By: Jeff Hoeben
After Mass a few weeks back I ran into the proud grandfather of two of this year’s summer campers. He shared a story with me – a story of change, a story that tells of tools acquired during one single week at Camp Gray. While at a sportsman’s club picnic a week after their return from camp both boys sat down to their meal and enthusiastically said grace before digging into their delicious potluck bounty. After they noticed Grandpa proceeding to eat without visibly praying, they innocently inquired, “Grandpa, aren’t you going to pray?” It’s notable because nobody would have witnessed these two boys praying before their week at Camp Gray.
The power of prayer is an awesome tool. As our Nation remembers the terrible tragedies ten years ago this month I recall the role prayer played for me during those events. It was in Kathmandu, Nepal, half a world away, that I learned of the attacks. I was serving with Blessed Mother Teresa’s order, The Missionaries of Charity, when Sister Scholastica reminded me of a seemingly simple fact that I already knew and yet, had not seemed to learn. That is, that prayer is powerful. Before we began our work with the aging residents for the day, we briefly reflected on what had happened. Through my tears, she stated three simple words that called me into a state of awareness of what I, of what we, are each called to do. She simply said, “today, we’ll pray.” At that point, prayer was all I had and really all I needed. Prayer, our conversation with God, can do so much when nothing else seems to matter.
This year, ten years later, I was given another powerful reminder of the importance of prayer. In May, 2011 I was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. It has been quite a road as I near the end of six months of chemotherapy. The journey has prompted all sorts of prayer. Prayers have been sent up from near and far, fervent prayers from close friends and dedicated prayers from souls I have never even met. I can feel it. I can feel the grace that comes from others offering up prayers and sacrifices. When sifting through so many unanswered questions and scary thoughts ten years ago and now with today’s present challenges, prayer was and still is the answer.
Personal prayer is no doubt valuable but when the community comes together the force of prayer is beyond comprehension. It is the community that is created at Camp Gray each and every day that builds a foundation of faith that can carry some pretty heavy burdens. There is no doubt that it will take more than The Johnny Appleseed grace or Bless Us O Lord sung to the tune of the Giligan’s Island theme song to bring comfort to a family dealing with cancer, or a nation attacked. But the fact is that prayer, even grace before meals, is powerful. Those two boys took a tool away from camp that they will carry with them for the rest of their lives. That is the power of camp. Through our crazy amounts of fun, campers take away valuable tools. They are able to sharpen their own prayer life while surrounding themselves in the vibrant faith community of Camp Gray. When kids come to camp we sharpen the tools they show up with and we gift them with new ones to carry for life. For it is through prayer that each one of us can face whatever comes our way.