Priest sees rise in ‘spiritual enthusiasm’ at Boy Scout summer camps

By Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON (CNS) — As a priest for 52 years and a Boy Scout for 65, Msgr. John B. Brady says he has never experienced the “youthful spiritual enthusiasm” he witnessed this summer as a chaplain at the Goshen Scout Reservation in Goshen, Va.

“Scouts of every faith attended religious services in record numbers,” Msgr. Brady said in a report on his experiences with the more than 7,000 Scouts and leaders who attended the six camps at Goshen this summer.

“Jewish and Islamic services, Buddhist meditations, all-faith Scouts’ own services, nondenominational Christian services and daily Catholic Masses reported significant increases in attendance,” he added.

The summer of 2007 marked the 100th camping season for the Scouts since Lord Robert Baden-Powell, founder of the world Scouting movement, oversaw the raising of the flags at the world’s first Scout encampment at Brown Sea Island off the coast of Southampton, England, Aug. 1, 1907.

A retired priest of the Archdiocese of Washington, Msgr. Brady said the 10- and 11-year-old Scouts he met were “excited and enthusiastic” about attending Mass. Among the questions he said he received were: “Father, will you bless our Scout uniforms? … Can you come to our troop site, hear our confessions and offer Mass? Will you come and teach us how to meditate? We want to have our own troop prayer. (Will you) teach us how to write a prayer?”

If that enthusiasm “sticks through their teenage, college and adult life, we are going to have a more utopian world as these 11-year-olds take their turn at leadership,” he said.

Another group of Scouts told him they had given up their swim period to come to Mass and said they were “glad we did.” They also thanked the priest for celebrating an “awesome” Mass for them.

“This degree of courtesy and gratitude (is) not characteristic of 11-year-olds, who are normally self-centered,” he said in his report.

Msgr. Brady experienced the first U.S. national jamboree in 1937, when he was 8 years old and visited the encampment on the National Mall in Washington. He joined the Boy Scouts in seventh grade and went on to become an Eagle Scout.

He attributed much of “this new burst of Scout spirituality” to a new program launched in 2006, called the Duty to God summer camp program. Scout campers can earn a series of patches over a four-year period if they fulfill three requirements.

They must attend a religious service during their week at camp, meditate at least three times on one of the points of the Scout law (“A Scout is trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean and reverent”) and leading a prayer or grace before or after at least one camp meal.

“When many of the 7,000 campers attend religious services, meditate daily (and) offer prayers before or after their three daily meals, something good happens,” Msgr. Brady said.

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