|A view of the main gate of Arcâtheos.|
September 20, 2011. There are summer camps… and then there
are total immersion experiences built around a mythical narrative in
which the campers are protagonists in a battle between good
and evil. Arcātheos (previously Camp Rivendell) is more than
a summer camp. For the boys who attend, either as
officers or as ordinary campers, the camp is also a
school of manhood and a rite of passage in a
setting that is all about teamwork, valor, and fun.
is built around a storyline in which the Kingdom of
Arcātheos is under siege from the evil arch-lord Reth Maloch
(the name means “evil shadow”) and his minions, the Dröch.
The campers, rallied around the good Arch-Lord Valerian, defend the
mighty stronghold and the freedom of all of the people
of Lumenorus, as well as the fair heiress of the
sister Kingdom of Captivenia, the Princess Leisaura.
Held in a
remote region of the Canadian province of Alberta since 2003,
this year’s camp had 43 officers (aged 13-17), 117 soldiers
(aged 7-12), and about 90 dads, who serve as members
of the set-up crew while also moonlighting as Dröch, the
evil minions of the Arch-Lord Reth Maloch. The camp is
affiliated with Conquest, but is open to all Catholic boys.
|One of the three division of boys lined up in front of the King’s temple (ie, chapel).|
Brian Doran, a Regnum Christi member who created the camp,
said that although he had years of experience running backpacking
camps in the mountains, he wanted to make this camp
something more than wilderness survival training or a series of
water balloon fights.
“I wanted to include a medieval theme and
make sure it wasn’t just entertainment. There had to be
a core reason to actually operate this camp. And there
was no better reason than to form these boys as
young men and send them off into the world as
men of God,” he said.
He was inspired by the idea
of a “rite of passage” mixing battle training and spiritual
formation, in which boys are knighted and grow in leadership
and then go out as apostles in the real world.
first, the guiding idea was based on the realm of
Lord of the Rings, but as time went by, he
perfected an original story line to provide the mythical backdrop
for the battles between the people of Lumenorus and the
Dröch. The kingdom’s history of battles and power struggles is
told on the web site under the Storyline link.
in valor and skill
|The objective of this particular mission was to teach the boys they cannot do anything without the King’s grace. Chieftain Thorhelm had to repent of his pride, after he led the boys into a massive ambush.|
Throughout the course of the camp, the
boys earn silver and gold coins for showing discipline, order,
attentiveness at Mass, etc. With their hard-earned coins, they “buy”
water balloons, foam swords, shields, and the most expensive weapon
of all: squad ballista.
The squad ballista are full-sized wooden carts
capable of firing water balloons a distance of 300-400 feet.
The boys used these life-sized, handcrafted weapons in military drills
and in battle against an army of Dröch, who were
in possession of two squad ballista of their own. Seeing
12 squad ballista lined up in a row and firing
in succession with military precision was a highlight for the
Earning weapons was just the beginning, however. Once earned, the
boys had to train with swordsmanship classes and the medieval
tournament at the tournament zone with archery, swordsmanship, gladiator jousting,
and the gauntlet, which is an obstacle course. The boys
competed for medallions and earned points for their squad, competing
for top squad and for the championship of each age
group and event.
“The boys love the tournament,” said Doran, noting
that the swordsmanship in particular has to be judged objectively,
with three judges walking around the ring and constantly observing.
|Squad ballista, lined up and ready for battle.|
The swords are made of a stiff foam so no
one gets hurt (although the dads do get some welts
in the battles) and there are points for hitting the
torso versus the arms or legs. The boys also wear
helmets with metal face guards.
Part of their training also involved
special expeditions into the forest, where their missions spanned the
gamut from secret reconnaissance to rescue operations to recovering a
stolen scroll. Enemy Dröch were frequently lurking among the trees,
with smoke grenades and pyrotechnics lending drama to the skirmishes.
the wilderness missions, the boys got to build large fort
structures as outposts to expand the king’s territory. These missions
actually taught the boys real skills: how to tie proper
knots, how to lash structures together, how to build fires.
Later, these outposts became defensive forts that they had to
defend under attack from the enemy.
One of the biggest missions
this year, apart from the climactic final battle, was the
rescue of Princess Leisaura from the neighboring Kingdom of Captivenia.
Princess Leisaura was played by Brian Doran’s wife, Valerie, who
had just finished running an all-girls sister camp two
hours to the north, and whose appearance at Arcātheos was
|Launching a water balloon from the squad ballista.|
intended to lend some extra drama to one of the
first battles at camp. As the Princess walked through the
gate, an entire legion of Dröch came swarming in, and
the boys had to form a line from the main
gate to the keep, which is an extensive wooden structure
that has been built up over the years by the
support team of camp leaders and dads.
“The morale at our
medieval banquet had never been higher than that night,” recalled
Doran. “The boys were clapping and pounding their tables and
Teamwork behind the scenes
Spiritual formation was not lacking at the
camp either, with five priests on site, mostly Legionaries of
Christ. The vocations director from the Edmonton archdiocese also comes
to the camp.
“Their talks tie into the theme that we’re
living out,” said Doran. “They correlate them with the real
battle for all of us on earth, and what exactly
that means for us on a practical, daily basis.”
also had a special memorial dimension, with the dedication of
Hagman Hall (a 60 by 60-foot tent) in memory of
Mark Hagman, who passed away from brain cancer on
September 14, 2008, leaving a wife and a young son
|During a jousting competition at the tournament.|
behind. There is also a Mark Hagman memorial sword, which
is used to knight the top 12 campers who stand
out on the knight exam each year.
The camp’s many imaginative
and ingenious elements are the result of strong teamwork between
Brian Doran and the men on the support team, some
of whom are Regnum Christi members, and most of whom
are simply fellow men from the parish who share the
“My job is to push the vision, sketch ideas,
and present the ideas to men, but there are so
many guys on the team with initiative to take those
ideas and build them,” said Doran, adding that about 12
dads built the permanent structure of the medieval tower over
a three-year period.
Their future plans are to make the camp
even bigger and better in the coming years. They are
currently in the planning and fundraising stages for a three-level
keep: the main floor will be a mess hall, the
second floor will be the officers’ bunkhouse, and the third
floor will be the headquarters. There will be walls extending
from the main keep with connected towers, just like a
real medieval fortress.
As Arcātheos continues to grow in the years
|A moment during one of the battles.|
ahead, it will accept more and more boys. This year,
over 200 boys wanted to attend camp, but the camp
directors accepted only 160 because they want to grow at
a steady, controlled rate so as not to overextend themselves.
Given the popularity of the camp and the high return
rate of boys who come back year after year, graduating
from campers to officers, it appears that the Kingdom and
its battles will get even more spectacular, along with Captivenia,
the sister camp for girls, which began just this year.
learn more about Arcātheos and Captivenia, visit the web sites
at www.arcatheos.com and www.captivenia.com.