Try to leave this world a little better than you found it and, when your turn comes to die, you can die happy in feeling that at any rate you have not wasted your time but have done your best. — Lord Baden-Powell

FNE and the Spirit of St. Francis of Assisi  

Reprinted from The Explorer vol. 2 – Fall 2014 of The Explorer.

I would like to call the reader’s attention to a very important (in my opinion) address by Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia.

Without Gloss: Francis of Assisi and Western Catholicism

The figure of St. Francis of Assisi looms large in the Federation of European Scouting (FSE), of which the Federation of North-American Explorers (FNE) is a small part. St. Francis is the patron saint of our boy Timber Wolves (St. Clare of Assisi of our girl Timber Wolves; together, the patrons of the entire yellow branch), and our male Wayfarers (Rovers) wear a brown neckerchief in the Franciscan spirit (in addition, it is a square necker rather than the usual triangular one to symbolize their willingness to share with those in need). Our goal is to help our young men and women learn how to live a life of simplicity, joy, and freedom — much like St. Francis himself, who, as His Grace points out, is rightly remembered “for his joy and freedom of spirit.” It is not simply for his “gentle love of nature” that St. Francis is a patron of our movement. Like their patron, our Timber Wolves are very devoted to Jesus in the Most Blessed Sacrament:

In his biography of Francis, Augustine Thompson — the Dominican author — notes that Francis had a passionate devotion to the Blessed Sacrament. It was the heart of his life. The Mass was the grounding for all his work. There’s no way of reinterpreting Francis in generically do-gooder or humanitarian terms. He had hard words for those who oppressed the poor, but even harsher words for those who ignored the Eucharistic presence.

FNE Timber Wolves and Explorers adoring the Most Blessed Sacrament

Adoration of the Most Blessed Sacrament at summer camp

One thing that strikes me about St. Francis is how he is countercultural in every age. Abp. Chaput points out that, were he alive today, St. Francis would be seen as a “religious crank.” But this attitude is not unique to moderns. St. Francis was disinherited by his own father and later fought his own brother friars who wanted to modify the Franciscan rule “to the times, and make it less demanding.” How often do we hear today of how this organization or that must change its teachings to conform to contemporary attitudes, whether it be in the Church, with calls for the ordination of women or the reception of Holy Communion for those in irregular marriages, or even among youth movements tracing their origin to the work of Lord Baden-Powell, with calls to abandon the traditional Promise (or Oath) and to modify the Law to make it relevant for today’s youth. St. Francis reminds us that we must stay true to our principles even in the face of opposition from today’s culture.

Timber Wolf joy and freedom

The joy and freedom of the Timber Wolf

Before I close, I would like to call attention to two articles on the UIGSE-FSE web site. The first is a brief recounting of the status of our movement today:

The UIGSE Today

The author reminds us that the Law was given to us by our founders and it is not something that can be changed to keep up with society:

The talks that we regularly have with the Pontifical Council for the Laity comfort us and encourage us to go on working at the service of families and youth, not in a “new wave” scouting but on the contrary by releasing nothing of what is the heart of our proposal. The values which are at the centre of our method cannot be changed. Technology, philosophy, fashion, habits or other things have no grip on what we want to be, because our values are anchored on natural morals, which is at the basis of any education. We can observe it during the last forty years: every time an association has put in perspective* the scout law, it has been gradually deleted. These examples should help us not to fall into the trap of fashions or momentary mistakes but on the contrary to do our best to make as many boys and girls as possible discover the scout joy and share it around them.

*This is a literal translation but I think a better way of putting it into English would be “relativized” or “made a matter of opinion.”

The second is a wonderful talk was given at a conference for FSE religious advisers. While it has not yet been translated (at least not officially!) into English, those who read French can read it in its entirety here:

La Loi Scout. Le Programme d’une Vie Droite et Attrayante (“The Explorer Law: A Program of a Righteous and Attractive Life”)

There are many beautiful exhortations and reminders in this talk. For example, the author reminds us that Lord Baden-Powell (in Rovering to Success) reminds young people to resist the tendency to go along with the crowd:

I think the idea of B-P’s, when he invited young people to go against the current, to know how to “paddle your own canoe,” is still extremely valuable today, when fad and fashion, so to speak, and even thought are so influenced by the mass media. And cuckoos and charlatans are found everywhere, unfortunately also in high places!

