The outdoor chapel is nestled in a 70 year-old planted pine stand which in turn is part of the magnificent bush which comprises so much of the property that is known as Camp Brebeuf, located in Rockwood, Ontario. In essence, the chapel is a natural cathedral with the sky for a roof and the tall, slender pines forming the walls. The floor is carpeted with golden pine needles which are very comfortable to kneel on, and the door is an opening cut through some maples which thrive majestically at the entrance. The tops of the pine trees form a green, swaying canopy which keeps the floor area cool and shady, and provides the constant sound of the whispering wind.
This cathedral has no stained glass windows; however, the sun's rays penetrate the pines at such diverse angles that the light plays on the forest floor, continually changing the colours within as in some magical light show.
It was on June 10, in this pine cathedral that some members of the combined Conquest Clubs of Milton and Pickering attended a Sunday Mass celebrated by Father Thomas Murphy, who was aided by Brother John Choi, both of the Legionaries of Christ. The Mass was a part of the annual trip to Camp Brebeuf, led by district supervisor Carl Pinto, Milton Club supervisor Marvin Duarte, and Pickering supervisor Dave Wilson.
Some of the boys had spent a good portion of the morning setting up two small altars and decorating them with wild flowers, rocks collected from the surrounding hills and pieces of driftwood and pine cones. The altars were to be used during the Eucharistic procession which was to follow the Mass. The boys also carried a large wooden cross from one of the log cabins and placed it carefully in a pile of rocks at the entrance to the chapel as a sign of welcome and a beacon of our Christian Faith.
During the readings for the Mass of Corpus Christi, the voices of the Conquest boys rang out clearly in the pine cathedral, followed by Father Murphy's reading of the Gospel, and a homily about the universality of the Eucharist. As Father Murphy said, “There are places on this planet where you cannot buy a Coke, but no place where you will not find the Eucharist.” It was so quiet that you could have heard the proverbial pin drop, even on the pine needle floor.
After the final blessing, Father Murphy led a Eucharistic procession through the pine cathedral, stopping at each of the two altars, where everyone knelt down for prayers and adoration. The daisies on the altar were a brilliant white, illuminated by the sun's rays, andthe silence seemed to be broken by an inaudible prayer written on each boys' heart: “Thank you Lord for this special weekend.”
The boys had climbed rock faces with the skill of seasoned cliff climbers, traversed slippery and wet rope ladders thirty feet from the ground while overcoming their fear of heights. They had also paddled canoes beside a beaver dam, built raging camp fires deep in the dark woods, and roasted marshmallows in their glowing embers under the watchful eyes of a family of hungry racoons.
But the Mass and Eucharistic procession which took place in the golden confines of the Pine Cathedral was no doubt the climax of the weekend. For this was Conquest at its very best, forming young boys into strong and vibrant Catholics with a very healthy respect for theEucharist.
At a time when the press was trumpeting the fact that a recent poll found that two thirds of Irish Catholics do not believe in the Transubstantiation, there were the Conquest boys proving that their respect for the Eucharist is deep and abiding.
And as the boys sang “Holy God We Praise thy Name,” even the noisy blue jays settled down and left the morning to the praising of Jesus, and His Holy Name. These boys will now return to their everyday lives, enriched by nature and the renewal of faith that Conquest is so successful in doing.
As one boy said in answer to Father Murphy's question about the identity of Jesus: “He is the son of God.” That cry is still echoing throughout the deep dark forest of Camp Brebeuf and well beyond.
Thanks again Conquest!