Lake Placid. Photo by Mwanner via Wikimedia Commons

Fat Camp: East Coast CLU Vacation

Hikes in the woods and canoe rides, no-holds-barred games with teams challenging each other, and then Alpine songs 5,000 miles from Italy, evenings spent listening to classical music.
Tommaso Mauri and Matteo Severgnini

Fat camp: A vacation to lose weight. That’s the nickname we gave to the vacation of the East Coast CLU students, held from May 30th to June 4th, in which we took part.

The natural park surrounding Lake Placid, in upstate New York, all woods and lakes, was the scene for four days of battle that put us through a grueling physical trial.

The challenges between the two teams, Lord of the Rings and Star Wars, were directed by the game master, Richie, a boy from New York who wore his pajama bottoms the whole time during the vacation (but he had three pairs!). All the games were highly competitive: the goal was to capture the ticket booth, and each one gave his all, but always following the rules and decisions set by Rich. Thus Ray from New York (5’10” and 264 lb.) contributed his physique, “Seve” from Crema (5’7” and 143 lb.) contributed strategyd Alina from the Ukraine contributed fierce determination, slaughtering the girls at Indian wrestling.

Not only the games, but the entire time was the occasion to discover something beautiful and new present among us. Greg, who studies Computer Science in New York, led us on a three-hour hike on a path through the woods that unexpectedly opened up onto a natural rock balcony 7,000 ft above sea level. When we arrived, such a strong wind was blowing that we could throw pieces of candy into the wind and try to catch them in our mouths. We started singing, following the cue of Sean, Fedi, and Paola, three kids from New York who, along with Keith and Monique agreed to be in charge of the singing, one of the key points of the vacation.

Alpine songs
Even though we were 5,000 miles from the Dolomites, we proposed an Alpine Army song, La rivista dell’armamento [The Armament Review]. Brian immediately fell in love with it and sustained it with all the power in his voice. Brian is an 18-year-old boy from Minnesota, really “big,” who studies and works as an electrician, with a capacity for twenty beers in one evening and a passion for snowmobiles (he has one that can go as fast as 125 miles an hour and jump over four cars in a row). It is impressive to see how the Movement can bring and hold together such different people, lively and bursting with simple, fascinating proposals like the songs of the Italian Alpine troops.

There was no time for lying around. On the second afternoon, Chris, a teacher from New York, proposed that we go to the lake. Soon we were paired off and rowing real Indian canoes. I was with Greg; we were the fastest and even disembarked onto an uninhabited island in the middle of the lake, risking sinking after running onto a reef that was invisible because it was just below the surface of the water.

Beethoven and Leopardi
Luckily for me, the evenings were less demanding from the physical standpoint… Jonathan, a career musician, presented Beethoven’s Fourth Symphony, and Chris presented the poet Leopardi’s work. Both these occasions were true encounters: two real men measured themselves directly against the experience and desires of these two famous geniuses.

The intensity and beauty of these days was not lacking in the late evenings: five guitars and all our voices were engaged in various songs, from U2’s Everlasting Love to the Beatles’ Don’t Let Me Down, and Blink182 (a California punk group)’s Damn It. On the last evening, Seby and Richie jumped up to stand on the couches when we sang together the last part of With or Without You by the U2: “We will shine like stars in the summertime, we will shine like stars in the wintertime, one heart, one love.”

Underlying all this was the work proposed by Steve Brown, a teacher from Washington, on Fr Giussani’s Recognizing Christ, which helped us to realize what we were living. During the moments of group sharing, comparison with what Fr Giussani wrote was frank and open. For example, where he speaks of virginity the question was, “What does sex have to do with what is said about Jesus?” The work done made it clear that all the proposals made were nothing but an aid to facing what changes your life: the beauty of reality, a sign of Christ. So what Kafka maintains–that there is a goal but no road to it–is not true, because the road is Christ, present in this friendship, born once again and unforeseeable beforehand, between two different continents. The evidence of this beauty that exists is the only reason for which I can give my life for my friends who made me encounter it, so that all the world may recognize Christ, as Fedi said on the last evening.