Lighting the Fire of Holiness in the Hearts of Teenagers

A blog post for the Camp Crucis blog found at

Goals. We all have them. Some of us want to be professional athletes one day. Some of us want to be doctors or lawyers one day. Some of us want to be priests, teachers and engineers one day. But the goal of the Christian life is one we all have in common: holiness.

Many years ago, a young boy tried out for his high school basketball team, but didn’t make it because he couldn’t make a free throw. He set a goal to make 500 free throws every night. Eventually, he made his high school basketball team. But he didn’t stop there. He started practicing his jump shot. He perfected shooting both inside and outside of the paint. He went on to play NCAA basketball, then played for NBA and completed his career with 6 NBA Championships and 5 NBA MVP titles. It wasn’t deciding at 14 that he wanted to be in the NBA that got him there. It was the goals before the goal.

In the same way Michael Jordan raised the bar for every basketball player from then on, each of the saints have raised the bar for us. There are two distinct signs of holiness: the insatiable desire to be like Christ and the unquenchable concern for the life of others…or more simply said loving God and loving others.

While each Senior High camper learned this through their week at camp, they also exemplified it.

We started the week with rekindling old friendships and worshipping. With mass early each morning in St. John’s, the Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament and the Stations of the Cross walk in the outback, the campers were able to narrow their focus to the true purpose of camp. They started by loving God.

Watching the campers interact at the beginning of the week reminds me of the quote from author John Green, “It starts slowly then happens all at once”.


By the time we blinked, the week was halfway over. These campers were developing deep friendships, offering to pray in their small groups, belting songs together, dancing together and, moment by moment, they opened their hearts to each other. They were loving others.


All this joy and celebration of one God in the fellowship of Christian friends climaxed at midnight mass on the last night of camp. It was a powerful moment to watch these once quiet high school kids belt their hearts out for an all-powerful God and shed tears at the thought of having to go home the following day. They grew so close to these fellow Christians that were strangers at the beginning of the week.


Don’t get me wrong…the games were fun. The dodge ball was endless. The grilled cheeses and tomato soup was delicious. The pool was refreshing. The arts were super craftsy. And the music was beautiful. But it was all just background noise to the transformation that happened right in front of our very eyes. The clergy taught holiness by loving God and loving others. The campers lived it.




Friday the gates opened and reality re-entered the lives of 70+ high school campers. But as they pulled away down Farm Road 4, they carry a light in them to shine at their churches, their high schools and their homes.

Mother Teresa said, “In this life we cannot do great things, we can only do small things with great love.” Camp Crucis lit the fire and now we send 70 high school kids into the world to shine a small light of great love.


“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
-Matthew 28:19-20

***All spiritual teaching and direction by Father Polley, Father Petta and Father Horton***

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