Hearing my second oldest son’s name yelled is a very common occurrence… someone is always trying to find him; whether to blame him for some unfortunate mishap, to chase down a stray ball, or to come check out the latest interesting find on the farm.
This past week, the Peter hollering was increased tenfold. Why? Because our family took a giant leap of faith and road-tripped 16 hours to Catholic Familyland for Holy Family Fest in Bloomingdale, Ohio. What does that have to do with yelling Peter? Well, it was the highest concentration of Peter’s I have ever experienced. In his 12-year-old age group alone there were 3 Peter’s, not to mention the adults, teens, and even young ones by the same name. Around here, he’s the only Peter I know!
All Peter’s aside, Holy Family Fest was unlike any other Catholic conference, retreat or experience I have ever been exposed to, and trust me when I say I’ve done a lot of Catholic “things” over the years.
What was so incredible about it, was that the very ones that complained about it the most in the days leading up to it were the very ones who requested that we go back next year. My oldest son is 13 now… that kid smiled more this week than I have seen him do in a very long time!
We began each day with the most beautiful and reverent mass, complete with well over a dozen altar boys and torch bearers (2 of my boys joined their ranks several of the days) followed by classes for the youngsters and a talk for us adults.
We had lunch after we picked up the kids, and the second the oldest four kids scarfed down their meal they headed out the door to Holy Family Park where they disappeared for the next 6 hours.
My oldest son, Phillip, spent most of his time fighting for champion of the 9-square court, Peter joined a “gang” and ran around with his guys all day, swimming, drinking slushies, playing mini golf, dominating the gaga ball pit, and having meetings about whatever it is his little gang needed to have meetings about.
My oldest daughter, my third oldest is Kathryn. She just happened to make a good friend named Catherine and the two of them spent lots of time at the pool. 8-year-old Blaise dominated the pickleball court or could be found sipping fluffy coffee while playing mini golf. 5-year-old Jacinta quickly made a bff and the two of them were found walking hand in hand from the sandbox to the bouncy house to the swing set. Lucy and Joe, my youngest two, stayed a little closer to me and put on hundreds of miles in a cozy coup in the little kids play area.
Everyone had a blast because they had the freedom to do so. Despite the chill atmosphere, there was structure if one so chose. There was an adoration chapel right in the heart of all the fun. One dad commented on how beautiful it was to be adoring Jesus in such an intimate way, and being able to see the smiling, laughing faces of hundreds of kids outside the large windows at the same time.
One afternoon my soccer enthusiast played in a soccer tournament. I watched the volleyball tournament on a different day while my little ones dug in the sandbox nearby… the Brothers from the Servants of Christ Jesus were so epic to watch!! Despite being dressed in all black, with long sleeves, on a 90* day, they absolutely dominated the court!
I could go on and on about the fun we had, from the girl’s day afternoon complete with nail and face painting and jewelry making, to the chess tournament, to the petting zoo, but I won’t. Let’s just say, fun was had by all. Because when my kids were all running around making friends and playing games, I was able to spend time dialoguing with other incredible Catholic people. It was so energizing to converse with so many like-minded people from all across the country and even Canada. These families were just like mine- trying hard to raise our kids in a fallen world. They had real struggles, just as I do, but they understand the heroism necessary to get ourselves and our kids to heaven.
That was the most beautiful part about Catholic Familyland. Their mission is ultimately to spread the Fatima message to every family out there, and to do it in such a simple way.
If I’m being honest, I was a little surprised by the place on my first day. Sure, I was a little jet-lagged from not sleeping on the 16-hour car ride through the night. But so many people that we met that first day talked about how they came back year after year, and how this place was so magical. I couldn’t say that I necessarily agreed. But Holy Family Fest is like a precious flower. As the week progressed, the bud slowly opened into a beautiful rose, fragrant with promise. It doesn’t matter if the cabin that our family of 9 stayed in all week was the size of my living room with no running water, or if there were bugs in the bath trailer. This place is a place truly set apart. New life was breathed into our family and fresh hope was poured into our hearts.
I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I will say that Catholic Familyland is, God-willingly, a yearly must-do for the Brix family, especially as my kids get older. The teen and young adult programming does so much for our impressionable young people that I need them to experience that year after year.
I encourage you, regardless of your state in life, to have fun as a family, and to do something faith-related. It is such a joy and blessing to surround yourself with those that share the same faith and can encourage you to boldly live out your vocation.
Until next time, your sister in Christ,
For more info on Catholic Familyland- AFC.org - AFC