The outstanding position of young female and male leaders

For the founders of the FSE, Catholic, Lutheran and Orthodox, the mission entrusted by Christ to his disciples must be accomplished by all those who constitute the Church, even if they are very young; they were aware of the fact that the legitimacy of their action came from their state of baptised faithful and citizen, as well as from the families who entrusted their children to them. So, all the baptised, everyone according to his personal condition, are meant to collaborate actively to the transmission of the word preached by Jesus. More specifically, the patrol leaders, the rovers and rangers, the young female and male leaders are at the best place to transmit a testimony of faith to their younger brothers and sisters.

As the Council declared a few years later, they were aware that “these faithful are by baptism made one body with Christ and are constituted among the People of God; they are in their own way made sharers in the priestly, prophetical, and kingly functions of Christ; and they carry out for their own part the mission of the whole Christian people in the Church and in the world[1]. Right from the beginning of the movement, these young people wanted to integrate intimately spiritual life into scout life, they insisted on the necessity of sacramental life and the importance of transmitting faith to the younger brothers and sisters they were in charge of, but also on the necessary obedience to the pastors of the Church. They were conscious, as John Paul II said later, that “youth must not simply be considered as an object of pastoral concern for the Church: in fact, young people are and ought to be encouraged to be active on behalf of the Church as leading characters in evangelization and participants in the renewal of society »[2]. This sentence, this whole paragraph, are ‘essential’ for us. They found the vocation and the running of our movement, a ‘movement of young people by and for young people’.

Guides and Scouts of Europe are not only a movement of young lay faithful led by young lay faithful. Since “the F.S.E. gives the primacy to each Christian’s vocation to holiness”[3], it sees in each female and male leader “collaborators with God the Teacher”[4]. At the age of adolescence, people become less sensitive to words and speeches. But they are ready to follow a model, as long as this person is valuable, a witness: “Modern man listens more willingly to witnesses than to teachers, and if he does listen to teachers, it is because they are witnesses”[5]. Young people trust their patrol leader and the members of their staff and, it this trustful relationship, older people can transmit a testimony of faith. This is why they are really the ones who take “souls in charge” at their investiture. There is no discrepancy between the practice of scouting and faith.

This cura animarum is entrusted to the young female and male leaders, who have the full and complete responsibility of the integral education, both Christian and human, of the young people who are entrusted to them. Within this framework, and as the aim of the movement is the sanctification of its members, we cannot achieve our mission properly “without the help of priests who have, pursuant to their ordination, the mission to teach, sanctify and lead to salvation the Christian people”[6]. Consequently, “in order to reach its educational aims, our movement must absolutely benefit from the ministry of priests”[7]. The words ‘spiritual adviser’ defined in 1957 were soon replaced by ‘religious adviser’.

This neologism must not make us forget the true place of the priest beside the leader. “The religious advisers animate, in collaboration with the unit leaders or the leaders of a team at territory or branch level, the spiritual and liturgical life of the units or of the teams, according to the terms of the Religious Directory of the Federation of European Scouting”[8]. They must not limit themselves to bless crosses and promises, or even to celebrate a mass from time to time. This minimal use of the sacred minister is obviously not enough. Admittedly, the unit leader is the first responsible for the pedagogy of faith within the activities of the movement, but “chiefs must favour the ministry of religious advisers towards the young people they are responsible for”[9]. The ‘religious adviser’, as his name implies, has a role of advice towards the unit leader, but he must apply it really within the staff of leaders, community of trainers, to which he belongs totally, but he must also take care “not to substitute the lay chiefs”[10]. He lets the chiefs take their whole place, including in the field of pedagogy of faith, and he does not monopolize the spiritual animation of the unit. If some actions are to be done by him de facto, he is able to ask for the collaboration of the chiefs and the young people for the preparation of the liturgy, the animation of times of prayer, the preparation of religious tests… The religious adviser is accompanying and training. He is not only a “chaplain” in charge of liturgical celebration and the blessing of promises and investitures[11].

Even if religious advisers are “responsible with the young leaders for the [integral, Christian and human] education of young people and unreplaceable elements, as priests and ministers of the Word”[12], the role of young male and female leaders is essential: “The task that is offered to you is beautiful; it is also heavy with responsibilities. The whole scout (guide) section is observing you; the one who is responsible for having the others live an ideal such as ours must be a living image of it”[13]. John Paul II liked to repeat to young people, joking: “I am your friend… but a demanding friend, because Jesus is demanding”. The movement also must be demanding with its leaders so, simultaneously it must offer them not only a pedagogical training but also a Christian and human formation, as well as a personal accompaniment, enabling him to deepen “the faith taught by the Magisterium of the Church, an “intensely sacramental life style”[14] [considered] as a complete part of the “scout style” of its chiefs”[15].

“His gaze fixed on eternal life, Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati, who died in 1925 at the age of 24, could say: “I want to live and not simply exist!” On a photograph taken while mountain-climbing, he wrote to a friend: “To the heights”, referring not only to Christian perfection but also to eternal life[16]. Finally, the young leaders’ mission is to awaken the young people who are entrusted to them to this desire of living their life in plenitude: “to help young people to live, not simply exist, such is the role of education”[17].

Gwenaël Lhuissier

[1] Council Vatican II, dogmatic constitution on the Church Lumen Gentium, November 21st 1964, n° 31.

[2] John Paul II, post-synodal apostolic exhortation Christifideles laici on the vocation and the mission of the lay faithful in the Church and in the world, December 30th 1988, nr.46.

[3] FSE Religious Directory, art. 3, November 16th 1997.

[4] John Paul II, post-synodal apostolic exhortation Christifideles laici on the vocation and the mission of the lay faithful in the Church and in the world, December 30th 1988, nr. 61.

[5] Paul VI, apostolic exhortation Evangelii Nuntiandi to the episcopate, to the clergy and to all the faithful of the entire world, about evangelization in the modern world, December 8th 1975, nr.41.

[6] Vademecum of religious advisers, June 2010.

[7] Protocole between the « Comité épiscopal Enfance-Jeunesse » and the Association of Guides and Scouts of Europe, May 31st 2001, preamble, §10.

[8] Protocole between the « Comité épiscopal Enfance-Jeunesse » and the Association of Guides and Scouts of Europe, May 31st 2001, preamble, §11.

[9] FSE Religious Directory, art. 5, November 16th 1997.

[10] FSE Religious Directory, art. 5, November 16th 1997.

[11] Vademecum of religious advisers, June 2010.

[12] FSE Religious Directory, comments of art. 8, November 18th 2000.

[13] Ceremonial of Guides and Scouts of Europe, ‘Investiture of chiefs’.

[14]John Paul II, letter Dominicae Cenae to all the bishops of the Church on the mysteries and worship of the Eucharist, February 24th 1980 (AAS 72 [1980*124).

[15] FSE Religious Directory, comments of art. 3, November 18th 2000.

[16] Benedict XVI, Message to the youth of the world on the occasion of the 25th World Youth Day, March 28th 2010.

[17] Mgr Stanisław Ryłko, chairman of the Pontifical Council for the Laity, ‘A Catholic movement of education recognised by the Holy See, ecclesial dimension and its pastoral consequences’, congress of religious advisers, Rome, 2006.

Comments are closed