Chivalry Inspires a New Generation at TFP Camp
|By Matthew Shibler|
|July 18, 2010|
People standing on the bank of the Mississippi River waiting for the Fourth of July fireworks smiled or clapped approvingly as young participants of the TFP Call to Chivalry made their way up the gangplank to the U.S.S. Kidd where they would watch the fireworks show. It was impossible to miss the parade of boys marching down the levee to the sound of drums and Scottish pipes on this Independence Day.
"Yes, chivalry!" exclaimed a policeman guarding the entrance ramp. "That is exactly what is missing in the world today."
Ever since 2002, TFP—Louisiana has been organizing a yearly ten-day adventure in rural East Feliciana Parish. It is no ordinary camp, but one where participants wake to the sound of bagpipes and drums at the early hour of 6:45 AM and start the day with prayer. After a quick shower they are summoned by the bell to an inspection of their rooms and a hearty breakfast is served before the camp participants attend the first talk of the day.
Challenging a New Generation
There is little time to be bored as the morning talk is followed by vigorous outdoor games and then by another lecture. Afternoon games are no less demanding physically but come with the added difficulty of near tropical heat. If the day is rainy, a game of charades dealing with the topic addressed in the previous talks is in order. Dinner is served and dispatched with gusto. A solemn rosary is prayed beneath Our Lady's maternal gaze during a torch lit rosary procession under the stars. Then, to close the day, a theatrical skit, video presentation or best of all a game called prison break is played. Finally, exhausted from a long day of prayer, study and games the young men tumble into bed and fall asleep.
Every year, the camp deals with a particular country or time in history when men had to stand up for their faith. This year's theme was Portugal. Lectures ranged from the foundation of the tiny nation through the direct intervention of Our Divine Savior to the awe inspiring message of Our Lady at Fatima in 1917. Also addressed were the countries discovered by Portugal and some incredible feats of heroism performed by the explorers who risked everything to bring glory to the Cross and Crown. Illustrious names such as King Afonso I, Saint Nuno Alvarez, Henry the Navigator, Blessed Jose de Anchieta, and Alfonso of Albuquerque could be heard during lively conversations at the dinner table as the boys went over the meetings heard throughout the camp.
Several audio-visual presentations and theatrical skits, starring a few of the camp participants themselves, were a tremendous success, and the actors did their bows while the enthusiastic audience showed their delight with applause.
Physical activities abounded too. Racing canoes on the lake, climbing the daunting rock wall and an exhilarating trip down the zip line were just of a few of the many daily challenges. Some new skills were learned such as medieval spear throwing and archery. Mock sword battles with padded weapons were a great success as were paintball wars in the thick tropical-looking forest surrounding the property. An exhausting hike in the Tunica Hills Park taught a poignant lesson of endurance.
The daily activities organized at the camp included old favorites like dodge ball, tether ball and volleyball. Swimming on a hot summer day is always refreshing, and while people don't normally think of icebergs in Louisiana, the TFP camp had one. This massive floating inflatable is a perfect platform from which to launch into the cool water below. There is nothing like a little exercise to dry off after a swim so the young men quickly ran a tough obstacle course carrying heavy canoes to emphasize teamwork.
Another test of perseverance was the Portuguese treasure hunt. During the treasure hunt, which took competing teams on a three hour trek, maps dealing with the adventurous exploration of the Indies or Brazil indicated the route to discovery.
Spiritual, Physical and Mental Formation
Everything at camp was done to develop the physical, mental and above all the spiritual wellbeing of the participants. Daily Communion and Confession were provided thanks to the self-sacrifice of Msgr. Robert Berggreen who came every day bringing the King of kings. His spiritual guidance and talks were much appreciated by the boys.
At least one rosary was part of the program every day and it was not rare to see one or another boy taking a quiet moment during the day to add an extra decade or two at the feet of the statue of Our Lady.
A high note during the camp was the Vigil of Arms. On that occasion the young squires took turns watching and praying in front of a relic of the Holy Cross throughout the night and into the next morning. Here in the quiet and dimly lit meeting hall was a perfect place to meditate and pray. These future knights were following the ancient ceremony of the Vigil of Arms practiced in the Middle Ages. It was a time to ponder one's past and to contemplate the future without forgetting for a moment the pressing needs of the present.
Medieval Games and Banquet
Finally came the much anticipated Medieval Games and banquet. During the entire camp, the young participants were introduced to novel games like French football, shield ball, steal the bacon and cavalry charges. Their new skills were put to the ultimate test in a chivalrous contest between two teams. Some of the parents who were invited to attend the final day even joined in on games like tug-o-war and ran the obstacle course. An archery contest rounded out a full day of games after which the boys headed to a victory feast in the newly renovated banquet hall. Tired, but for the moment satisfied, the valiant knights received a souvenir for having attended the camp. Many, while looking at their memento, a small shield emblazoned with the Cross of Christ, will remember the ideals taught at this camp and look forward to the next one.
Chivalric Virtues Lead the Way
In an age when the virtues and ideals of the Medieval knighthood are all too forgotten, a new generation is rallying around the standard of manly virtue and chivalrous conduct as a solution to the moral crisis shaking society. Many might laugh and consider such a stance anachronistic and backwards, but this does not dampen the ardor with which we proclaim the ideals of Catholic chivalry that hold so much promise and hope for the future. As our founder Plinio Correa de Oliveira explained, "The laughter of skeptics will never hinder the victorious march of those who have faith."
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