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Living Faith: God will come to summer camp, too, if we ask

Roxane B. Salonen

It was a last-minute decision to toss the rosary into my son’s camp bag. But it was his first time away for this length of time without us and with a good case of the leaving-home jitters taking hold.

The worst part for me was that by the time he’d be home with his backpack full of dirty clothes and half-empty mosquito spray, I’d be far away on a writer’s pilgrimage in Georgia. His need to unload all those juicy camp stories – the good and bad of it – would be impossible with me as a landing place.

And I wanted to give him something he could hang onto at camp for those times I wasn’t around, for whenever he’d need solace, a loving presence.

The rosary wasn’t a common practice in our home growing up. But every once in a while, those prayer beads came out, and when they did, they always brought comfort. The meditative aspect of them, the focusing on Christ’s life, calmed whatever teenage trauma I was enduring at the moment.

But I figured the beads would go unused in the hands of my young son on his first real camping journey, and would constitute one more unneeded precautionary measure we moms tend to take in such just-in-case moments.

The days went on, and by the accounts coming in from camp, things seemed to be going well. Our son’s tent mate had gotten a cut that required stitches, which no doubt troubled our conscientious son. But the only picture text that came in showed him with a huge grin on his face, so we felt aptly consoled.

He came home almost a week after he’d set off with his fellow campers in the pouring rain. As planned, I was well into my journeying in the Deep South by then, having reached Springfield, Ky. Travel-weary, I’d climbed into bed to update my blog before turning in.

Not far into it, my phone showed a text had come in. It was from our newly returned camper.

“Mom, are you busy?” he’d written.

Well yes, I was busy and beyond tired, but not too busy to take a little time for one of the chickadees.

He’d just read a note I’d left him, apparently, and wanted to answer one of several questions I’d posed in the welcome-home letter.

He reminded me about my wondering whether the rosary had been a help. I was imagining it now buried somewhere between the dirty socks and soggy swimming trunks.

But as he revealed, that had not been the case at all. As a matter of fact, he wanted to let me know, he had not only used the rosary, but had prayed with it every night of his stay, and he wanted to thank me for thinking to pack it.

At that moment, my world stopped in a good way, and I closed my eyes and whispered a prayer of thanks to the good God above.

It’s been a rough summer as a mother. With three teens in the house – and all of them going through different stages of rebellion – I’m more than spent.

Along with that, I’ve had many moments wondering if anything I’ve done to help lead our children to an awe of the divine, to understating the urgent need we have for God’s hand in our lives, had stuck with any of them.

I was beginning to lose the very hope I try so hard to keep alive in others.

But then that text came, and everything changed. It was my son, and it was God, too, encouraging me. “Don’t give up. Don’t ever give up. It might seem like what you’re doing to bring good to your kids’ lives and to the world isn’t working, but it is. Trust in me.”

Just a short exchange and the world seemed to turn aright again.

At times in the life of faith, we can begin to lose our grasp. When that happens, we often need a little reminder that God has it all under control – that he still has the world in the palm of his hands. We just need to keep following his way to reach his arms and, hopefully, lead others there, too.

But even bigger than my gain has been the joy I feel for what my son has learned at so tender an age. He’s learned that God will go anywhere we go, no matter how far from home we roam.

Indeed, God will even come along with us to summer camp if we ask.