After seven years as the link bishop for the National Catholic Scout Fellowship, the Bishop of Wrexham, Edwin Regan, handed over his scouting responsibilities to the Bishop of the Forces, Richard Moth at a farewell Mass celebrated at Southwark Cathedral on Sunday.
In his final homily, Bishop Regan reminded the packed scouting congregation that by keeping the Scout Promise and Law, they follow a path of holiness: "if we keep the Scout Promise and Law, we are well on the way to becoming saints!"
"You have all made a promise -
'On my honour, I promise that I will do my best to do my duty to God and to the Queen, to help other people, and to keep the Scout Law.'
And the Scout Law? A scout is to be trusted, and loyal, and friendly and considerate. A scout belongs to the world-wide family of Scouts. A scout has courage in all difficulties; a scout makes good use of time, and is careful of possessions and property; and finally, a scout has self respect and respect for others.'
That's fantastic law - good enough even for a bishop! And it's marvellous when you choose to keep it."
He expressed his gratitude to all involved and assured the scouting movement of his continued prayers: "I am so grateful to your scouters and leaders who give you the fun of scouting. I thank Bishop Richard Moth for agreeing to be your special bishop. I appreciate the work of Fr Seddon, your national chaplain, and all those in the Catholic Scout Fellowship. And Archbishop Peter for allowing us to come to his Cathedral, and celebrating Mass with us."
Text: Bishop Edwin Regan's homily, preached at St George's Cathedral, Southwark Sunday 13 February 2011
On Friday, September 17th, last year Pope Benedict gave a huge challenge to the 4000 children and young people listening to him at the Big Assembly in Twickenham, and to the many thousands who were watching in their schools on television and the internet.
What was the challenge - let's listen to what Pope Benedict said: 'Since I have the chance to speak to you, there is something I very much want to say to you. I hope that among those of you listening to me today there are some of the future saints of the twenty first century.
What God wants most of all for each one of you is that you should become holy. He loves you much more than you could ever begin to imagine, and He wants the very best for you. And by far the best thing for you is to grow in holiness.'
That's the same challenge Our Lord Jesus gives us today in the readings we have just heard. The first reading is powerful, awesome - God has given each one of us the tremendous power of being able to choose good or bad.
In the striking words of the first reading, God has set fire and water before us - we put out our hand to whichever we prefer, to burn ourselves by choosing the bad, or to feel the cool clean water of choosing the good. We can choose life or death. Some people choose death.
Let me tell you a true story of someone who chose death, a story that is very sad, indeed savage.
It's about a man called Elvis Travor, who was leading soldiers in Africa, chasing other soldiers, and making sure the local people would never again help them. It all happened 30 years ago. Things like this still happen today.
This is what he told the newspaper: 'Suddenly two children jumped up from behind some bush, and began to run. I said, don't shoot them. There was one of our guys who started shouting to them in the local language. Then these other kids popped up and started to run as well, so obviously I said, 'Put them out'. We started shooting. More and more of them kept jumping and running. Some had taken off their clothes to show that they had no guns.
We shot this young girl; she must have been about five. We shot about nine in all. I don't know how, but somehow this girl's mother and sister did not get shot. We left them there, and moved on. She followed us; the mother and her little kid. She followed us all day, just walking along about 100 meters behind us. She did not cry or say anything. Every time we stopped, she stopped. We went back and tried to shoo her away, but she just came back and followed us. This freaked me out. Every time you turned around, she was there. It started me thinking. Some of my companions, they just love killing. They take photographs of themselves with bodies. They don't see them as people, but just as things that are there.' Just things that are there.
Why did I tell you that story? We don't kill many people! But lot's of people hurt others by bullying, or sending nasty messages on mobile phones. Too many people are just selfish. They too see others just as things that are there.
Elvis Travor was sorry for what he had done when he realised that people were not just things that are there, but human persons, who have to be respected and cherished.
That is why Jesus said in the Gospel, 'OK - you know you should not kill - but if you are angry with your brother, you are killing the love and respect you should have for him'.
As scouts, you have a marvellous way of choosing to be holy, as Pope Benedict challenged us.
You have all made a promise -
'On my honour, I promise that I will do my best to do my duty to God and to the Queen, to help other people, and to keep the Scout Law.' And the Scout Law? A scout is to be trusted, and loyal, and friendly and considerate. A scout belongs to the world-wide family of Scouts.
A scout has courage in all difficulties; a scout makes good use of time, and is careful of possessions and property; and finally, a scout has self respect and respect for others.'
That's fantastic law - good enough even for a bishop!
And it's marvellous when you choose to keep it.
Let me tell you another true story, I know it, because I was there!
We were camping, and Skip Sweeney was horrified when he disturbed some scouts in the quarter-master tent who were dividing out the biscuits. They had put all the chocolate and sweet ones in one pile, and all the other plain ones in another pile.
He tore into them, accusing them of being greedy, keeping the best biscuits for themselves. And he was stopped dead in his tracks when they protested loudly, 'Skip, we are not doing it for ourselves. Stuart is a diabetic, and we are making sure that there are plain biscuits that he can safely eat'. Skip Sweeney told me he felt ashamed at how the scouts showed him how to keep the Scout Law - they had chosen well and wisely, being considerate and kind.
Let's go back to what Pope Benedict said last September. that God wants us to be holy. He said, 'When you enter into friendship with God, everything begins to change....you begin to feel compassion for people in difficulties, and you are eager to help them. You want to come to the aid of the poor and the hungry, you want to comfort the sorrowful, you want to be kind and generous. And once these things begin to matter to you, you are well on the way to becoming saints.'
In other words, if we keep the Scout Promise and Law, we are well on the way to becoming saints! We are showing true love - which is another way of describing 'being holy'.
One last thing from Pope Benedict also said this to young people: he said to them: 'How important it is that we need to look into our hearts each day to find the source of true love. Jesus is always there...deep within your heart, he is calling you to spend time with him in prayer, but this kind of prayer, real prayer, requires discipline. ....even amidst the business and stress of our daily lives, we need to make space for silence, because it is in silence that we find God,.... and our true selves.
And in discovering our true self, we discover the particular vocation which God has given us for the building up of his Church and the redemption of our world. Heart speaks unto heart. With these words from my heart, dear young friends, I assure you
of my prayers for you.'
And I too assure you of my prayers for you. I am so grateful to your scouters and leaders who give you the fun of scouting. I thank Bishop Richard Moth for agreeing to be your special bishop. I appreciate the work of Fr. Seddon, your national chaplain, and all those in the Catholic Scout Fellowship. And Archbishop Peter for allowing us to come to his Cathedral, and celebrating Mass with us.
I once asked my mother, 'Mam, what should I preach about most?' and she thought for a moment, and then said, 'Edwin, tell us that God loves us. That is what we need to hear!'
And so - never forget it, God loves you all - that is what we need to hear!