This summer, as usual, we had a girls´ summer encounter in Spain, in a little town called Peranzanes in the province of Leon. Over 45 girls, ages 7-18, from all over Spain took part in the summer encounter from July 18th-28th. But it wasn´t just your typical summer camp. Oh, no. It was truly survival of the fittest.
There are a lot of people, especially the youth, who seem to just stay alive, doing the same thing day in and day out, without every figuring out what true life is really all about: intimate union with God. And that´s what gave us the idea to have for this summer encounter´s theme, ¨Survival of the Fittest¨, because you can´t just stay afloat as everyone else does. God gave us our lives so as to live them to the full. We decided to leave mediocrity behind in order to live for the Lord with all our soul, just as so many saints and martyrs have done before us. During the camp, we learned how to be survivors in our spiritual lives, growing in virtue and in God´s grace, letting Him be the one to take the wheel in our lives.
We began with a prayer every morning before the flagpole, hoisting the Spanish flag, along with a flag of Our Lady, while we sang the camp song dedicated in her honor. She was in charge of the camp, reining in our hearts. The song went: ¨ You are the Mother of God: Our Mother and Our Queen. Along with this flag, we raise to you our hearts. Mother, Our Queen, we come before you, giving you our lives. You, who are Our Mother , do not forsake us. Our Mother and Our Queen, our way to Jesus, always show us the path, because you are our light.¨ Then we announced the chores for the day, along with the theme, the saint, and the virtue of the day. And then, we got to it – living the whole day with enthusiasm and generosity in every activity that Our Blessed Mother had waiting for us.
Did we say ¨survival of the fittest¨? Yes we did. Sometimes the ¨survival¨ part came in when a mysterious figure appeared dressed in an army hat (it was a really a Servant Sister in disguise) in order to give us some life lessons: how we could get a sense of direction from the sun´s positioning, what we should do if we were in a tent that was on fire. She also challenged and tested us to see what kind of mood we were in and to make sure that we deserved the title of ¨Survivors¨ by seeing if we were willing to cross ice-cold mountain rivers, and so on.
One morning, she came to warn us about conspiracies that the camp´s enemies were plotting in order to destroy our summer encounter. She gave us a map and a few clues to find out how to be ¨rescued¨. We went running as fast as we could in order to find provisions for the trip (there were cardboard boxes hidden throughout the town, full of chocolate, sweets, and cookies) and then we headed off to wherever the map would lead us: the Shrine of Our Lady of Trascastro, where we were rescued, because Our Lady is always our biggest defender. She was waiting for us with scapulars, and not only that, but there was also survival refreshments waiting for us: chorizo (a typical Spanish pork sausage) sandwiches and beverages for everyone!
Of course, it would not have been a true H.M. summer encounter without spiritual formation for the campers. We were lucky enough to have the Blessed Sacrament with us throughout the camp in the town church, and moreover, Fr. Rafael Alonso came to be with us in order to teach us how to pray (by giving us short points of meditation every morning) to hear confessions, to take part in our meetings, and to celebrate mass for us every afternoon.
So, not only did we have a blast throughout the summer encounter, but we also were formed as true Christian women, which is what the Lord expects us to be, so that we can become His witnesses in the world, which hungers for His love.
Every day there were new adventures waiting to happen: sports, games, arts and crafts, songs, hikes, English classes, camp fires, water fights, survival challenges, new friendships, and growing closer to Our Lord and Our Blessed Mother. We were tired, yet happy, at the end of the camp. We left excited about continuing to ¨stay alive¨ wherever we are - and ready and waiting to come back to the Home of the Mother summer encounter next year!