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Sunday, July 31, 2016

Camp Calls Catholic Boys to Practice Chivalry, Defend the Unborn

Camp Calls Catholic Boys to Practice Chivalry, Defend the Unborn 

John Ritchie

 The following are highlights of the 10-day adventure at the Call to Chivalry Camp in rural Pennsylvania, which took place at the St. Louis de Montfort Academy from June 8-18, 2016.  The theme of the event focused on the heroes and saints of Catholic Spain.

Thursday, June 9:

After a sausage and egg breakfast, the boys gathered for their first outdoor rosary in front of a statue of Our Lady of Grace as a group.  The weather has been unusually pleasant but cool, beautiful and windy and the rays of the sun helped warm us up during the prayers.

Then off to the first talk of the day about St. Ferdinand III of Castille.  He embodied all the virtues of a Catholic knight and King.  Like two sides of the Gothic arch, he was both brave and pious, always exhibiting a special devotion to Mary, and under his leadership Spain was largely freed of Moorish occupation. He always carried on his horse a small statue of Mary into battle.

The boys played dodge-ball, French football, capture the flag (a special sword version), and learned some new songs, including one of Saint Louis de Montfort's own compositions, We Want God.

The second talk of the day was about Spanish castles, shrines and cathedrals.  The shrine of Our Lady of the Pillar was highlighted, of course, because it is the oldest shrine in the world built in 40 A.D. to honor the Virgin Mary.   The small statue of Our Lady of the Pillar was brought by angels to Saint James the Apostle who evangelized that part of Europe before he was martyred.  The story is fascinating.

A local priest arrived in the afternoon to hear Confessions.  And many of the boys availed themselves of that grace.

Right now, as the sky darkens, the boys are preparing for their first game of "prison break" -- a camp favorite. They will be running around in the dark with flashlights and what seems to be an unlimited amount of energy.  Pray for the staff so that their energy keeps up too...

Friday, June 10:

Just a few highlights...

In the morning, we had field games and a talk about Don Pelayo, the Catholic hero who began the Reconquista of Spain from a forlorn cave known as Covadonga.  His ragtag band of some 300 brothers-in-arms faced an organized Muslim army of 60,000 -- and won.  Again, it was the miraculous intervention of Divine Providence and the Blessed Virgin Mary that won the day at Covadonga.

In the afternoon, we went to Lewisburg for a pro-life rosary demonstration.  As you can imagine it was difficult for rush hour traffic to miss such a sight -- 55 boys and young men holding signs, many asking cars and trucks to "honk for life."  And honk they did.  The public response was decisively favorable to the pro-life message, especially the truck drivers who enjoyed blaring their loud horns. The boys loved it.  From what we could tell, about 75% of the public agreed with the pro-life message, while 10% were opposed and 15% just indifferent.
A team of camp counselors and students made a variety of homemade pizzas for dinner, which included blue cheese, margarita, and salmon and avocado.  I can tell you that a lot of pizzas vanished in a few minutes.

We finished the day around a campfire with s'mores.  Mr. Thomas Schneider read a collection of riveting big game hunting stories.  We sang the Salve Regina (Hail Holy Queen) and everyone is now in bed.

Saturday, June 11:

1,000 water balloons in 15 minutes...  That's how many watery projectiles were exchanged by either team at camp today.

After a full day of games -- indoor and outdoor -- and a few talks the boys are starting to show signs of fatigue, as are camp counselors.  Therefore, Sunday will offer a good time for us to get a bit more rest.

One way to measure how much energy was spent during field games today was to count how many pitchers of water were served out at lunch.  TFP volunteer Damien Murphy reports that he served 40 pitchers of water. Wow. That's almost 1 pitcher of water per boy.  But with all the physical activity it is vital for them to stay well hydrated, with frequent water breaks throughout the day.

Mr. Byron Whitcraft, a teacher at St. Louis de Montfort Academy, gave us a talk about the importance of devotion to Mary, especially the role of the holy rosary.  The message of Fatima (1917) and the miraculous victory at the Battle of Lepanto highlighted the need and efficacy of our best spiritual weapon -- the devout recitation of the daily rosary.

