As I pulled into our church’s parking lot this morning for 7:30 a.m. mass I nearly ran into the back end of a tour bus. The bus was a traveling billboard for a Country and Western radio station so, filled with curiosity, I could hardly wait to see which Grand Ol’ Opry star was visiting St. Francis de Sales Catholic Church in Lebanon, Ohio.
When I walked through the doors of the church it was obvious there was not a country music star in attendance. Instead, there were what looked like fifty Boy Scouts sitting in the first few pews on Joseph’s side. Taking my usual place abreast from them on Mary’s side, I noticed their neckerchiefs, “Smokey-the-Bear” style hats or berets, khaki shirts, navy shorts and knee socks. The boys appeared to be in age from seven or eight years old to their late teens. But, looking out of the corner of my eye so as not to appear to be staring, I realized the patches and insignia were different than one would normally see on a BSA uniform.
As mass proceeded, I noticed that each boy, and each accompanying similarly attired adult, followed the mass to the letter. Then, as we walked forward to take communion, each boy dropped to both knees in genuflection before the Blessed Sacrament and took communion from our priest on the tongue rather than receive it by hand. Not only was I curious about who these kids were, I was tremendously impressed! They took their faith and adoration of Jesus in the Eucharist seriously!
After our priest gave the final blessing, I was further impressed when our guests knelt again, sang a song and prayed the St. Michael the Archangel intercessory prayer before standing and recessing in an orderly fashion. It was refreshing to see their love for the Lord instead of how fast they could get out of church.
Back in the foyer, our church’s gathering space, I just had to introduce myself to some of the men who appeared to be the leaders of the group. I wanted to know more about them. I learned they were not Boy Scouts, rather they were were Explorers in the Federation of North American Explorers (FNE). They were on their way home to Toronto, Canada from a trip to Florida and Georgia. They stopped by our community outside of Cincinnati because the only FNE chapter in Ohio is based at our sister parish, St. Philip the Apostle, in Morrow, Ohio.
Luckily, the gentleman with whom I was speaking was the leader of the local group. He gave me a few minutes of his time before he had to leave to take his group of hungry boys to a local restaurant for a buffet breakfast.
He explained that the Federation of North American Explorers is a Catholic faith-based, single gender, youth program that interweaves faith into the regular program of weekly meetings, field trips, seasonal camping trips, summer camps and international travel excursions. Groups of boys are led by men, and groups of girls are led by women. And, before having to rush to catch up with his charges, he told me his mission is to “Save souls and create living saints” out of these boys.
After I got home from mass, I searched on-line for the Federation of North American Explorers and I found their website Federation of North American Explorers. I became even more impressed!
There are 22 FNE groups across the United States and seven groups in Canada. The webpage explicitly states that they actively embrace and participate in the celebration of the Eucharist, pray together for each other, their families, and others in need, pray the Rosary together, and attend Eucharistic Adoration. They grow through service to others including feeding the poor and visiting the elderly.
Non-Catholic Christians are invited to join and participate in all activities except for reception of the Sacraments. The organization promotes respect for members of other faiths as part of their daily lives.
The intent of the FNE program is to shape “the character, social, environmental, spiritual, and leadership aspects of the child into his or her adult life.” They “deliver a Christ-centered program experience where each member strives to become an Ordinary Saint through love, service, hard work, dedication, honesty, integrity, compassion, courage, prudence and by embracing the Sacraments of the Church.”
The FNE is recognized as a private pontifical association of faithful by the Holy See as well as by local Archdioceses as a Catholic Lay Movement.
I was particularly impressed with the 10 points of “The Explorer’s Law”, those virtues that build character, and consisted of, among other things: honor, loyalty, service and charity. Each law is stated and then explained for clarity. The one that particularly caught my attention was:
Law #3 – An Explorer is made to serve and save his neighbor. “You cannot be a follower of Christ unless you are willing to sacrifice yourself for others, and the motive must always be for our Lord’s own sake….An Explorer must be prepared, first, by learning everything he can which can make him useful, and then by being always on the watch for the ‘good turn’ which he can do….There is one ‘good turn’ which you can do for anybody at any time, i.e. say a prayer for them. In this way you can give great help to many who need it, even if it is out of your power to be of use to them in any other way.”
As I learned more about the FNE, I felt a sense of relief. In a world that is consumed by individualism, relativism and materialism, to find an organization that is developing our future generations into Catholic men of character is a true breath of fresh air!
I love God-moments like these first thing in the morning, especially Monday mornings!
If readers in the Cincinnati/Lebanon, Ohio area are interested in the local chapter of FNE, you may contact Mr. Mark Glaser at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“Heavenly Father, I give you thanks for the adult volunteers who donate their time and energy to develop our children, the future of our Church, into Christ-loving men and women of character. Amen.”
(A Monday Morning Blessing was first published on the blog Reflections of a Lay Catholic)
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