How to talk about the Scout Order?

based on the Guide Totus du scoutisme (Sarment, 2007) by Louis and Rémi Fontaine,

Article published in the magazine Europa scouts n°150, September 2023.

“We talk a lot in France about establishing a civic militia, an army of order. It is several years since the Chief Scout (B.P.) found the formula and organised the cadres. England can never be too grateful to Sir Robert Baden-Powell for the peaceful army he set up, even more than for his victorious defence of Mafeking”. (P. Sevin)

Moving from the particular to the universal, from practical teaching to moral and political philosophy (and even theology), in short from the camp (that “civic school in the woods“) to the civil society in which the Scout is active, we touch here on the social impact of Scouting, according to the anthropological intuition of Baden-Powell and the apostolic dream of Father Sevin faced with the multiplication of Scouts and the success of a missionary movement effectively capable of transforming the world.

Through its Christian vision of society and men, scouting itself organizes its own society in this world according to a scout order” (according to the analogical concept of Father Sevin) which is a participation in the (social) order Christian.

The Christian order is the natural order of Creation injured by original sin but restored by the supernatural order brought by Christ and his Church. It is the (distinct) union of the natural and temporal order with the spiritual and supernatural order, of which Christianity gives a (necessarily) imperfect image.

The Scout order, in the general and moral sense given to it by Father Sevin, is the specific reunion of Catholic Scouting with this Christian order that was somewhat shaken by the Revolution and secularism, which separated what God had united. In the light of the movement’s expansion, he did not beat about the bush:
“We found ourselves in the presence of souls of a new quality, of a spiritual world apart, of a certain set of thoughts and aspirations which are tending to spread, to impose themselves on people’s attention and morals and to make a certain intellectual, moral and practical order reign in contemporary society, which, coming from Scouting, could only be better defined by the term “Scouting order”, in the same sense that the French order reigned in Europe in the century of the Great King, and the Roman order informed the world at the time of Christ’s birth. ”

What an ambitious comparison! And he goes on to say:

“We have invented nothing, and it is this essential identity with the order of Christianity, with the spirit of Christianity, that is our only strength, our only value. But the spirit of Saint Francis of Assisi is indeed the spirit of Jesus Christ, and no one would dream of disputing Franciscan orthodoxy and joy. But all the great spiritual families that have sprung up over the centuries – the Benedictine, Carmelite, Dominican, Ignatian and other families – all had and still have the same spirit of Christ and of the Church. It is always the one and same Christian order that they were fulfilling in their own way.” (Le Chef, January 1931).

While Scouting is first and foremost an educational third place between the family and the school, it is also a kind of spiritual third order, in the sense that its members make a personal and community commitment to live the law of the Gospel in a specific way and work to establish the Reign of Christ in the world around them, and even beyond. The figure of a new knighthood is the most telling. The religious order that Father Sevin wanted to found, as the flagship of scouting, was to be to the scouting (and Christian) order what leaven is to dough, just as the soldier-monks were to chivalry and chivalry itself was to the society of its time.

In short, the Scout family is a kind of “micro-Christianity” in action, operating as Christians, at its educational level, to better train and send its members out into the world as Christians. It applies pro domo the principles of a new Christianity to extend the Christian social order from the Scouting point of view, “when the spiritual sleeps in the cot of the temporal“, according to Charles Péguy’s metaphor so aptly adapted to our Scouting. It is therefore the opposite of what John Paul II called a “structure of sin“, which increases personal sins tenfold through an institutional incitement to vice. For “on the form given to society depends the good or evil of souls” (Pius XII).
In the midst of triumphant egoism and individualism, Scouting is a fraternity, an institution, which instead seeks to increase good deeds, goodness and virtues tenfold through a counter-attack of smiling service, through inner reform of oneself. A springboard for the civilisation of love. A lever, certainly among many other “structures of good“, but a lever that can lift the world.

This is the Scout order defined by Father Sevin, in line with the art of peacemaking proposed by Baden-Powell via the most spectacular children’s crusade ever imagined in the history of the planet.

A dream? Not just a dream. For there was indeed something of it, as the history of scouting has shown us in its dazzling beginnings, which were unfortunately thwarted by the crisis of the Church and civilisation in the 1960s. And even if this barely-awakened dream were to become a drop in the ocean of the new evangelisation that the world needs today, it would still be a drop missing from the sea, as Mother Teresa used to say. This precious drop would always involve us, as scouts, in the communion of the Church and the communion of saints, in a specific way. It would also be for us like the mustard seed in the parable (Mt 13:24):

Jesus presented them with another parable: “Do you want a picture of the Kingdom of Heaven? Think of the mustard seed that a man took and sowed in his field. It is the smallest of seeds, but when it has grown, it is bigger than vegetables. It becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come to take shelter in its branches”. (Mt 13, 31)

Scouting: resurrection! As long as there are Scouts, the dream can always become reality…

Learn, my Scout, the lesson of failure. Learn the mystery of obscurity. Learn the fruitfulness of sacrifice. Don’t be surprised by failures. There are productive failures. Don’t be scandalised to see those who seem destined to shake the world disappear into obscurity (Father Sevin).

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