Our evening talk was about the marvelous Medieval Order and how the philosophy of the Gospel permeated all levels of society, both temporal and spiritual.  The presentation also explained how Christendom was dismantled piece by piece or seriously attacked by three major events:  1) Humanism and Protestantism, 2) the French Revolution and its ideas of total equality, and 3) Communism and its attack on family and property.

During every break, the boys gravitate to the foam swords in the yard for impromptu skirmishes.

Finally, we capped off the day with a skit about the hero of Covadonga, Don Pelayo.  The boys seemed to really enjoy the theatrical presentation also known as a Chinese shadow.

Sunday, June 12:  

We were blessed to have the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass at the Academy at 5:30 p.m.

Also on Sunday the boys attended a talk about the Siege of Granada by Mr. Joseph Jordan and later in the day they learning about El Cid Campeador with Mr. Michael Gorre.  Both of these talks illustrated important milestones of the Reconquest, the theme of our camp.

Tournaments:  During the day, the boys enjoyed participating in various tournaments -- archery, tomahawk throw, ping-pong and chess.

After dinner there was a torch-lit rosary procession with a statue of Our Lady of Fatima.

When squires were knighted in the Middle Ages they spent one entire night awake and in prayer at a Vigil of Arms. The ceremony included a 24-hour period of fasting as well.  In that same chivalrous spirit, the boys at camp spent the night in their own Vigil of Arms, praying before a relic of the True Cross flanked by two large candles in the chapel.  However, each boy only took a half-hour shift and the 24-hour fast was not observed.

Monday, June 13:

After reveille, room inspection, and the flag raising ceremony we had breakfast (bacon, eggs, toast, coffee).

As I write, the boys are playing paint ball at Ski Roundtop (near Harrisburg). On the way there, they sang crusader songs on the bus. Staff members barbecued a hardy lunch for them near the field of action.

This evening after dinner there will be a talk about St. Ignatius of Loyola and the Company of Jesus followed by a rosary procession and stories around the camp fire with a skit focusing on St. John Bosco's advice for boys.

Tuesday, June 14:

Courtesy and good manners are chivalrous for sure.  It's part of Christian Civilization.

Therefore, at one of the daily meals, two rules of etiquette are imparted to the boys by Academy teacher Mr. Byron Whitcraft.  Today's rules pertained to learning how to eat what is served, not only what one likes (i.e. having three bowls of ice cream and refusing to eat vegetables...) and how to indicate that one is satisfied by the position of the silverware on the plate.

For all the meals, Chivalry camp at the Academy also uses real china dishware and cloth tablecloths.  Yes, sometimes there is breakage, but the boys benefit from the formal setting which is so befitting the lofty ideals of knighthood, and lends itself so well to help elevate the atmosphere and favor respectful conversation and friendship.  Catholic culture is a whole package, a lofty ideal that permeates every aspect of life, and we should live it to the best of our ability.

Our morning talk today was about the Siege of the Alcazar of Toledo during the Spanish Civil War (1936 to 1939), a revolution that martyred some 8,000 priests and religious, including 13 bishops.  The Alcazar, however -- held by Catholic troops under the command of Col. Jose Moscardo -- resisted multiple attacks and a very long siege, but finally saw victory.

Other activities today:  Choir practice, field games, archery, and ping-pong.

One of the songs we learned is La Virgen Maria in Spanish.  We also sang The Terrible HuntersO SanctisimaO Rome Eternal, and We Want God.

The afternoon talk was about the Culture Revolution.  Mr. James Bascom explained how advertising, fashions and architecture influence ideas and behavior and contribute to
undermine moral values in society.  The boys had many questions and even chimed in from time to time with their own observations and comments.  It was a good learning experience.

Wednesday, June 15:

The boys spent the greater part of the day hiking at Ricketts Glen State Park.  The 4-mile trek follows a mountain stream that cuts through a beautiful and dense forest with dozens of stunning water falls to admire (and cool off in).  The trail goes up and down some rough and steep terrain.

But only the bravest boys joined the trout for a brief swim in the freezing water.  The mountain water was so cold that they exited as fast as they had entered.  We even had live bagpipe music along the way courtesy of TFP member Evan Olwell who played at intervals during the journey.  At the end of the trail, Mr. James Slobodnik was waiting for us with over 100 freshly grilled hamburgers, chips, Gatorade and water.

By 5:00 all the boys had showered.