However, the author does devote a section to St. Francis of Assisi and this is worth quoting at length (my apologies for the translation):

St. Francis was chosen as the patron of Timber Wolves because he is a saint full of goodness, gentleness, and sensitivity. He is strong. His figure is not steeped in legend as is that of St. George, but is concrete, historical, and documented.

And yet there is also about St. Francis a legendary aura of candor, present especially in the “Fioretti” [the Little Flowers of St. Francis, stories from the saint’s life and work]. But it must be a candor born of wonder, felt the brothers who followed the master, enchanted by his holy simplicity and his friendship with animals both mild and fierce. The Saint spoke to them with the simplicity of heart of one who has gotten rid of all human “packaging” before developing an appetite for luxury, power, or success.

This behavior is full of instruction for Timber Wolves, boy and girl, and can fill us, especially leaders, with shame, if we fail to match this sensibility — happy in freedom from greed — with our own — sometimes too dependent on the opinions and requirements expressed by what we call “society,” an ambiguous word that allows us to justify ourselves perhaps a little too quickly.

And yet, one who has learned to take the road less traveled, who has enjoyed the water of clear mountain streams, who has felt the goodness, beauty, and warmth of the evening fire, who has felt his face touched by a warm breeze on a spring day or whipped by the cutting wind of winter, who has helped a brother in difficulty, shared with him a last sip of water, can understand the message of the revolutionary “Poverello” [little poor man] of Assisi. This message is not revolutionary merely because of the refusal or extreme reduction of wealth — for which, nevertheless, many men sacrifice attachments, time, and energy — but because it is a message of simplicity, and only those who are as simple as children enter the kingdom.

Thus it is that whoever drives in a car can hear the whisper of wind through the woods in a mysterious rustling; thus it is that one cannot stop himself from facing, in ecstasy, the splendor of a hidden mountain flower giving glory to its Creator with all its beauty, impossible to reproduce.

In the message of St. Francis, there is great poetry, great philosophy, and especially a great faith that pacifies the soul of one who does not deal in the petty quarreling and desires of the rich.

Let’s do what we can to keep the spirit of St. Francis of Assisi in our own lives and in the lives of the youth we serve. As Abp. Chaput puts it in his closing paragraph:

From the cross at San Damiano, Jesus said to Francis: Repair my house, which is falling into ruin. Those same words are meant for every Christian life and home and parish. How we respond is up to us.

St. George, Patron of Explorers Everywhere  

Adapted from Scouting for Boys, “Campfire Yarn #20,” by Lord Baden-Powell.


Chivalry — that is, the order of the knights — was started in England some 1500 years ago by King Arthur. On the death of his father, King Uther Pendragon, he was living with his uncle, and nobody knew who was to be King. He did not himself know that he was the son of the late King. Then a great stone was found in the churchyard, into which a sword was sticking, and on the stone was written:

Whosoever pulleth this sword out of this stone is the rightwise King born of all England.

All the chief lords had a try at pulling it out, but none could move it. That day there was a tournament at which Arthur’s cousin was to fight, but when he got to the ground he found he had left his sword at home, and he sent Arthur to fetch it. Arthur could not find it, but remembering the sword in the churchyard he went there and pulled at it. It came out of the stone at once, and he took it to his cousin. After the sports he put it back again into the stone; and then they all tried to pull it out, but could not move it. But when Arthur tried he drew it out quite easily. So he was proclaimed King.

He afterwards got together a number of knights, and used to sit with them at a great round table, and so they were called the “Knights of the Round Table.”

St. George

They had as their patron saint St. George, because he was the only one of all the saints who was a horseman. He is the Patron Saint of cavalry and a special saint of England.

He is also the Patron Saint of Explorers everywhere. Therefore, all Explorers should know his story.

