Years ago my husband was recommended a book from a priest that really changed our perspective on raising boys. It had a powerful impact and spoke to his heart deeply. I read it after he did and it helped me better understand both my husband's psyche and the needs of the boys that God keeps entrusting to us. One of the tenets of Wild at Heart is that it is written in the souls of males a need to know they have what it takes to be a man. Especially in the western world, there is a lack of training and entryway specifically into manhood - a rite or rites of passage supported by fathers and the rest of the men of the community - as there were and are in other cultures. The result of that lack of formation and fatherly involvement is not only deep personal wounds but a cultural crisis of manhood, one which most of us can see quite clearly.
That rite of acceptance from their fathers and other men in the community is something that marks the change from boy into man. Boys need a way to prove both to themselves and the community that they have what it takes and in that proving, they find the confidence and strength to be the men they are called by God to be. It's not about machismo. It's about building virtue and integrity and true strength of character.
Anyway, I'm getting wordy and not all that eloquent but suffice it to say that it's been in our hearts since then that we would do what we could to provide that for our boys the best we could, though we had no specific plans how. But the Holy Spirit, guys. He always provides. Always. When we give our families and our children to Him, He is faithful and gives each of them what they need when they need it.
A few months ago I was scrolling bleary-eyed through my Facebook feed and sucking down my first of the morning coffees. I glanced a video posted from Jason Evert about some camp he had taken his boys to last year. Something stopped me and I clicked. And then I was in tears. Look at this picture of how my boy dresses on the daily (except the last few months when it's been close to 90 almost every. day.).
You guys, he MADE that bow out of a straight up tree all by himself. Now feel free to go watch the video and tell me that this camp wasn't specifically created for my son. At least, that's how it felt when I watched. The thought of how this camp would speak to his heart was overwhelming.
It took a bit of scrambling to get it all in place and we weren't sure it could happen at all but God provided in spades. (Not only were the air tickets completely covered by points we had saved but after we paid the camp fee we realized that the fees were Canadian dollars which is, like, American play money, right?! So the fees were actually a much less than we thought!)
Because it was so soon and because we thought a surprise would add to the whole awesomeness of it all, he had no idea he was going. At 2:30 a.m. we woke him up, his bag was packed, he got dressed, and they headed to the airport. He had no idea where he was going except that he had been, as we put in the note on top of the bag, summoned to Arcatheos. Can you put yourself back to being 12 years old and imagine how epic that would be? It was so. fun. to do. I hope that feeling sticks with him forever.
It was a long flight there but they were soothed upon their arrival by Chik-fil-A at the airport (#jealous). John Paul still had no idea where they were going except now he knew that it was in Canada and Brian had printed out the Arcatheos backstory for him which he read on the plane.
I had almost no communication with them while they were there because of cell service and international roaming rates and all but I did get a couple texts that they were alive and loving it (which were much needed...I was dying to hear from them!!).
It was so clear that they were supposed to go from so many little signs that God gave us but there was still a little bit of wondering whether it would be as amazing as it looked. According to my husband, the camp was even better than we had hoped. According to my son, "If I were to imagine and make my own camp, THIS would be it." It was really well run, totally Christ-centered, and my husband was seriously impressed by the men who organize it as well as the teenagers who are the "officers." There is Mass everyday, Confession available, two priests and five brothers present, solid spiritual formation talks, as well as the plot lines and battle scenes that the boys participate in. The dads get to play along, too.
If you're interested in learning more about it, I'd highly recommend checking out their site. We've only got a few phone photos to share but there are great ones on their site as well as on their Facebook page.
This was upon entry into Arcatheos when he first saw a ranger in the trees but didn't really know what it was all about. Oh my goodness. I wish I could have seen his expression!
They sleep in huge tents with this as their view.
I'm so so grateful to God that He saw fit to work this out for my boy. And so grateful to the men that put this together. It was a long and difficult week at home alone but the grace was so apparent and it was made so much sweeter by the fact that there was no doubt in my mind that God wanted them there. I have no idea if, how, and who will be able to go back but He's shown Himself over and over that He will provide things as we need them. And this? This was exactly what this boy needed.