Love really does conquer all, provided people know how to give it, accept it and acknowledge God as its exclusive source.
That was a prevailing theme at Camp Maccabee last summer.
“That’s a good lesson for us as teenagers,” said Ben Bretweiser, a member of St. Mary parish in Glasgow.
“Society tries to tell us that love is about lustful thinking and that ‘if it’s good for me, I want it,’” he said. “We need to know that true love is from the heart and that it’s focused on other people.”
Situated in and around St. Robert in the southern part of the diocese, Camp Maccabee is a weeklong Catholic summer camp for high school-age young men.
Ben and a group of other participants talked about their Camp Maccabee experience while taking a break in the middle of it.
“We all need to be trying to get each other to heaven, to get each other up to God,” said Ben. “That’s what love is about.”
Charles Roberts, a member of St. Patrick parish in Rolla, described the camp as “a mix of Catholic Liturgy and Navy Seal training.”
“We’re focusing on team-building and leadership and on building up our faith,” he said.
In this together
This year, for the first time, there will be three sessions of Camp Maccabee: June 24-29, July 22-27 and July 29-Aug. 3.
Each will be filled with adventure, challenge and competition in the middle of God’s creation.
“Be prepared to have fun while getting muddy, soaked and tired,” said Father Bill Peckman, pastor of Ss. Peter & Paul parish in Boonville and St. Joseph parish in Fayette, who helps organize the camp each year. “And anything you need to charge? Plan on leaving it at home. You won’t be needing it.”
As in years past, participants will take part in an impressive array of activities while learning lessons on becoming the adults God intends them to be.
The camp’s name comes from the Maccabeus clan, an Old Testament family that led a revolt against the Greek Seleucid Empire, which was seeking to destroy the Jewish faith and culture.
The camp’s organizers and facilitators are priests, deacons and other Catholic men, bolstered by a small army of volunteers who work behind the scenes and many others who give of themselves in prayer, fasting and sacrifice.
Its purpose is to help families and parishes form young men into strong, bold, masculine Catholic leaders who will courageously fight for what is right and stand up for virtue, regardless of the vocation to which God is calling them.
“That’s what we need in our homes, in our parishes,” said Fr. Peckman. “We set the standards high and help the guys reach them. God has already given all of this to them. We’re just doing what we can to coax it out of them.”
Fr. Peckman said the commitment to teamwork is analogous to a life of Christian discipleship.
“The good thing about being Catholic is that we don’t do any of this alone,” he said. “We have help from God and our fellow Catholics.”
“Lifting each other up”
Highlights of Camp Maccabee include the epic Warrior Dash and a giant waterslide in the woods.
“It’s crazy but fun,” said Ben. “The slide is like 10 times longer than the average water slide.”
And there’s nothing like rafting on the Current River to deliver an adrenaline spike.
Teamwork, of course, was the key to getting the clunky, humanity-laden rafts where they were supposed to go.
“You rise and fall as a team,” said third-time Camp Maccabee participant Matthew Nosbush, from Crown Point, Indiana. “They keep telling us to build up each other’s strengths and not focus on weaknesses.”
“We’re being shown how men should not only lead in life but in prayer,” said Isaac Sathoff, a member of Our Lady of Lourdes parish in Columbia, who was on his second Camp Maccabee. “What we’re doing here falls under faith, under true love, not corrupted love.”
“Men are supposed to help other men hone their faith and become better men together,” Matthew added.
The young men also learned about prayer as the most effective weapon against the forces of darkness.
“We need to be lifting each other up and trying to help each other get to heaven,” said Ben. “We need to sharpen each other in prayer to defeat the evil forces around us.”
Isaias Joffre-Moreno from Winston-Salem, North Carolina, called to mind the Camp Maccabee motto: “Lead to serve, not to rule.”
“That’s a pretty important lesson for every aspect of life,” said first-time Camp Maccabee participant Charles Roberts, a member of St. Patrick parish in Rolla. “A real leader shouldn’t want power for himself but for others.”
The young men also talked about the great home-cooked meals, the laughter and the excitement.
They said they were looking forward to putting Camp Maccabee into practice in their everyday lives.
“You build people up,” said Isaac.
“You love them for who they are and treat them how you’d want to be treated,” said Ben.
It’s about aiming for excellence every day.
“Better men, better leaders of the faith, better men of God,” said Charles.
“And standing up for what we believe in, no matter what,” said Ben. “You have to stand for what’s right.”
The cost for the camp is $150 per person per session, but the goal is to make sure no one is turned away because of the cost.
For information, contact Fr. Peckman at (660) 882-6468 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Go to www.campmaccabee.com to see videos from last year’s camp, learn more, sign up or donate.