It is no secret that manhood is in crisis. News headlines carry tragic stories of young men committing mass shootings, overdosing on drugs, and viewing pornography. As the notion of true manhood is increasingly obscured and scorned, parents face formidable obstacles in instilling manly piety and gentlemanly courtesy in their boys. Peer pressure beckons boys to abandon morals to pursue a life of pleasure and self-centeredness. Disillusioned youth are searching for an ideal, a cause to live for beyond petty self-interest.
That is why so many young men and parents love the Call to Chivalry Camps, which are designed to provide an antidote to the crisis in manhood. These educational programs form mind, body, and soul in an authentically Catholic atmosphere, training boys to go against the current when it is trendy to be vulgar and egoistic. These camps have proven, time and time again, to be a great success, attracting hundreds of boys who thirst for the ideals of Chivalry.
On June 6, dozens of boys ages 12 to 18 trooped to St. Louis de Montfort Academy in Herndon, Pennsylvania to participate in what would be an unforgettable ten-day adventure chock-full of educational talks, hardy outdoor games, exciting excursions, and spiritual formation.
With rooms assigned and luggage in place, the boys got acquainted with each other as they ran off to play with foam swords. Soon after, everyone gathered for roll call formation and a lecture on the rules of the camp and the importance of Catholic chivalry. There was time to sign up for the archery, chess, ping-pong, and tomahawk-throwing tournaments. Next: Rosary procession and dinner, followed by an exciting game of “prison break” before calling it a night with final prayers -- the Salve Regina.
The first 2018 Call to Chivalry camp was already off to a good start.
Saints and Heroes
Each camp has its own theme and this year was dedicated to Catholic England, a topic that resonates with America's British roots. Throughout the program, educational talks recounted the lives of England’s greatest Catholic heroes for the boys to admire and imitate. They followed the Irish monk Saint Brendan on his voyage to the new world, 300 years before Christopher Columbus, and King Richard the Lionheart’s legendary exploits on the Third Crusade. They had a ringside seat to the great turmoil surrounding King Henry VIII’s schism from Rome, resulting in the martyrdom of St. Thomas More and St. John Fisher whose steadfast loyalty to the papacy never wavered. They listened attentively to the history of brave priests such as St. John Ogilvie and St. Edmund Campion who risked their lives to minister to underground Catholics, often under the very noses of Protestant priest hunters.
In the cultural sphere, lively video presentations introduced the boys to the marvelous world of British royalty and military ceremony and etiquette, imparting a genuine appreciation for English culture and tradition.
One highlight of the camp was a shadow play about the life of Father John Gerard, a Jesuit priest who traveled throughout England in disguise, secretly administering the Sacraments and celebrating the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. He was eventually captured and imprisoned in the Tower of London, but despite months of cruel torture and abuse, he managed to escape and avoid recapture.
Games and Hikes
Boys are full of energy, so between talks, they rushed to the game field to play shield ball, dodge ball, capture the flag, water-balloon and sword-fights, and tug-of-war. Besides these, there were other outdoor adventures such as skeet shooting, a hike among the magnificent waterfalls of Ricketts Glen State Park in Pennsylvania, and a challenging, yet rewarding treasure hunt. In the evening, the boys gathered around a roaring campfire to toast marshmallows and listen to stories about St. John Bosco or big-game hunting in Africa.
While intellectual and physical formation are important, a true knight must strive to be above all, a militant son of the Church. With this end in mind, the camp aimed to foster piety through Holy Mass, Confession, and the daily recitation of the rosary. Like the knights of old, all eagerly took part in an all-night Vigil of Arms before a relic of the True Cross.
Chivalry in Action
The Code of Chivalry states that the knight must defend the Church. In that spirit, on June 9, camp participants had the opportunity to go to New York City. Armed with signs and rosaries, the boys were happy to publicly defend their faith against the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s blasphemous and sacrilegious exhibit, “Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination.” After enjoying a delicious lunch in Central Park, the trip culminated with a quick tour of the magnificent St. Patrick’s Cathedral.
The final day ushered in the much anticipated Medieval Games. Under the smiling gaze of Our Lady, two teams of boys donned on their medieval scapulars and faced off in a series of outdoor games in the hope of achieving victory. Despite the rough and tumble competition, everyone displayed teamwork and gracious conduct, which flows naturally from the practice of the Chivalric spirit. After a final round of tug-o-war the grueling obstacle course started.
Having showered and dressed in best apparel, participants were joined by their fathers for a final solemn rosary procession with a statue of Our Lady of Fatima. The procession concluded at the entrance of the dining tent now transformed into a magnificent banquet hall. A delightful meal of various barbecued meats, mashed potatoes, and cornbread, topped off by a splendid castle cake, a miniature replica of the Tower of London.
At the conclusion of the banquet, prizes were awarded to the various winners of the tournaments and each boy received a beautiful statue of a crusader knight as a memento of the blessings he had received. But before the camp could come to an official close, trumpets blasted to announce the arrival of an unexpected guest. It was King Henry V, decked in a scintillating suit of armor, to give a final word of encouragement to the participants with a stirring rendition of Shakespeare’s famous St. Crispin’s Day Speech.
Accepting the Call
Despite the rising tide of secularism and paganism in our times, these camps continue to attract young men and therefore, offer a glimmer of hope in Our Lady’s coming triumph. May the Blessed Mother raise up a new generation of Catholic heroes to fight the good fight for the conversion of America and the world.