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Exploring our Faith Vol. I - Scouting Oaths V – “to serve my country”


Exploring our Faith Vol. I - Scouting Oaths V – “to serve my country”
By Fr. Thomas M. Pastorius
As we continue to look at the Boy Scout Oath and the Girl Scout Promise we come to the idea of “duty to one’s country.” 
Even though both Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts are international organizations, one cannot deny that both programs have strong patriotic overtures. This strong patriotic theme in scouting is not reserved only to scouting programs in the United States as I discovered on my various trips to World Youth Day. In searching for the right words to express what I learned about duty to my country from scouting, I found myself coming back again and again to a song, God Bless the USA, by Lee Greenwood. I first heard this song at an Order of the Arrow event and immediately fell in love with it. I invite you now to pay close attention to the words of the song.
God Bless The USA
by Lee Greenwood

 If tomorrow all the things were gone,
I’d worked for all my life.
And I had to start again,
with just my children and my wife.
I’d thank my lucky stars,
to be livin here today.
‘Cause the flag still stands for freedom,
and they can’t take that away.
And I’m proud to be an American,
where at least I know I’m free.
And I won’t forget the men who died,
who gave that right to me.
And I gladly stand up,
next to you and defend her still today.
‘Cause there ain’t no doubt I love this land,
God bless the USA.
From the lakes of Minnesota,
to the hills of Tennessee.
Across the plains of Texas,
From sea to shining sea.
From Detroit down to Houston,
and New York to L.A.
Well there's pride in every American heart,
and its time we stand and say.
That I’m proud to be an American,
where at least I know I’m free.
And I won’t forget the men who died,
who gave that right to me.
And I gladly stand up,
next to you and defend her still today.
‘Cause there ain’t no doubt I love this land,
God bless the USA.
And I’m proud to be and American,
where at least I know I’m free.
And I won’t forget the men who died,
who gave that right to me.
And I gladly stand up,
next to you and defend her still today.
‘Cause there ain’t no doubt I love this land,
God bless the USA.

What a tremendous gift we have to live in a country where we have so many freedoms? We see though toward the end of the song a revelation that freedom is not free and that we who have received this gift have a duty to defend it. While we might be call to do this literally through service in the military it is a duty that we need to live each day through a spirit of gratitude. When we realize that we did nothing to deserve being born in this great country, we realize at the same time that to whom more has been given more will be expected and so we have a duty to help others.


Exploring our Faith Vol. I - Scouting Oaths Part IV – “to serve God


Both the Boy Scout Oath with its “do my duty to God” phrase and the Girl Scout Promise with the phrase “to serve God”, place a great importance on a young person’s faith. Why is it then that two secular organizations dedicated to helping young people mature in to young adults are so focused on a the young person’s faith? I am not really sure but I think that it has to do with the idea that the world of secular and the world of faith should not mix is more a common fad than ageless wisdom. 
I believe that the idea “religious tolerance means total separation of the secular and faith” is a relative recent phenomenon and that true religious tolerance is more about developing a respect for other religions and in fact when we deny our spiritual side for the sake of tolerance we cut off a great area for growth. 
Growing up, I attended a Boy Scout troop that was sponsored by a Catholic School and it was a firmly established rule that as Boy Scouts on a camping trip, we would take time out to do our duty to God by attending Catholic Mass. While my leaders’ dedication to get us to Mass each camping trip impressed me greatly, I was even more impressed that the leaders went out of their way to make sure that the few non-Catholic boys were able to attend a Church service of their choosing. I learned that religious tolerance meant having respect for my own faith but also the faith of others and this was modeled for me in Boy Scouts.
As I mentioned before, there are some in our society today who believe that religious faith has no place in Scouting. I believe these people to be a part of what some theologians are calling a “new atheism.” This new atheism is characterized by a great need on the part of these atheists to evangelize and convert people to their way of thinking. It is my true belief that a true atheist has no need to evangelize because he or she truly believes that God does not exist and so there are no consequences. New atheists on the other hand I believe deep down believe in a God but they do not want to follow God for one reason or another and because they believe in God they fear that there will be some sort of divine punishment at the end of time. Their mentality then is an aggressive recruitment so that the punishment will be somehow lighter because they can then use the excuse of “everyone was doing it.” 
As scout leaders we have to do what we can to fight this new atheism because atheism never promotes peace and harmony but always conflict for there is no morality without God. 
While writing this blog, I cannot help but think of the yearly battle over religious symbols at Christmas time. I believe that it is a more powerful sign of the unity of our country to see different religious symbols in public spaces then no symbols at all. I know personally I have been encouraged to learn more about other faiths by wondering what their symbols stand for and my studies have led me to a greater respect for people of different faiths. 
In order to be a holistic person and really to live out the rest of goals of scouting programs, a scout must do his duty to God for there is a humility to admit that we are all brothers and sisters of some divine creator rather than an accidently combination of cosmic dust.

Exploring our Faith: Vol. I - Scouting Oaths Part III – “I will do my best”



As I was writing this blog, I was surprised to discover the slight difference between the Girl Scout Promise “I will try…” and the Boy Scout Oath “I will do my best.” I believe that both of these statements actually mean the same thing but I do find this small difference to be interested. Using this small difference as a jumping off point, I would like to focus on the difference between boys and girls and the idea of equity. 


