Lost in all of the drama of what happened in my parish over the last few weeks, was the summer camp for teen men that I run, Camp Maccabee. We had two camps: the first was with 11 campers and 12 staff, the second with 17 campers and 15 staff. I think that it might be a better insight to what we do in this camp by giving a per partum of the week. This year we focused on the cardinal and theological virtues.
Sunday: The campers and half the staff arrived at St Robert Bellarmine Church in St. Robert. The other half of the staff is at the location for the first night's activities, getting things set for the evening's events. At St. Robert, the campers unpack, do a few icebreakers, are given a backpack complete with a Catholic Men's devotional Bible, Holy cards, rosary, notebook and pen for notes, and the book we were using (Boys to Men by Tim Gray and Curtis Martin) and repack for the overnight trip to the Farm. The campers get to the farm and immediately have a homecooked meal (Lasagna made from scratch) and then are introduced to the Divine Office. They pray Vespers as a group and then go down to the archery range for archery practice.
They then come up for what we affectionately call 'da rules' talk. WE then ask them to remain in silence and prayer as we begin the opening ceremony. One by one they are taken into the Sacred Heart garden and given a camp t-shirt. They change into the shirt and leave the shirt they were wearing in a trunk (to be washed and given back at the end of camp). They head into the chapel for the 1st talk. The first talk focuses on the concept of virtue and on the cardinal virtue of prudence. I gave these talks. During this talk , they were given a cord bracelet, knotted three times to represent the Evangelical Counsels of Obedience, Chastity, and Poverty and that has a St Benedict Medal attached. They are told what the various letters on the medal mean. The talk is ended with Compline, then they are off to their tents.
Monday: The campers awake and head to Morning Prayer and then Breakfast. They then head to the valley for the Warrior dash. Every year we change up and add to the warrior dash. Each of the obstacles are designed so as to make it difficult to do on one's own. The guiding principles for the warrior dash are with navy Seal training; which means we make them act as a team and problem solve as a team. This gives them the opportunity to concretely exercise the virtues we are talking about with them. If a team fails to act as a team, we send them back to redo the obstacle. The young men got it quickly and worked together.
After the warrior dash, they clean up on a rather lengthy slip and slide before lunch. After lunch, they go back into the valley for the low ropes course. Again, a premium is put on teamwork and problem solving. Some of the course generates laughs, some generate frustration (especially the hula hoop exercise). After they clean up, we have Mass in the chapel and then a dinner (hog roast this year). After dinner the young men pray Vespers and have the second talk, this time given by a seminarian of our diocese, on the topic of the cardinal virtue of justice. They are given some time for prayer and reflection/group time. After this, they load up in the vans and head back to St Robert. there it is time for showers and bed.
Tuesday: The campers get up and head to church for morning prayer. After this is a hearty breakfast. They are told to pack up again, this time to head to a state park for a day of fly fishing and hiking. By 11 AM the group is divided into two and one group heads to fly-fishing and the other hikes. Lunch comes and the groups then do the event they didn't do earlier. Some trout are caught. The campers then head off to Mass. After Mass is dinner. in all this is built in time for doing whatever: talking, various yard games, and a kickball game. After dinner the campers head up to pray Vespers, hear the 3rd talk, this time given by a college student from Missouri S & T on the cardinal virtue of fortitude. After this, they have some time for silence and small groups. They pray Compline and head to the tents.
Wednesday: The campers are up and at it at 7. First Morning Prayer, then breakfast, then packing up camp in short order so that we can be on the Current River by 10 AM for the float trip. By float trip, I mean 'dunking people' trip. I am pleased to report it took 4 of the bigger guys to take this old man down. After the float, we head back to St Robert for the rest of the camp. They get back and clean up. Mass starts soon. The second week, we were honored to have Bishop Edward Rice of Springfield-Cape Girardeau to lead us in Mass. After Mass and dinner, the campers head to the church for the next talk, given by the permanent deacon of the parish, Rick Vise, on the cardinal virtue of temperance. After time for prayer and small groups, we start up Eucharistic exposition and Adoration with confessors available for the campers and staff. After Benediction, the kids head to gym for some free time. Lights out at 11.
Thursday: Campers are up a little later. The scheduled varied between the weeks for events beyond our control. The gist is this: Morning Prayer, Breakfast, Paintball, Talk 5 given one week by our transitional deacon, Paul Clark, one week and given by Fr. Joseph Minuth OP the second week. They open up the talks on the theological virtues and specifically on Faith. The campers are given some down time and then it is off to Mass. The second week we had the honor of our diocesan bishop, Bishop John Gaydos having the mass for us. (two bishops in one week!) Dinner again (these guys eat like locusts by the way). They are then off to church for Vespers. After Vespers is Talk 6 on the theological virtue of Hope, given by FR David Veit, the assistant director. After this is Stations of the Cross and Compline. The guys then head back for what has become a staple of the camp: American Gladiator. basically the gym is set up like an obstacle course and the campers (and eventually staff) have to negotiate the course without getting hit with a ball. They all have fun. After this, they head to bed.
Friday: Campers get up and head to Mass in the Church. They come back for breakfast and head right back to the Church for Morning Prayer and the final talk on the Cardinal Virtue of Love. Week 1, Fr Geoff Brook gave the talk, week 2, I did. After the final time for silence and small group, they head back for pack up and clean up. We end with a closing ceremony in which we give them a necklace with the Miraculous Medal and St Michael Medal attached to it. They are given their old shirts with a note that like the shirts, they are the same person as came to the camp, but like the shirts are not completely the same (we wash the shirts right away) because of what has happened. WE point out that what happens after this is up to them. With that we end the camp and head out for lunch!
Our goal is simple: teach them how to play, pray, and live as catholic men of virtue. WE switch out the books every year. But we want people to see what it is we are doing.No secrets here. No, we want you to understand what we are doing for two reasons: First, if you have a teenage son, we would like you to consider sending him next year. This year we had campers from Missouri and Oklahoma. If you belong to the following dioceses: Jefferson City, Springfield Cape Girardeau, Tulsa, Little Rock, Oklahoma City, and St. Louis, it is within several hours driving distance. St. Robert is right on I-44. We have inquiries from Dallas. The nearest airport would be Springfield Missouri. We would have to work out logistics, but we would make it work. If you do not have a son or grandson but would like to help us with this ministry as it grows, we ask to pray about donating to the camp. We try to keep the out of pocket to the camper to $150 and offer scholarships if a camper cannot pay. We believe that no young man who wants a deeper experience in his faith should be denied because of money. Donations can be given through our website www.campmaccabee.com.
The dates for next year are July 16-21 and July 23-28. Applications for those going into High School (all four years) in academic year 2017-2018 will go online after Christmas. Questions about the camp can be emailed to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. This camp is in compliance with Virtus/Protecting God's Children and is an entity within the Diocese of Jefferson City.