It sounded like a crowd at a stadium as the cheering filtered through the Louisiana woods. It was not, however, a normal sporting event. Rather it was the closing “medieval games” at a Call to Chivalry camp where two teams of boys were pitted against each other in feats of prowess and heroism while parents looked on. The intense cheering came both from boys and parents as they encouraged those competing.
The unity and camaraderie of that final scene could sum up the ten days of the summer camp. The intense physical, intellectual and religious formation had forged friendships and bonds that made it seem that camp participants were not just individuals but rather a Catholic band of brothers.
From the morning pipe reveille to the nightly rosary procession, the Seventh Annual Call to Chivalry Camp was an unforgettable and unifying experience for the nearly fifty boys who filled the camp to capacity. Co-sponsored by the American Society for the Defense of Tradition, Family and Property (TFP), Tradition, Family, Property – Louisiana and the Saint Louis de Montfort Academy, the year’s camp was held at the Feliciana Retreat Center in Norwood, La. from July 1-11, 2008.
Catholic boys, ages 12-18, traveled from all over Louisiana, Arkansas, California, Texas and Missouri to attend the program which combined informative talks and action-packed games with manly piety.
This year’s theme was that of Charlemagne and Catholic France. Heroes from the past mixed with the present as the boys heard talks on Charlemagne, Saint Louis IX and great crusaders. To add to the cultural experience of learning about medieval France, the program included a “Charlemagne Dinner.” One of the fathers of the boys had hunted a Russian wild boar earlier in the week and spent a whole day preparing a spectacular feast that made all think of those truculent times.
Piety – or better manly piety – is an essential ingredient of the camp program. The TFP camp stresses the need for prayer, the rosary and Holy Communion as the most important part of the “spiritual combat” of these modern day knights. They are always challenged to adopt the code of chivalry in their modern-day lives. There was even a “vigil of arms” held throughout one night where the boys prayed at one hour intervals before a relic of the True Cross.
Fathers are always encouraged to attend part or the whole camp with their sons. Indeed, the fathers have become an essential part of the logistical support for the camp…and even join in some of the games. Local fathers always prepare magnificent feasts in typical Louisiana style.
“When they get home all they talk about is the camp,” commented one father who decided to spend a few days at camp himself.
The ten-day program was action-packed and experienced TFP counselors made sure there was never a dull moment. The schedule was crowded with a grueling day hike, a music recital, archery, paint ball games, skeet shooting, rock climbing, self-defense classes, a treasure hunt, swimming, chess tournaments and other activities. A special Fourth of July program included a traditional barbeque and watching a fireworks display aboard the U.S.S. Kidd ship museum moored on the Mississippi River in Baton Rouge.
The intellectual formation was also given by several veteran TFP members who came from the TFP main offices in Pennsylvania and St. Louis de Montfort Academy to give talks on the Charlemagne theme. Members and graduates of the TFP’s Sedes Sapientiae Institute also gave presentations. Finally, the veteran camp participants themselves were encouraged to help in this regard. Lively theatrical presentations helped illustrate the points.
“This was the largest number to come to the camp,” said Thomas Drake, coordinator of the event. “They all formed such a cohesive group that was united in the Faith.”
The final day marked the highlight of the event and brought to a culmination the united efforts of so many friends, families and supporters in Louisiana who made the course both possible and legendary. Parents and friends watched and cheered at the “medieval games” and its final grueling obstacle course.
After the games, all came in rosary procession where nearly 150 people crowded into an outdoor pavilion-turned-medieval banquet hall. The guest of honor was Msgr. Robert Berggreen of Saint Agnes Parish in Baton Rouge who often came to the camp to say Mass and hear confessions.
Several fathers headed by chef Rusty La Motte cooked a magnificent feast which included a large roasted pig and several different kinds of meat. A castle cake complete with moat – and Louisiana alligators – was especially applauded.
Speeches of farewell and gratitude plus the distribution of a special Charlemagne souvenir was the fitting end to an unforgettable summer camp.
The camp was over but the bonds forged over the ten days remain. The boys returned to face all the horrible pressures of today’s culture. However, they now know they are not the only ones involved in this fight and join them in upholding Catholic values in the midst of the cultural fight to uphold the values of Christian civilization so threatened today.