and acknowledging to be a scout, one now has to act as a scout. What therefore are the behaviors then that are required to live out the Scout Oaths. 
Boy Scout Law
A Scout is Trustworthy.
A Scout is Loyal.
A Scout is Helpful.
A Scout is Friendly.
A Scout is Courteous.
A Scout is Kind.
A Scout is Obedient.
A Scout is Cheerful.
A Scout is Thrifty.
A Scout is Brave.
A Scout is Clean.
A Scout is Reverent.
Girl Scout Law
The Girl Scout Law
I will do my best to be
     honest and fair,
     friendly and helpful,
     considerate and caring,
     courageous and strong, and
     responsible for what I say and do,
and to
     respect myself and others,
     respect authority,
     use resources wisely,
     make the world a better place, and
     be a sister to every Girl Scout.
                There are many people who see laws like the Boy Scout Law, Girl Scout Law, or the Ten Commandments as limiting one’s freedom but laws like these are not made to limit human freedom but rather to guide human beings toward moral excellence. In much the same way an Olympic athlete must give up certain foods and activities to succeed in his or her sport the same is true in the game of life. When it comes to laws our attitude determines how well we will live up to the expectation they express. If we see them as a burden we will sluggishly follow them but if we see them as steps towards personnel excellence we will more likely follow them.

Exploring our Faith Vol. I - Scouting Oaths Part VI – “to help other people at all times”


There seems to be two ways to live one’s life. The first way is to see life as a competition in which there are only winners and there are losers. If this is the way you view life then the challenge is to get as much as possible and avoid suffering at all costs. The second way is to see life as a journey in which everyone are fellow travelers and it is essential to help the other travelers because eventually sometime down the road you will need their help.   Both Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts proudly proclaim through their oaths that they believe the second way of life is the true way of life even if it seems like a paradox. This proclamation takes place not only in word but in action as both scouting programs require young people to practice service in order to advance. While it might seem a little oxymoronic to require service, I believe there is a great wisdom in it because one has to perform service to truly understand the rewards that come from service. It is also important for a person to practice service because as one does so, he or she purifies her motives for doing service for no one person is 100% altruistic. I would like to share with you some different ways a person might perform service and I think it will become obvious that all services are not 100% altruistic there is a growth that takes place in the reflective person who performs service.
When I think about service my mind goes to a quote from Cardinal Francis Xavier Nguyen Van Thuan. He was a Vietnamese bishop who spent many years in prison under communist control. This quote comes from his book: The Road of Hope: A Gospel from Prison: “There are many types of charity. There is the noisy type of charity, broadcasting good deeds; the banker’s charity that demands credit for everything done for another; the charity of the zookeeper that only involves food programs, the patronizing charity that looks down on those who receive it; the dictator’s charity that will only follow its opinion; the charity of the fraud that must exhibit what it accomplishes.”
Let us take a closer look at each of these types of service/charity. If we take a look at the broadcasting type of charity we know that this is a real temptation. How many times do we want to broadcast all our good deeds in order to receive credit and praise for it? There is also a part of us who are like bankers when it comes to our service where when we do something we expect someone to return the favor. Sometimes we are like zookeepers or high and mighty patronizing people who are not interested in thinking of the person we are helping as anything but a task to complete instead of a person who needs our respect. There are times when we can be like dictators who are only willing to help if people are willing to do things our way and there are even sometimes we can be frauds when it comes to our charity making it look like we are working hard when in fact we are only there to steal some of the credit. 
For Christians, Boy Scouts, and Girl Scouts there is still another mode of service. It is a mode in which the person doing the service does it selflessly for the sake of the other person because he or she knows that by helping another they are building up the community. This type of service is not natural for human beings but only comes with much practice of doing service. While as Christians we would say we are striving for salvation but as Scouts we could say we are trying to inspire young people to an excellence of character. 

The Legacy Of An Ad Altare Dei Award

I met Jim about three years ago on an ACTS Retreat. It was shortly after his wife had passed away. A spark seemed to reignite his faith on that retreat. He became an RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults) sponsor and never missed a Sunday. He serves on retreat teams, goes to mass almost every day and he continues to set up the RCIA room and make coffee for us every Sunday.

One Sunday he pulled me aside and said he wanted to give me something. I could see through a clear plastic bag that he was handing me an Ad Altare Dei religious award. He explained that he earned the award as a Boy Scout more than 60 years ago and how much the program meant to him. He also gave me a patch from one of the first Roman Catholic Boy Scout retreats held in the 1970s that he attended with his son.

I was honored and humbled to receive this from Jim. He knew I worked for the Boy Scouts and was active in the program with both of my sons. He said no one in his family would probably want the emblem or appreciate it. The ribbon was tattered and slightly soiled, proof that it was worn many times on the uniform.

The award sat on my dresser at home for a week or so. One day, I held it in my hand and realized how powerful the Ad Altare Dei award was to Jim and hundreds of thousands of other men who earned the award. The Ad Altare Dei award lites a fire in young men. It might burn bright and hot for decades. It might burn slow and glow throughout a lifetime. The intensity of the heat or the brightness of the flame isn't the proper measurement of one's life on earth or faith in God. But religious formation in young adults provides a critical spiritual foundation that can remain with them throughout their lifetime.

I was blessed to witness the fanning of the flame of Jim's spirit. I was doubly blessed to receive a simple piece of cloth and metal cross that signified a young Scout's readiness for a spiritual journey.

As thousands of Scouts, leaders and parents begin working on religious emblem programs this fall, there may be moments of frustration, lethargy or anger. Those emotions are common for young people. It might be a struggle to complete the award, but the long-term rewards outweigh the short-term challenges.

Joe Mueller ( and is the director of public relations for the Greater St. Louis Area Council, Boy Scouts of America (, and an executive board member of P.R.A.Y. (Programs of Religious Activities for Youth; )

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