Early on Friday morning, around 6 o´clock, Anthony, who is 8, opened our bedroom door and whispered, “Mum, can I go ahead down to the park at the Cana Prayer Corner? I want to make sure everything is ready for the Camp tonight”. The excitement was so great, I really don’t know how he and his brothers and sisters managed to sleep at all during the night.
From what other families told us, the excitement wasn’t only at our house. For weeks the children of Cana had been planning the event of the year with every bit as much enthusiasm as their parents.
Isn’t that one of the strongest characteristics of the Families of Cana? Living the faith with Time for God and Time for Family and giving the younger family members the same protagonism as the older ones? A Movement that moves parents and children, including small babies, with equal enthusiasm?
It’s difficult to write about what we experienced over these two days. There were eleven families in all, making up a total of at least 50 people. We could describe the activities, but putting them into words wouldn’t be enough to describe the spirit of helpfulness that was enjoyed between the families, the sharing, the laughter, the peaceful conversation around the fire, the glad songs at the Cana Prayer Corner, the great excitement when entire families contested against each other in games or the intense prayer and moments of personal reflection.
At the Cana Camping Weekend there’s plenty Time for God, that young and old alike live to the full. The Rosary is prayed daily, each part led by a different person, and it’s really beautiful to see a child of four leading a mystery without making any mistakes in his or her prayers…
We had the celebration of the Eucharist on Friday when we arrived as well as on Saturday morning and on Sunday with the parish community. What joy to see the church filled with children, praising God with their divided attention, their cries and laughter, dosing off one moment and playing games the next. We had Eucharistic Adoration and for the hour and a half it lasted our parish priest, Fr. Joaquim Taveira, had no rest in the confession box, with visits from young and old thirsting for the graces of the sacrament. Of course, as they finished their prayers, the small ones would go out to play around the Sanctuary leaving the adults to adore the Lord with the perfect confidence that their children were well and happy among friends outside in the playground.
During the camp we also had a lot of Time for Family that we shared among the extended family we were forming. On the first day we adapted the game “secret friend” to “secret family”, giving us the opportunity to focus on others rather than on ourselves. And it wasn’t just the adults that worked hard to serve their “secret family”! The little ones were completely excited about the game and took it very seriously.
Naturally the mutual help among families extended beyond the “secret family” game, in everything from pitching the tents, where the older kids and adolescents were tireless…
… to helping each other get down the steps in front of the Cana Prayer Corner, where even 2-year old toddlers gave each other a helping hand.
And if any child wasn’t sure about how to skate, Lucia was there to make sure they left the camp confidently on their wheels!
On Saturday morning, the youths had a reflection on holiness, based on the Letter of the Pope, with the help of Tiago Atalaia. While this was going on, the other members of the families were distributed among three fantastic workshops.
The Almeida Family prepared a challenging presentation on the lives of several children and young people the Church calls Blessed. It was so beautiful to see how the whole family, parents and children, contributed to the testimony of those saintly lives, telling those stories in words and pictures.
Helena Atalaia told us about Pope Francis’s Five Finger Prayer, while adapting it to the Rosary. We did paintings and decorated the Cana Prayer Corner with your prayers. What a great activity for groups of young people or catechism sessions with children!
The Santos Family prepared a short adapted version of the Stations of the Cross which was absolutely amazing and that surprised us all for the depth of the reflection it brought out in each family that participated. Watch out for a special post in the resources section of this website on the workshop and bring it to your parishes and youth groups. You won’t regret it!
In the afternoon it was game time. What a success! Game time is central to our meetings. It’s worthwhile to take a step back and contemplate the joy of a child as she watches her parents playing like a small child for a while. In our Saturday games, the parents had to bark like dogs, run relay races and hide mounds of sweets for the kids to find. When a mum or dad knows how to be a child, a child will surely grow to one day become an adult like them.
And what can we say about our famous barbeque on Saturday night? What a magnificent moment for sharing, around such plentiful tables.
Saturday night brought us the Bible Variety Evening. At the Cana Prayer Corner we witnessed true works of family art, with short plays, a hotly contended catholic quiz, stories that were put to dance routines, drawings and songs. The small children began to drop off into sleep in their parents arms as the evening drew on, while the older ones enjoyed the fun and laughter until finally it was time to finish off and go to sleep.
Sleep? Well, the first night was relatively calm but on the second, the parents had difficulty in knowing in which tent their kids were bunking down for the night because the children had decided to make their own plans between them to swap tents. Somehow managed to track them all down so that nobody was lost 🙂
At the end of the camp, as the adults and elder children took down the tents and cleaned up around the campsite, the smaller kids finally found a moment to catch up on some lost sleep…
Weeks before the camp, our Anthony had put it into his head that we was going to organize a campfire for children. Every time we went to the Cana Prayer Corner to pray, he would get busy collecting pine needles and sticks for his campfire that he was going to light close to the fig tree. We didn’t object, not really taking it all very seriously, and let him to his play. But Anthony wasn’t playing. It was serious business to him. And when the great day arrived, Anthony called his friends together and they went ahead and lit what they called the “little campfire”. Under our supervision, the kids did all the work and their excitement was complete. What a marvelous scene! Around the fire the children of Cana spent hours, busily keeping the flame alive.
“See how I was right, mum?” Anthony told me at the end of the camp. “I also know what small kids like!”. We were certainly in agreement about that. Anthony was absolutely right. In the Families of Cana, there are important decisions that only the children know how to take.
Let us also keep our flame alive. And around the fire of the Spirit, let us gather our family round for beautiful Times for God and Times for Family…