As the boys were having root beer floats under the large tent an elaborate skit about the Siege of the Alcazar took place.

At the end of the day, we sang the Salve Regina in the Flag Corridor under a light rain and everyone went off to bed.

Thursday, June 16:

At 8:00 a.m. a visiting priest celebrated the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass at the Academy.  It was an unmerited blessing for all the boys and staff members to hear Mass at camp.

After breakfast the long-awaited treasure hunt kicked off.  The intricate hunt with dozens of puzzles, riddles and decoding, teamwork and perseverance lasted approximately 4 hours.  When the buried treasure chest was at last unearthed loud cheers could be heard echoing across the valley.  Joy was in the air. Those happy cheers, however, turned into puzzled bewilderment when the top of the chest was finally lifted open. What?!  Was it a false treasure? Yes. Before their eyes lay not candy and other refreshments, but water balloons. Lots of water balloons. What seemed like victory turned into a "pirate ambush" and off the boys went in search of the true treasure.

The boys attended a talk by Mr. Peter Miller about the Pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela, the shrine to Saint James the Apostle located in Northwestern Spain, which for millennia has been a famous site of pilgrimage.  In their dreams all the boys will probably be making plans to walk the 300 mile pilgrim's Way to Santiago.

Friday, June 17:  Fencing master Roark Mitzell, who teaches classical fencing at St. Louis de Montfort Academy, gave us a two-hour sword demonstration.  He held our undivided attention with the history of swords and armor and their development over the ages.  Not only did we handle swords from various historic epochs, but we also inspected an array of other medieval weapons, helmets, shields, spears, a mace and flail, chainmail, daggers and medieval manuscripts on battlefield techniques.  What more can a boy ask for?

Going from theory to practice, your son was giving the opportunity to cut a water jug in half with a sword.

The boys also attended an illustrated talk about Holy Week in Seville, Spain.

Saturday, June 18:  Medieval Games and Banquet

In many ways, Saturday was the highlight of the camp.

Divided into two teams the boys went to a big field near the Academy for the Medieval Games where they played shield ball, tug of war, French football, steal the bacon, mace and shield, and dodge ball.  During that period they also prayed a rosary and had lunch on the game field.

The final contest of the day was the running of the obstacle course. Hurdles, ropes, a dark tunnel and other obstacles had to be negotiated at top speed through thick woods.  Each team picked a patron Saint who they invoked throughout the day.

As the boys were spending every last drop of physical energy on the grueling competition -- the games went from about 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. -- the cooks were busy assembling all the ingredients that go into the famous Spanish paella: Spanish rice, chorizo, pork, chicken, onions, tomatoes, peppers, snow peas, regular peas, lobster, squid, clams, mussels, shrimp and other seasoning, including fresh garlic, thyme, saffron, chicken and shellfish stock and a generous dash of paprika.  The order in which all of these ingredients are added into the 40 inch circular pan is an art in itself.  In sum, the paella preparation entailed about 40 hours of work which was rewarding because the boys (and Dads) seemed to really enjoy it.  Also, Christian Civilization is savored in the small details of the dish that make it authentic and reflect the people and culture that created it.

Then a trumpet blast announced the entrance of dessert, a cake made to look like Manzanares Castle.  Its robust walls were soon demolished by all those hardy appetites.

Prizes and mementos were then distributed.  The handmade prizes were really special and original this year.  Mr. Alvaro Zapata carved them himself.  When I saw his final work, I wished I was a boy again...  Every camp participant received a bas-relief plaque with the image of El Cid, the hero who embodies the Catholic fighting spirit of Spain.

After dinner the camp came to a close.  As a group we prayed in thanksgiving to the Blessed Mother and all the crusader Saints for the successful camp.  May the graces and blessings that God granted us during this event flourish in our souls and help awaken a new generation of American Catholic heroes who will fight the good fight, with the same spirit of the Spanish Saints, to restore Christian Civilization in our beloved nation.

Upon leaving the banquet tent a brass quintet greeted us with live music -- Spanish pasodobles (music played at bullfights) and the Spanish Royal March (also known at camp as La Virgen Maria), among others.  While the music started up, fireworks shot high into the evening sky; the familiar booms, crackles and sparkles added a festive note to the last conversations and farewells.

Yes, the virtues of Chivalry live on.

Click here to get information about future camps.