How do you explain the attraction that chivalry still exerts in a world hooked on Wi-Fi that shuns knightly virtue?
The soul yearns for authenticity and purpose and the ideals of chivalry give Catholic men direction and meaning. That's why boys flocked to the TFP Call to Chivalry Camp at Saint Louis de Montfort Academy to learn about the heroes and saints of Catholic Portugal. Starting on June 9, the ten-day program was packed with talks, outings, games and prayer.
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The boys rose early, had breakfast, and got on the bus for a special outing: Rock wall climbing. Not too far from the St. Louis de Montfort Academy, there is a large, professional indoor gym that offer all types of climbing scenarios and walls that present various challenges -- high, low, negative, technical. It's basically boy "heaven" in a controlled and safe environment. And since we have a large group, we were able to reserve the entire place just for the Call to Chivalry camp participants. Very exciting.
Five boys made it to the top of a 45-foot wall, while three were able to negotiate a more challenging ascent that had 90 degree outcrops. The climb demands a firm grip, forearm strength, team work, as well as mental focus and just plain old grit. The camaraderie among the boys flourished and it was easy for them to imagine how the Crusaders scaled the walls of Jerusalem to rescue the Holy Sepulcher of Our Lord from the sacrilegious grip of the Moslems.
After a picnic lunch, the boys were treated to ice cream at a local establishment. Who doesn't like ice cream, right?
Talks have been given on the following topics: What is Catholic Chivalry by Mr. Thomas Schneider; The Life of King Alfonso I of Portugal by Mr. James Donlon; Saint Nuno Alvares Pereira by Mr. Michael Chad Shibler; The Life of Alfonso of Albuquerque by Mr. Gregory Oehl; The Brown Scapular Devotion by Mr. Ted Huerena; The Message of Our Lady of Fatima by Mr. Peter Miller; and How to Make a Good Confession by Mr. Michael Chad Shibler.
St. Nuno's life really inspired the boys. He was a consummate warrior who displayed extraordinary devotion to Our Lady and great courage on the battlefield. At the end of his life, he joined the Carmelites as a donato or lay brother. Under his poor Carmelite habit he always wore full plate armor. The simple mention of his name instilled instant fear in the Muslims.
On Sunday, the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass was celebrated at camp. Many boys went to Confession beforehand and after dinner there was an enrollment ceremony in the Brown Scapular of Our Lady of Mount Carmel for those who wished to receive it.
How much free time do we have? Very little. The days have been full of activities, games, talks and prayer. Even during the five or ten minute intervals of free time between activities, the boys run to the big oak tree outside, where two barrels of "weapons" are stored, and retrieve what seems to be their all-time favorite instruments of war: Foam swords. Soon the lawn is awash with battling boys who form impromptu alliances and draw up imaginary battle lines. It's good to see them have so much fun with simple foam swords. There's something to be said of the sword's timelessness. No smart phone, newfangled fidget spinner or video game -- which we deliberately don't have at Camp -- can measure up to the sword.
Two-Day Hiking Trip
The boys went on a 20-mile hiking trip to Hawk Mountain. The beautiful, rocky and rugged trail offered many challenges, especially since the boys had to backpack most of their gear and carry sufficient water to stay hydrated all day. Along the way there was a cave to explore, which was big enough to fit sixteen people inside. The trek gave us the opportunity to admire other marvels of God's creation. At the summit of the mountain, where eagles soar, a group rosary was prayed.
The campsite was setup with ample tents and a large fire ring where we made our meals. Why does camp food taste so good? Is it the long hike?
Camping Under the Stars
The boys collected enough fire wood to last a week even though we only spent one night under the stars. The weather was excellent. And the boys did very well on the hike. We only had one minor injury -- a sprained ankle. To help the poor boy who was in considerable pain, a makeshift stretcher was assembled using two flagpoles and numerous leather belts. Then volunteers took turns carrying the boy downhill for a good mile. These unplanned events are the sort of experiences that last a lifetime.
On the drive back, we stopped at Cabela's for a brief visit then had frozen custard.
After dinner on Friday (homemade pizza), the boys enjoyed a presentation on Portuguese bullfighting. Before going to bed we sang the Salve Regina -- a daily custom -- in front of our small outdoor shrine dedicated to Our Lady of Grace. Exhausted by the long hike, no one objected to the earlier-than-usual bedtime.
Every morning for the flag raising we sing the Creed, then march off to breakfast singing We Want God, a hymn composed by St. Louis de Montfort. A local priest joined us for breakfast under the big white tent, bedecked with medieval flags, and kindly made himself available to hear Confessions before the beginning of the much anticipated Treasure Hunt. Many boys availed themselves of the grace of Confession.
Now, the Treasure Hunt begins. Teams are chosen. Excitement is in the air. But both teams had handicaps: one team carries a team member inside a full-size canoe -- not an easy task to perform while running up and down hills. On the other team, each member had to successfully hit a target with a tomahawk before proceeding to their next clue. The theme of the Treasure Hunt was set to the sixteenth century period of exploration, when the great and saintly Portuguese explorer of India, Afonso de Albuquerque, lost his treasure in the untimely sinking of one of his ships called Flor do Mar (Flower of the Sea).
Well, after a long and grueling search, the long-lost treasure of the Flor do Mar was discovered in a wet, rural Pennsylvania creek bed. Don't ask how it reached the New World. Its contents are mostly edible of the sweet tooth sort.
There was a fair amount of competition throughout the camp with five different tournaments: Tomahawk throw, ping-pong, chess, archery, and the memorization of the Ten Commandments of Chivalry. Prizes went to the winners.
History of the Sword
Classic fencing master Roark Mitzell delivered a riveting, hands-on presentation about the history of swords and swordsmanship. A gifted teacher, he's studied original medieval fencing manuscripts and has the ability to make history come alive, not to mention all the swords and armor he brings to show and demonstrate with. It's a real treat for everyone.
Please pray for all the campers and counselors, that we stand strong as a new generation of Catholic heroes to fight for God and Holy Mother Church in our challenging times.
What Parents Say
"Wow! I am so very impressed with the camp results! Christopher came home a changed boy... Into a young man. I am happy beyond words. He talked for two straight hours on the ride home about St. Nuno Alvares. I had heard his story, but nothing like this! I now know every detail of his life... And when we prayed a rosary the night I brought him home he stood at attention and prayed the rosary looking at the Crucifix! Our Lady was surely there with you all!!"
Mrs. P. F.
"Joseph had a great time at your camp. I am grateful for all that your staff did at the camp. He came back with a little more confidence and zeal. He was on fire for his faith, and talked non-stop about Our Lady and Fatima. That is great!"
Mr. and Mrs. A. M.