St. George was born in Cappadocia in the year AD 303. He enlisted as a cavalry soldier when he was seventeen, and soon became renowned for his bravery.

On one occasion he came to a city named Selem, near which lived a dragon who had to be fed daily with one of the citizens, drawn by lot.

The day St. George came there, the lot had fallen upon the king’s daughter, Cleolinda. St. George resolved that she should not die, and so he went out and attacked the dragon, who lived in a swamp close by, and killed him.


St. George was typical of what an Explorer should be:

When he was faced by a difficulty or danger, however great it appears — even in the shape of a dragon — he did not avoid it or fear it, but went at it with all the power he could put into himself and his horse. Although inadequately armed for such an encounter, having merely a spear, he charged in, did his best, and finally succeeded in overcoming a difficulty which nobody had dared to tackle.

That is exactly the way in which an Explorer should face a difficulty or danger, no matter how
great or terrifying it may appear to him or how ill-equipped he may be for the struggle. He should SD at it boldly and confidently, using every power that he can to try to overcome it, and the probability is that he will succeed.

St. George’s Day is April 23rd. On that day all good Explorers make a special point of thinking about the Promise and the Law. Remember this on the next 23rd April and send greetings to brother Explorers around the world.

Saint of the Month – St. Ubaldus  

Map showing where Umbria is in Italy (in the center)


The feast of St. Ubaldus is on May 16th.  Ubaldus was born in Umbria, Italy, in the city of Gubbio to noble parents.  He lost his father when he was young, and was educated by the prior of the cathedral church of his native city, where he also became a canon regular. The Bishop, seeing his intelligence and piety eventually made him prior of the cathedral. Ubaldus served the lord with great fervor and poverty. Even though he inherited much wealth from his parents, he donated all of it to the poor, and to the restoration of monasteries.

Many bishoprics were offered to Ubaldus but he always refused. However, when the bishop of Gubbio died, he was sent to Rome with some other clergy to ask His Holiness for a new bishop. Pope Honorius II insisted on Ubaldus, consecrated him, and sent him back to Gubbio.

As a bishop, Ubaldus continued to live a simple life of fasting and prayer. He did his utmost to help his people in their spiritual and temporal needs. He would sometimes put on beggar’s clothes, and go into the city to help the poor. Once, when he thus dressed, he saw a workman helping to build a new city wall. But in the process, he was trampling the bishop’s vineyard. Ubaldus made a humble suggestion that he should be more careful. But the workman refused. Instead he berated Ubaldus, then threw him into a pile of wet cement! The humble bishop picked himself up, and simply went home as though nothing happened. But when the people of the town found out what happened to their beloved bishop, they were outraged. They hauled the scoundrel workman to the town court, and demanded that he be exiled from the town. However, Ubaldus himself came to the court, greeted the workman with a kiss and forgave him. In so doing, he convinced the other townsmen to drop their complaint too.

saint-ubaldus-baldassini-01Ubaldus defended his people again when the Emperor Frederick Barbarossa laid siege to the city for supporting the Pope over himself. Ubaldus personally went out to the camp to see the Emperor, like Leo I meeting Attila the Hun. The gentleness and piety of Ubaldus convinced Frederick to peacefully reconcile with the city instead of destroying it.

Ubaldus died on Pentecost in 1168 after a two year long illness. After his death, many people flocked to his tomb and received miraculous intercession. Especially in cases of demonic possession. For this reason his the patron saint against demonic possession.

The collect for his feast day is:

Help us, O Lord, and stretch out Your right hand in compassion to save us from the wickedness of the devil, through the intercession of Your blessed confessor bishop Ubaldus. Through Our Lord . . .

More info on St. Ubaldus:

Catholic Encyclopedia

Patron Saint Index

Butler’s Lives of the saints.



Saint of the Month – Isidore the Farmer  

SaintIsidoreFarmerIsidore was born in 1070 in Madrid, Spain.  He was named after St. Isidore of Seville.  His parents were poor, but very devout.  When Isidore was old enough to work, he hired himself out to wealthy land owner, where he worked for the rest of his life.  He married a young lady as humble and pious as himself, who also became a saint, Maria de la Cabeza.

