Boys, Chivalry and Adventure in the Ozarks

By Elias Bartel   
December 19, 2013

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Fierce cold and wind of a wintry night greeted everyone upon arrival. The White River, a stone’s throw away, could be heard flowing by softly. Looking across the moonlit river, a cliff could be barely made out. Thus, the third Call to Chivalry Winter Camp was transported to the Scandinavian fjords, setting the stage for what was to be an adventurous and grace-filled camp. It was sponsored by TFP–Louisiana and held in the Ozarks of Arkansas at the junction of the White and Buffalo Rivers.


This year’s theme was about Viking history and heroes. Their name brings to mind horn-helmed wild men from the north sailing in dragon-shaped longboats to burn and destroy everything in sight. Excepting the horns, much of that did happen. Looking deeper into their history, however, one finds an amazing rich Catholic treasure.

In the Middle Ages, saints like Saint Brigit of Sweden, King Saint Olaf of Norway, and Saint Thorlok of Iceland, to name a few, walked those frozen lands. The Vikings also participated in the Crusades. King Sigurd of Norway took part in the First Crusade, the first king to go on one.  They were also bold adventurers.  For example, Leif Erickson, a Catholic, discovered Vinland, modern-day Newfoundland.  Camp participants enjoyed learning about their thirst for adventure and their relentless pursuit of greater horizons.

Each day bustled with activity.

The cabins in which campers stayed were cozy and warm, a welcome respite from the frigid weather outside. Visiting each one in the morning was a delight because each cabin developed its own esprit de corps. How sad it is today that the simple joy of being in the company of others is often ignored by a growing intrusion of electronic gadgets. But here, boys gladly put their gadgets into a cardboard box for the duration of the program.

After breakfast, the day starts with the proclamation of the Catholic Faith with the singing of the Nicene Creed in Latin. To shake off the frost, games such as shield ball and dodge ball were played.  After this game period, talks were given on devotion to Our Lady, the meaning of true friendship, Viking exploits and their colorful life, and their conversion to the Catholic Faith.  Lunch, prepared by the dads, followed soon after. The afternoon schedule resembled that of the morning. To end the day the Salve Regina was sung and, thoroughly worn out and longing for the warmth of their cabins, campers went to bed.

Among the highlights of the camp was a hike to the summit of the cliff crowning the river valley. After making it to the top, the Creed was sung. As the words, “I believe in One God” were recited, a bald eagle suddenly flew by catching everyone’s attention. After praying the rosary, time was given for exploration. Once it was time to go, the eagle came soaring back as if on a final salute to those on the mountain. What a marvel it was to see the symbol of our country flying by at the first words of the Creed! Another highlight was the campfire. Everybody gathered around the blazing fire to roast marshmallows for "shmores" and sing songs.

On the final day, the Medieval Games were played. The names of the teams’ patron saints could be heard followed by “pray for us,” and slogans like “youth was made not for pleasure, but for heroism,” rang out.  Under a spacious tent bedecked with medieval flags, candlelight giving a warm glow, aroma of wonderful food in the air, and presided over by a statue of Our Lady, the Medieval Banquet was held.  Smoked trout, which the dads caught while braving icy temperatures on the river, was served. Two traditional cakes of Scandinavia were served, the Swedish frystekake and the Norwegian blotkake, kindly baked by one of the mothers.

Already looking forward to the next Call to Chivalry camp event, campers departed enriched by new friends, inspired by the examples of the Saints, and ready to follow the virtuous maxims of Catholic chivalry in the 21st Century.

No. Chivalry is not dead.

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