Monday, August 9, 2010

Broken Bones and Manly Hearts

I returned from Totus Tuus on Friday afternoon, spent some time mini-golfing, and seeing a late movie, and then spent Saturday morning shooting skeet.  Confessions and a meal with a parishioner kept me busy Saturday afternoon and evening, and a day walking all over creation preparing for World Youth Day with the pilgrims from this diocese wore me out on Sunday.  Today was spent in one meeting after another, so that now, at nearly midnight, I finally have a moment to offer a synopsis of sorts on the Totus Tuus boys camp.

This was by far the most injurious camp I have yet attended.  Among the casualties were a seminarian who had a severe allergic reaction to something, a sixty year old man with a dislocated shoulder, a teenager who leaped into as opposed to over a bench, and a middle schooler with a broken arm.  I was most impressed with the middle schooler.  He fell and landed awkwardly on his arm, and though he was in obvious pain, he was able to rotate his arm and make a fist.  We compassionately suggested that he "man up."  We were slightly concerned that he was still favoring that arm the next morning, but did not decide to send him to the emergency room until he really freaked out when he tried to use that arm to prop himself up during a water game during which he was supposed to lie down on the ground.  We were rather astonished when he returned in a cast, and then deeply moved by his strength.  He had walked around with a broken arm for nearly an entire day and had complained of his pain very little!  What an incredible young man.

There is a certain paradox about Totus Tuus.  We spend the week trying to help them become men, while simultaneously giving them permission to play and act like children.  They sing ridiculous songs, they learn silly dances.  They swim and run and laugh and in the midst of all of this, they pray.  It is the prayer that reinforces their manliness.  It is an explicit expectation and firmly held conviction that young people have a strong spirituality and that they are capable of holiness.  We call them to sanctity.  We strive to demonstrate that a life in Christ is deeply compatible with life as a man.  We offer them the witness of the saints as a way to begin to see how true masculinity is necessarily focused on Christ, and we provide ample opportunity to discover the ways in which they have chosen the world's way as opposed to the Lord's way.  Throughout the week, most of them begin to see and express how deeply they desire to be strong Catholic men, and we assure them that they can.  It is beautiful.

Which is not to say that all is perfect.  A teenage boy remains a teenage boy.  He is still brash, frequently unthinking, sometimes brutal in his assessment of his peers, keenly aware of his own changing body, and mercilessly hopped up on hormones.  He still needs to prove himself, and he is filled with the boundless energy of youth.  His amygdala is doing all the thinking while his frontal lobe rests on its laurels.  So, it would be a lie to say that I wasn't glad for the week to be over.  It would be a bigger lie to say that I didn't love being a part of it.


  1. One of local KC officers just invited a bunch of us to go go-kart racing this weekend -- "man up" and "goof off" sometimes go hand in hand!

  2. Good update. I always wondered what you did there.


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