On his holidays, Isidore was know to visit various churches around Madrid, making mini pilgrimages as he was able.  On work days, he would get up early and go to Mass every day before work.  Once, the other hands on the farm complained that he was spending too much time going to Mass and taking breaks for prayers.  When his master headed out to the chapel to reprimand Isidore for not working, he saw an angel in the field pushing Isidore’s plow.  At other times, when he was plowing, there would be an angel on either side of him plowing too, so that in the time he spent plowing, he got three times as much work done.  Even though he always put God first, his regular duties on the farm never went neglected.

Isidore was well known for his simple hearted kindness towards men and beasts.  Once when he was hauling a sack of corn to the mill to be ground up, he saw a flock of hungry birds pecking at the barren ground.  Moved with pity for them, he emptied half his sack of corn for them.  The other workers laughed at him, but when he got to the mill, his corn produced twice as much flour as expected!

Isidore also took great pity on those even less fortunate than himself.  He shared his meals with any poor man he met, and often brought hungry people back to his house.  There is a story that on one occasion he brought back an unusually large number of people.  The stew his wife made was not enough for everyone.    Isidore urged her to check again.  Maria scraped out the pot, and enough stew came out to fill the rest of the bowls.

St. Isidore teaches us that holiness is not only for those with exceptional careers, but also for those who lead ordinary lives.  He shows us how to love God by his piety, by tending to his duties with simplicity and straightforwardness, by the kindness he showed to his fellow men, and by his care for animals and all of God’s creation.

The feast of St. Isidore the Farmer is on May 15th.  He is the Patron saint of farmers, laborers, Madrid Spain, and the United States Bishop’s National Rural Conference among other things.


More on Catholic Online

Catholic Encyclopedia

Patron Saint Index

Saint of the Month – John Of God  

saint-john-of-godBorn in Portugal in 1495, John was separated from his parents at the age of 8.  He found himself an orphan on the streets of town near Toledo, Spain.  He was eventually taken in, and given work as shepherd.  Even at his young age he impressed his master with his hard work and piety.  When John grew up into a man, the farmer offered him is daughter in marriage.  But John did not want to get married, so one day he enlisted with group of soldiers who were passing by on their way to fight the Turks.

John spent most of the next twenty years as a soldier, but also went back to shepherding for a time, then traveled to Africa.  After being advised by his confessor that being in Africa was not good for his spiritual growth, he headed back to Spain.  He received a vision from God that he should go to Granada, which he promptly did.  There he sold religious books for a short time after the printing press was invented.

On day, after he heard the preaching of St. John of Avila, he was so impressed, that he gave away all his worldly goods and did public penance for his past life.  He had not been especially attentive to his religious duties during his days as a soldier.  He was so vehement in his penances that people thought he had gone mad, and he was put in a mental hospital.  John of Avila came to see him, and convinced him that he should spend his time helping the poor, instead of punishing himself.  John gained peace of heart from this, and soon left the hospital.

He rented a modest house.  He then went about the city looking for the poorest, and most infirm people he could find.  He brought them back to his house to care for them, sometimes even carrying them on his own shoulders.  At first he was alone in his work, caring for the poor and sick by day, and begging for the supplies he needed at night.  Eventually he gained the help of charitable priests and physicians, and others who followed his lead.

After thirteen years of mortification, prayer, and devotion to his patients, he died on March 8, 1550.  He succumbed to an illness he contracted after trying to rescue a young man from drowning.

St. John of God’s followers established a religious institute called the Brothers Hospitallers of St. John of God.  The order quickly spread and they founded many hospitals and other institutions to help the poor and sick.  This order is still around today, all over the world, including right here in South Jersey where they run St. John of God school for the mentally disabled.

Among other things, he is the patron saint of hospitals and sick people.

Catholic Encyclopedia article.

Patron Saint Index (but the bio seems somewhat inaccurate).

Hospitallers web site.

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