With bagpipes blazing and a large American flag towering above, a massive crowd made way for a curious sight: two long lines of boys marching behind the flag on the way to watch the Fourth of July fireworks aboard the U.S.S. Kidd anchored on the Mississippi River in Baton Rouge.
From all sides came questions: Who are these boys who act like such gentlemen? They are Catholic boys from the nearby Call to Chivalry Camp, came the answer.
From the morning pipe reveille to the nightly rosary procession, the Call to Chivalry camp is truly an incredible sight. Co-sponsored by the American Society for the Defense of Tradition, Family and Property (TFP) and Tradition, Family, Property – Louisiana and the Saint Louis de Montfort Academy, this year’s camp was held at the Feliciana Retreat Center in Norwood, La. from June 27 – July 5.
Catholic boys, ages 12-18, traveled from across the South to attend the program which seeks to provide the right mix of informative talks, action-packed games and manly piety. Judging from the reaction of the nearly forty participants, it seems to have reached its goals.
This year’s theme was that of Catholic Spain from the Reconquest to the Carlist Wars to the Spanish Civil War. There was no shortage of role models as the boys heard about the exploits of Don Pelayo, El Cid, Saint Ferdinand and so many others. To get a taste of authentic Spain, participants were even treated to a four-foot round paella and a flan dessert with bullfighting music in the background.
Piety is always an essential element in the camp program. Prayer, the rosary and Holy Communion make up the “spiritual arms” of these modern day knights. In addition, participants learned that knights are not just figures from the past. Rather, they are challenged to adopt the same code of chivalry in their modern-day lives.
Whether at games on the playing field, learning to respect their elders or praying before a relic of the True Cross during a “vigil of arms,” the young knights were expected to behave like young gentlemen and strive for excellence.
The ten-day program was action-packed as could only delight young men and boys. There was a grueling day hike, a protest at an abortion clinic, a music recital, archery, paint ball games, skeet shooting, rock climbing, self-defense classes, a treasure hunt, swimming, chess tournaments and other activities somehow crowded into the schedule.
One special feature of the program was a sword and armor demonstration by Roark Mitzell whose hand-on-sword teaching methods and historical descriptions enchanted all.
And there was also time for many inspiring talks. TFP members provided several talks daily related to the camp theme. Participants were particularly impressed by the atrocities of the communist against the Church during the Spanish Civil War. There were even Call to Chivalry “graduates,” serving as helpers, who also gave talks. Lively theatrical presentations helped illustrate the points.
TFP members also provided a Fourth of July program especially for a number of fathers who joined their sons for the day. They heard about today’s Cultural War and the doctrines of Islam before joining their sons for a traditional barbecue. Fathers are always encouraged to attend part or the whole camp with their sons.
“What I really liked this year were the meetings and plays,” said one camp attendee. “They were all so informative and inspiring.”
On the final day, parents came for the final festivities. They could see for themselves the results of the united efforts of so many friends, families and supporters in Louisiana who made the course possible. Parents could watch their sons at the “medieval games” where their individual and team effort skills were put to the test especially in the final grueling and muddy obstacle course.
“We tried to instill in the boys the idea that they must practice heroism today,” said Thomas Drake, coordinator of the event. “I think they were up to the challenge.”
After the boys cleaned up from the games, all came in rosary procession to an outdoor pavilion-turned-banquet hall where a large statue of Our Lady of Fatima presided. The camp was pleased to have as guest of honor, Msgr. Robert Berggreen of Saint Agnes Parish in Baton Rouge who frequently came to the camp to say Mass and hear confessions. Several fathers cooked a magnificent Louisiana-style feast that only added to the unforgettable atmosphere of the occasion. Speeches of farewell and gratitude brought the official program to an end.
Indeed, the official program was over. However, the boys were left with an unofficial program. They must resist the horrible pressures of today’s culture. They must find others who will join them in upholding Catholic values and they must get involved already at their young age in the cultural fight to uphold the values of Christian civilization so threatened today.