La Croix: Does scouting pay particular attention to welcoming young people who come from non-believing families?
Xavier de Verchère: Yes, our movement is attentive to these young people. This welcome is essential as a movement of the first encounter with Christ. Our reading of the Gospel calls us to this pastoral and spiritual attitude. The diversity of the young people received inevitably has an impact on the movement.
→ READ. A new president with a “long scout past” for the Unit Scouts of France
These are divided into roughly three equivalent thirds: the first starts from a “blank sheet” and discovers the Church through scouting; the second is made up of Catholics not invested in a parish but at ease with a Church that celebrates; the third brings together young practitioners enrolled in Catholic schools, etc. Wherever parents are among these three groups, they know where they are going by registering their child: in a Catholic movement, in which they trust.
To parents who fear too strong an impregnation, on their child, of the denominational dimension of the movement, what do you answer?
XdV: I recall the absolute respect for the interiority of each child, the dignity of the person, religious freedom, which results in the freedom for everyone to believe or not. I also explain to them that in scouting, everyone participates in all the activities: this supposes not to invest only in what one prefers between the spiritual times, the games, the services… It is intrinsic to the scouting.
On a second level, I am inspired by the remark of Jesus, in the Gospel of John: “If you don’t believe me, at least believe because of the works themselves” (Jn 14:11). We do not ask young people to have faith: we offer it, without imposing it. By joining the movement, there is an adhesion to its educational project. Afterwards, each member makes his way there: the scout is an explorer who rereads his life and has never finished discovering a new horizon that he can link, freely, to transcendence in order to live the Duty towards God.
How does a young person’s participation in Scouting “move” their family?
XdV: The story of what a child experiences in the movement can have a huge impact. When he tells his family that he lived “a time of prayer”, that he attended Mass, many parents are surprised to hear their child talk about things they did not expect because they they don’t even talk about it. The child plays the role of witness, in a very spontaneous way.
The participation in a back-to-school mass, with a dynamic and joyful assembly or the celebration during which young people make their promises are all events that shake up a family. His parents discover a fraternal community in which everyone gives a helping hand, laughs, lives this unity between faith and life in a certain coherence.
To the point of making the elders progress?
XdV: Why not ? Five years ago, I met a father, a trainee preparing for the certificate of aptitude for the functions of director, who was to approach fifty. At the start, her daughter had been Jeannette and requested baptism at age eight. This man, subsequently, was called to become a group leader, in a position to accompany leaders, aged between 20 and 23, which meant working with a chaplain, a spiritual animator. Called to an educational responsibility, witness to the road traveled by his daughter, he began a journey towards baptism.