Pastor’s Pen – July 28, 2013 | St. Ann Catholic Church | St. Louis, MO


By the time you are reading this, week one of Christian Family Camp will be done with one week to go. For many years, I was a week two camper, because of my brother and his wife, who were also week two folks. Then they became the directors for 5 years, and lo and behold, when they were done with that stint, not only did they recruit my brother to come, but both of them transferred to week one. Unfortunately, I didn’t find out until AFTER I showed up for week two that year. Since then, I have been ‘splitting my time’ between the two weeks, (Wed-Sat each week) so as to be able to spend time with my biological family the first week as well as my ‘adoptive’ week two families.

Every year, before I head back up the back campgrounds at Pierre Marquette, I ask myself – “Why am I going back? Why endure the heat, (though the forecast looks great by comparison to the last few years – [prayers are still being said]) the discomfort of less than stellar beds, the ‘skeeter bites and smell of deet and sunscreen and dust and dirt year after year? Isn’t it time to say: It’s been a great run, but time for another generation of priests to step up to the plate.

And then I arrive at camp and settle into those comfortable conversations with my camp friends, have the opportunity to celebrate mass in a field in the middle of the night with teens, a sunset liturgy and the inevitable late night camp fires that are such a celebration of music and community and joy – and poof – the temptation NOT to go disappears like the memory of a bad dream. May-be it is one of the ways I still live out the message I heard from John Paul II during his pastoral visit to St. Louis – “As goes the family, so goes society and the church” – and I figure this is one of the ways I can help at least a small group of families.

But the truth is less altruistic than that. I truly love the experience. Like the comfortable ritual of mass that opens me up to the divine mystery, there is a rhythm to camp that opens me up to my best self. And, as I tell my college students, when you experience that kind of freedom and grace, you have to follow where the grace leads.

So I head off to begin my 20th year of Camp – not knowing what the gift and challenge of the time might be, but confident that God will meet me there as he has always done. Keep us ‘week two’ folks in your prayers, and thanks for all the ways you are my ‘rest of the year’ families…