The first and most important thing I want to point out is that there are difference between boys and girls and these differences are both physical, emotional, intellectually and spiritual. This does not however mean that one gender is better at certain things than the other gender. God created the difference between the genders so that they may complement each other and not to make one gender more dominant than the other. Why is it so important therefore to acknowledge these differences? I believe that in order to be an effective leader that we must be like an excellent speaker who personally tailors his or her speech toward the specific audience that he or she will be speaking to.   On a small side note, it is important to also take into account the age and maturity level of the group that you are leading.
As Catholics we do not believe in equality but rather equity. The difference is quite simple equality demands that each person receive the same amount and equity demands that each receives what he or she needs. For example a teacher who spends less time with a student who understands a concept and more time with a student who is struggling violates equality standards by giving one student more time than another student but is instead practicing equity.   As Catholics we believe in equity not equality because we believe that because we are all so different and all so imperfect that we will eventually be the one who needs the extra time or attention. It is important though to not neglect those who are more well off to the point that it is a detriment for them while helping the more disadvantage.
As I stated before, I do believe that “I will try” from the Girl Scout Promise and the “I will do my best” mean about the same thing but I want to make a wild guess with nothing but my own observations to back me up and say “I will do my best” is geared toward boys who are often perceived as slackers and “I will try” is geared toward girls because they tend to be more in danger of being perfectionists. The important thing though for both is to try to live out their scout oaths to the best of their ability with our assistance so that they can become the better people that both God and their scouting programs believe them to be.

Exploring our Faith Vol. I - Scouting Oaths Part II – “On my honor”

In my last blog, I focused on why oaths are such an important part of scouting organizations and now it is my intention over the next few blogs to look at the specific wording of both the Girl Scout Promise and the Boy Scout Promise. Here is a quick reminder of what both oaths are even though I am sure that everyone reading this blog has them memorized.

The Boy 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
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
*The word “God” can be interpreted in a number of ways, depending on one’s spiritual beliefs. When reciting the Girl Scout Promise, it is okay to replace the word “God” with whatever word your spiritual beliefs dictate.
As a kid I was a Boy Scout and I can remember reciting the Boy Scout Oath at every meeting and even though there have been times in my life where I have not been very involved in scouting because of my studies, as soon as someone says the words “On my honor…” I am able to recall the Boy Scout Oath totally from memory. When I took on the job of Archdiocesan chaplain for the Girl Scouts I was surprised to learn that the Girl Scout Promise also began with those same words. 
So what does “honor” mean? According to the dictionary “honor” means to have a “good name or public esteem.” How then does one gain or earn honor? It seems that one does not so much as gain honor as keeps it and one keeps his or her honor by being a person of integrity. It seems that people everywhere respect other people who are honest. 
Why is it important to be honest when taking an oath? The reason that one is expected to be honest when taking an oath or promise is because the oath is supposed to change us forever. For example Catholic theologian and author points out in his book Swear to God: The Promise and Power of the Sacraments that “it is by virtue of the oath of office –not by popular vote or by vote of the electoral college-that a man (or woman) becomes president of the United States.” The oath of office forever changes the president elect into the actual president. The oaths that we take should do the same and how we keep our oaths therefore go along way into determining whether or not we are people of honor.
I leave you with one last thought about honor before I end this blog. One of my favorite actors is Liam Neeson. Liam Neeson stared in a film called Rob Roy about a Scottish fighter and when I think about the word “honor” this quote from that movie comes to mind: “Honor is…what no man can give ye, and no one can take away. Honor is man’s gift to himself.”

Vol. I - Scouting Oaths Part I – Why Do We Make Oaths

Welcome to the Office of Catholic Scouting webpage for the Archdiocese of St. Louis. It is my hope that this page will provide you with many valuable resources for your Boy Scout or Girl Scout program. My name is Fr. Tom Pastorius and I am the Archdiocesan chaplain for the Catholic Committee on Girl Scouting. Although, I am the chaplain for the Girl Scouts, my work and this blog are not limited solely to Girl Scout programs. It is my true hope that all will find this blog helpful. I also would like to take the time to invite you to check out my totally different blog on the Office of Youth Ministry webpage ( and to check out my own personal website for other valuable spiritual insights and resources.

I would like to focus my first few blogs for the Office of Catholic Scouting on the Boy Scout and Girl Scout Promises. Have you ever noticed that a lot of organizations like the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts ask their members to take oaths or to recite certain promises? Our own nation invites us to “make a pledge of allegiance” by reciting a certain set of words. I began to realize this when I was hearing grade school confessions shortly after my ordination. I asked one child in the midst of confession to recite his act of contrition and I was shocked when he stood up placed his right hand over his heart and instead of praying the act of contrition recited to me the Pledge of Allegiance. He was so proud of himself for remembering the whole thing and I congratulated him on his memorization skills and trusted that God was just as amused at the child’s attempt as I was and I therefore continued with the sacrament with the prayer of absolution without correcting him. 
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