I interviewed Father Hasser about some of the questions I had about the behind-the-scenes of Crux and Joust.
FH: Crux & JOUST are really two different retreats that use a lot of the same foundations. CRUX is open to any middle school boy, but JOUST is specifically for the high school young men in the Knights of the Holy Temple. CRUX is about awakening in the middle school boys an awareness of God and their relationship with Him, with themselves, with others and with all of the created world given to us by God. JOUST is the premier annual competition between the various parish chapters of the Knights, set on the cornerstone of their relationship with God and celebrated in daily Mass, Eucharistic Adoration and confession. Both events take the young men outdoors into the summer sun, the cool water of the Wildcat Creek, the dark clear cool summer night sky full of stars, the ball fields for dodgeball, basketball and football, space for archery, ultimate frisbee, tug-of-war and a large demanding obstacle course for the high school men.
EL: How did these retreats come about? How have they evolved over the years? How do you foresee/hope these go in the future?
FH: Both were started under Fr. Brian Doerr’s direction during his time as the Director for Vocations. JOUST developed as an event to bring all of the Knights chapters together for fraternal bonding through good-natured competition. CRUX developed as an opportunity for seminarians to reach out and serve the middle school young men as they prepare and transition into adolescent experience of their relationship with Christ. In the future I hope to see both of them continue to grow…this year we saw a very significant growth in participation at CRUX, and we are making plans to continue allowing even more growth in the coming years.
EL: What is the connection with Camp Wojtyla?
FH: Camp Wojtyla is a youth camp for both young men and young women in Colorado that I discovered almost two years ago at NCYC. I really liked what I saw in their literature, and I have asked a few of our seminarians to participate in their summer camp as staff counselors. This gives them an intensive opportunity to learn a lot of skills that they can then implement back here at home in their work with our youth. It is still early, but the skills that they are bringing back is helping us to build even strong models for both CRUX and JOUST.
FH: For the boys…I hope they take away a greater experiential awareness of God and His Church through their experiences. I hope they take away a better sense of our faith as it can and needs to be lived out in daily activities. I hope they take away a better ability to look for and find God in the tangible world that God has surrounded them with in comparison to the increasingly virtual world that they swim in every day in our culture.
For the seminarians…I hope they take away the same things as the boys but on an even deeper level. I hope they also take away experience with the administrative responsibilities and minutia that are involved in priestly ministry. Both of these events are primarily planned and directed by the seminarians. This gives them the opportunity to stretch and exercise their administrative muscles, sometimes learning which muscles need to be used more or with greater precision. This is ultimately practice for their future ministry as pastors of parishes and schools where the activities and goals are even more serious and take even more effort.
FH: Most of what I learn from the young men and seminarians during these retreats are by observation. They have reminded me of their goodness and faithfulness, their desire to know the LORD and to live by His path. On a lighter note, they have also reminded me that they are still learning and aren’t perfect! Staying up and praying the rosary to get the middle school boys to stay quiet and go to sleep at night reminds me of what parents experience all the time! As the seminarians plan for the retreats and bring those plans to reality, I am reminded of their passion for the Gospel and for serving the young men who attend.
FH: Masculinity is an important element in both retreats because elements in our culture systematically dismantle and eliminate masculinity from our daily life. Young men (and many adult men, too) don’t know what it means that God made them male. A parallel reality is that young men (and many adult men, too) don’t know what it means that God made girls female. There is a dangerous foundational ignorance about who we are and why God made us as such. These retreats are not meant to be a comprehensive course on masculinity; rather, they simply fill in some of the void that is left by the culture. It is important for their relationship with God, with themselves and others and with the created world. We are not gods, and we are not identical to each other as male and female. We are unique and beautiful, but the world tells us that we are all beige, or worse, blank slates that can become whatever we want to be. Our retreats don’t address all of this directly, but rather they shine lights on various sides of reality which have been hidden in the shadows of darkness.
FH: Haha, yes, one moment definitely stole the show and stands out above the rest. During CRUX one of the middle school boys took the risk of standing up at campfire one night and singing a hilarious song. It changed history. He instantly became a rock star. The campfire that evening was losing steam and the boys as a whole were losing interest. Many of us adults wondered what was going to happen if something didn’t change. It was soon going to be the shortest campfire celebration in the history of summer camps. But them during a quiet moment this particular young man got up and walked to the front of the crowd with his head held high and his confidence probably dangerously overflowing. He gave a little disclaimer about his voice not being in the best condition, and then he began to sing a camp song that not one of us had ever heard before. It was hilariously engaging, and at the end of each verse you could feel the crowd hoping it was over but at the same time secretly looking forward to another verse. And verse came after verse…again…and again….and again…and everyone was rolling laughing. At the final ending, this young man finished strong and proud, and the crowd whooped and cheered and whistled with delight as he took a delighted bow and went back to his seat with a skip in his step. He was now a rock star and it was a grand evolution of a young man. I’m sure it is an experience that he will remember for his whole life.