“We’ll be back next year!” And so goes the resounding and spirited cry of the summer camp’s young participants. It was only four days earlier when this band of boys, ages 8 to 16 years old, trooped to the Thousand Pines Christian Camp in California’s San Bernardino mountains amid a mixed air of anticipation and excitement as they anxiously awaited what was to unfold in the days ahead. The June 11-14 event was a project of the California office of The American Society for the Defense of Tradition, Family and Property (TFP).
On the first day, when all the participants were accounted for, rooms assigned and luggage and beddings set in place, the boys got to know each other as they ran off to play field games. Soon after, TFP volunteer Michael Chad Shibler rounded them together for roll call and their first taste of lectures by Michael Whitcraft (The Ten Commandments of Chivalry) and Matthew Shibler (Rules of the Camp).After dinner, timidity and reservation quickly evaporated in the air as the boys engaged in games of table tennis and charades. After the Rosary procession, the young lads headed for their rooms to call it a night. Thus, the American TFP’s Call to Chivalry camp in California was off to a rousing good start.
Morning Reveille and Daily Schedule
The shrill blast of bagpipe music and beat of a snare drum greeted the boys every morning that sent them scrambling off their beds and on to morning prayers and formation. Moments later, room inspection followed to ensure neatness and order.
After a hearty breakfast, both adults and boys gather together to raise the American flag and the TFP standard. Later, lectures replete with Catholic doctrine, lofty principles and marvelous tales of heroism stirred the minds and souls of this wide-eyed young group ever so eager to learn and absorb new things. Topics ranged from Medieval Christian order and Chivalry to authentic Catholic piety, courtesy and good manners all of which aimed at guiding these boys to strive to become young Catholic gentlemen.
In between lectures, indoor and outdoors games kept the boys mentally alert and physically active. They engaged in various field games in preparation for the much anticipated medieval games to be held on the last day.
Each day culminated in a solemn Rosary procession at dusk led by an escort of torch bearers. A statue of Our Lady of Fatima brought up the rear. The whole ensemble
gave a sacral touch to the pious exercise which aimed to instill a tender devotion to Our Lady among the camp participants.
Program Supervisor Michael Whitcraft gave a demonstration on swords and sword play which readily caught the boys’ attention. As he explained the features and character of each sword in his collection, Mr. Whitcraft engaged his brother and fellow TFP member, Byron, intermittently in mock battle as they saw fit.
Chinese Shadow and Vigil of Arms
Still in keeping with the camp’s theme on Medieval Christendom and Chivalry, the young audience was treated to a shadow play using slides with dark, silhouetted characters that portrayed the admirable heroism and martyrdom of Blessed José Luis Sánchez del Río, also dubbed “The Young Cristero.”
Later on that evening and until the early hours of the morning, each boy spent half an hour of prayer in front of a relic of the True Cross reminiscent of a medieval ceremony prior to knighthood called the vigil of arms.
On the last full day of camp activities, excitement pervaded the crisp and cool morning air as the boys eagerly anticipated the start of the medieval games. But alas, it had to wait a little longer as the final lecture and a written test stood in the way. But once these activities were over and lunch served, the youthful crowd darted energetically out the mess hall door and on to the field of battle.
Donning their game scapulars like the armor of medieval knights, the games’ participants invoked their team’s patron saint at regular intervals as they tackled their opponents in games like French football and capture the flag. Under the watchful eyes of TFP members, John Miller and Charles Sulzen, the boys scrambled and tumbled. They hustled and tussled yet admirably kept the spirit of sportsmanship and camaraderie from start to finish.
An obstacle course highlighted the competition’s end where contestants jostled and raced against each other amid the tumultuous cheering and encouragement of the crowd of parents, guests, participants and organizers alike. And when the last contestant crossed the finish line and the winning team announced, the boys made a mad dash for the showers in preparation for the apex of the four-day event.
Father Robert Bishop graced the occasion by solemnly celebrating the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. Immediately following, the boys came out sharp and fresh and began the Rosary procession with parents and guests joining in the cortege.
A sumptuous medieval feast capped the final ceremonies of the summer camp which was highlighted by the pompous entry of a colorfully garnished roasted pig borne on a litter and ushered in to the tune of bagpipe music. It was such a delightful scene that the boys couldn’t help but marvel around it with beaming admiration and awe.
As a fitting complement, a cake fashioned in the form a medieval castle, completed the festive dinner. Quite literally, it was the icing on the cake!
At the evening’s conclusion, Father Bishop, assisted by Program Director Michael Whitcraft, handed out the camp mementos and congratulated each participant.
Truly, the enthusiasm of the boys and the impact of the program will only serve to encourage the organizers to strive to raise the bar next year. May Our Lady bless all these efforts and the fruits of the camp!