By John Ritchie
Pop-culture tells us that happiness is found in money, pleasure and prestige. We are told not to pursue those lofty ideals of honor, heroism and sacrifice that flourished during the Age of Faith. After all, Hollywood leads the way now. This is 2015, not 1099. Get with the times.
However, at the 2015 TFP-Louisiana Call to Chivalry Fall Camp a new generation of boys has turned away from the Hollywood paradigm and embraced the virtues of Chivalry with great enthusiasm. More and more boys sense that Hollywood is fake and Chivalry is real.
(Get information about future camps here)
From November 20-25, dozens of boys between the ages of 12-18 joined the 5th annual TFP Fall Camp in the wilderness of the Ozarks in Arkansas. Housed in log cabins nestled on the edge of the Buffalo River, the young men arrived with their fathers for an action-packed furlough of adventure. The setting of solitude was ideal for reflection, prayer, educational talks, good Catholic conversation and outdoor activity.
Trout Fishing and Mountain Climbing
As the fathers spent time trout fishing in the crystalline waters of the Buffalo River, the boys jumped into boats and were ferried across the river to begin their challenging ascent into the mountains. The air was frigid, but the sun quickly melted the white morning frost, making the trek pleasant. "Any bald eagles sighted yet?" the boys asked, hoping to catch a glimpse of the majestic birds that nest near the river where they can be seen diving for fish or simply soaring in the open sky.
Somewhat exhausted and breathing heavily, the contingent of young crusaders made it to the first summit. The view of the river below was rewarding. On the way to the second mountain peak, the boys discovered a large cave. After inspecting the dark enclosure, they hurried down the mountain and once again crossed the river by boat just in time for barbequed bratwurst and chicken.
Boys Protest Nativity Scene Removal
The Call to Chivalry camp is not just about fun and games. Above all it teaches young men how to stand up for their Faith in our hostile and ungodly culture. Our love for God must not be inert but active and effective. And the opportunity to defend the rights of God in the public square presented itself during the camp.
For nearly four decades, a beautiful Nativity Scene has been set up on Mountain Home's courthouse lawn. This year, however, a U.S. District Judge ruled that the traditional Christmas Nativity violates the First Amendment. This attack against the Infant Jesus and His Holy Family was initiated by the American Humanist Association based in Washington, D. C.
Responding to this offense against the Infant Jesus, camp participants eagerly traveled to Mountain Home, Arkansas, to conduct a peaceful and prayerful protest right in front of the Baxter County Courthouse, where the Nativity was removed.
The TFP demonstration -- attended by some 150 people, mostly local Catholics -- opened with the arrival of statues of the Infant Jesus and Our Lady of Fatima, followed by the singing of Christmas carols, and the recitation of the Holy Rosary.
Thomas Drake, TFP-Louisiana president, addressed the crowd: "This is not a new battle. This is the battle between Christ and the powers of darkness, today described as atheism, secularism, neo-paganism, politically correctism," he said. "Today, we are here to protest the removal of an artistic depiction of the Nativity of Our Lord Jesus Christ. What is really at stake though is whether our community, our society recognizes Christ as the foundation on which America is built."
As they prayed the rosary, the boys displayed crusader flags and waved signs inviting passing cars to "Honk to Keep Christ in Christmas." The locals responded with lively honks and vocal expressions of support.
Other hand-held signs read, "Holy Family YES, Secularism NO" and "Cuba Banned Nativity Scenes Too!" and "Want Peace? Then Bring Back the Prince of Peace!" and "No Room at the Inn -- Mountain Home, AR" and "America is a Christian Nation. Keep Baby Jesus in Our Hearts and Our Courthouses."
The rally was featured on the front page of The Baxter Bulletin.
Medieval Games and Final Feast
After several days of intense activity -- spiritual, mental and physical -- the boys were ready for the Medieval games and banquet. A panoply of Crusader flags -- emblazoned with the Cross of Christ -- fluttered in the afternoon breeze as the young men marched into the field to the cadence of pipes and drums.
The Marian hymn, Hail Holy Queen Enthroned Above, echoed off the tall rock bluffs as Our Lady's statue arrived and was situated between two banners in a place of honor, overlooking the game field.
The whistle blew. The contest began. Two teams tested their skill and valor. Above athletic prowess, Chivalrous behavior was tracked on the score card. The battle cries resounded loudly. For example: "It is better to be an eagle for a minute, than a toad for a lifetime!" and "Saint Michael, pray for us!"
Meanwhile, in one of the log cabins, a group of fathers gathered for a talk about the military Saints and Martyrs of the early Church: Saint Sebastian, Saint George, Saint Maurice and many more. Their fortitude in face of cruel persecution is most inspiring, a vital example for Catholic men to emulate in our times.
As the sun set over the bluffs, the chefs preparing the banquet hurried to and fro. The trout, simmering in the smoker for hours, was nearing completion. The succulent lamb, donated by one of the neighbors, was soon transported into the large, candle-lit tent, bedecked with flags and medieval armor.
What else was on the menu? Oh, yes. A fierce, wild, 70-pound razorback hog harvested from the rugged Arkansas hills. When the hunters took it down with a single shot to the ear, to their surprise, thirteen more came charging out of the rocks. You can imagine the aroma of all these dishes emanating from the open air kitchen.
At 6:30 PM, the Rosary procession started, eventually winding its way to the tent for dinner. The ambience was festive; the conversation, uplifting; the food, robust and full of flavor. Finally, announced by a trumpet blast, the castle cake entered, an edible replica of the Krak des Chevaliers, the famous crusader castle of the Knights Hospitaller. This time its thick walls could not withstand the siege of so many appetites.
The True Joy of Chivalry
Even in the flickering candle light, something was clearly apparent on everyone's countenance: joy. Not just ordinary joy, but the authentic, upright and calm joy that springs from living the spirit of Chivalry, that spirit steeped in honor and virtue which draws its life from the Cross of Our Divine Savior.
Let's pray more men will heed the Call to Chivalry, abandon Hollywood's false promises, and embrace the true joy that comes from carrying the Cross. "And he said to all: If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me" (Luke 9:23).
Viva Cristo Rey!
(Get information about future camps here)