“Long Live Christ the King!”
Such was the call to action that inspired thousands of Mexican Catholics to take up arms in defense of the faith during the bloody persecution against the Church in Mexico in the 1920s. Brave Catholics uttered the same cry moments before they were executed by the tyrannical government they had justly opposed, filling the ranks of heaven with a new generation of martyrs.
That generation of Catholic heroes, the Cristeros, has passed away, yet the persecution of the Church continues in our day. Catholics around the world, particularly in the Middle East, are oppressed and killed for their faith. Public blasphemy and church desecrations are on the rise in both the United States and Europe. Moreover, progressive dissidents attack the Church from within, seeking to change Her holy teaching and divinely instituted hierarchical structure.
However, a new generation of young Catholics at the 2019 TFP-Louisiana Call to Chivalry Camp has stepped forward to fight for Christ the King. Their cry is the same as the martyrs of Mexico who came before them: Viva Cristo Rey!
From July 2-8, dozens of young men and their fathers gathered not only to benefit from the militant Catholic formation and adventures that mark every TFP summer camp, but to learn how to defend the rights of the Church as their Cristero forebears did.
One of the goals of the Call to Chivalry camps is to enrich the intellect with a profound knowledge and admiration for the faith, chivalry, and Catholic culture. In a nod to this year’s camp theme, lectures and presentations focused on the Catholic history of Mexico. The participants learned how Hernan Cortes conquered the mighty Aztec empire for cross and crown against overwhelming odds, paving the way for the conversion of the Indians through the marvelous apparitions of Our Lady of Guadalupe.
Several talks recounted the heroic resistance of the Cristeros against the anti-Catholic regime of Plutarco Calles. The boys listened as zealous priests such as Blessed Miguel Pro traveled throughout Mexico in disguise, secretly administering the sacraments until he was eventually caught and martyred while calmly facing the firing squad, shouting “Viva Cristo Rey!” There was also the inspiring story of another valiant Cristero martyr, the 15-year old Saint Jose Sanchez del Rio, told through an artfully performed play.
In the cultural sphere, the boys were treated to a delicious Mexican dinner graciously provided by several of the Mexican mothers. The menu included three different kinds of enchiladas, Mexican rice, and refried beans. Several boys agreed: “It was the best meal of the camp.”
Between talks the boys rushed outside to compete in a rugged mixture of games such as shield-ball, French-football, dodge ball, paintball, swimming, rock-wall climbing, and archery. They especially enjoyed playing capture-the-flag with foam swords, shields, and bows, and “prison-break” in the dark.
In a further test of wits and endurance, the boys were divided into two teams and sent on a treasure hunt. Eight clues were hidden throughout the 220-acre property. Finally, after a grueling search the ultimate goal was found: A large wooden chest overflowing with candy. Victory went to the team that showed the most teamwork, strategy, and sportsmanship.
Because the Ten Commandments of Chivalry call us to love the country in which we were born, the Fourth of July has always been marked with a special solemnity at this camp. After the usual wake-up and inspection of bedrooms, participants formed outside for a solemn raising of Old Glory while the TFP band played the Star Spangled Banner. For lunch, several dads cooked a delectable barbecue.
At the end of the day, a parade was organized to the retired Navy destroyer USS Kidd, moored on the Mississippi River in Baton Rouge, to watch a fireworks display. Dressed in heraldic scapulars, marching in cadence to the shrill notes of bagpipes and beating of drums, and with a large American flag in lead, the sharp display drew eager applause from bystanders.
Another major highlight was the Vigil of Arms. Once everyone was formed in the meeting room, a relic of the True Cross was solemnly brought in, escorted by TFP members in their ceremonial habit. After a short meditation, everyone had the opportunity to venerate the relic, repeating “Viva Cristo Rey!” as they genuflected.
Everyone took turns spending half an hour in prayer before the sacred relic of the True Cross through the night.
On Sunday, after attending the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass at St. Agnes, the young men took a stand for moral values by participating in a pro-life campaign in Baton Rouge. Forming on a busy street corner under the hot sun, camp participants prayed the rosary while holding signs encouraging vehicles to honk against abortion and shouted slogans such as, "If America fails to protect the unborn, America fails to protect her future!" Many cars honked enthusiastically, while a few malcontents shouted or cursed.
“The chivalry camp is a nightmare for cultural Marxists,” one observer said, “because it trains the boys to be real men, great debaters, great leaders, and fearless fighters.”
On the final day, the participants divided into two teams for the much anticipated medieval games, each with their own scapulars, battle cry and patron saint. Through the afternoon, they competed in a large field marked with red TFP standards and colorful medieval pennants as relatives and parents cheered on. An obstacle course race further tested the endurance and teamwork abilities of the young men.
Having showered and put on their best apparel, boys and parents alike participated in a final rosary procession, which meandered its way solemnly to the banquet hall. Fr. Keenan Brown blessed the food, and trumpets sounded the entrance of a mouthwatering roasted pig -- Cajun style -- borne on the shoulders of four lads. The castle cake dessert, a striking representation of the Alcazar of Segovia, Spain, was also solemnly brought in to “oohs!” and “aas!” A team of dedicated moms put days of work into this culinary masterpiece.
At the conclusion of the banquet, TFP-Louisiana volunteer Cesar Franco addressed the young men, challenging them to put the lessons they had learned into practice, even when it means “going against the grain” of our wayward culture.
Each participant received a handmade souvenir as a memento of the graces they received at the camp: a wooden plaque displaying a Cristero soldier kneeling in prayer before Our Lady of Guadalupe.
It was evident that the battle cry of those valiant heroes, etched on the plaque, was very much alive in the souls of a new generation of boys who attended this camp:
“Viva Cristo Rey!”
Another TFP camp was held in Illinois. Here's a video of that event.
See how the boys at the TFP camp in Pennsylvania took a bold stand for the Bladensburg Cross.