This past week, my family and I spend a week in Heaven. To the rest of the world, it is known as the Apostolate for Family Consecration, or Catholic Familyland. We attended what is known as a Holy Family Fest, which is a weeklong, fun, and faith filled vacation. These fests are the cornerstone of the Apostolate’s ministry to work through the family to spread the message of Total Consecration to Jesus, through Mary, in union with St. Joseph (the Holy family). There are 5 Holy Family Fests scheduled for the summer of 2011 (up from 4 in 2010), and these fests will host over 4000 people (they set a new attendance record each year) to a family vacation they will never forget.
We discovered this beautiful, holy place set in the hills of eastern Ohio about 5 years ago when I was looking for a marriage retreat. They offered what they called a “Marriage Get-Away” weekend. Sounded great to us- the timing and the price were right, so we signed up. What we experienced when we were there blew us away. Catholics full of love and conviction for the Church, teachings committed to the Magesterium, and the Message of Hope in family Consecration. Consecration? What was that, we wondered? As the weekend progressed, we learned of the Blessed Mother’s message at Fatima and the command to consecrate our families to Jesus through her Immaculate heart and to pray the rosary as a form of spiritual warfare, for as the founder, Jerry Coniker, stated, the battles of our country concerning abortion, immorality, sex-education, euthanasia, etc., are not political, but spiritual battles only to be won by devotion to Mary and Consecration to her Son.
Last year was our first year to attend a Holy Family Fest. I remember the reactions of our then 8 and 10 year-old sons. “You mean we have to go to Mass EVERY DAY?” It is an understatement to say that they were skeptical. My own husband, who now admits it had to be Satan, expressed his own reservations. On a side note, it is curious that we noticed this same reservation among families we invited- orthodox Catholic worried that it wouldn’t be orthodox enough; committed Catholics worried that it might be too overwhelming. My husband says he noticed a real change in his heart after he received the Sacrament of Reconciliation (which is offered every afternoon out under the trees) and was able to receive the graces that abound in such a sacred setting. So our first recommendation for attending a Fest? Get to confession ASAP! As we were leaving our first Fest, our 2 year old was crying because she didn’t want to leave, and the 8 and 10 year olds exclaimed “You HAVE to bring us back next year!!!” Bring them back we did and experienced another life-changing week.
So what do you DO at a Holy Family Fest you might ask? A typical day begins with the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. The Masses are so beautiful, so reverent. The homilies are powerful- so powerful that at one point my oldest son knew he was not worthy to receive the Eucharist until he went to confession. After Mass, all children 4 and older (even the college kids) disperse to a Vacation Bible School type atmosphere while the adults have a speaker on any variety of topics. Families reconnect at 12:30pm for lunch and the rest of the afternoon is filled with swimming, water slides, sports tournaments, adoration, confession, horseback rides or a well-deserved nap. At 3 pm all activities pause for the praying of Chaplet of Divine Mercy and then it is game on until the evening. Family rosary is scheduled around 7:30pm and then there is usually an evening activity such as line dancing, bonfire with marshmallow roasting or family fun night.
The pinnacle of the Fest is Banner night, which is a variety show held on the last night of the fest. At the beginning of the week, 12 families are selected to create a banner to be presented during the show. In between the family banner presentations, the staff and volunteers provide entertainment with a blend of skits that are entertaining enough to keep the attention of a two year-old. Banner night concludes with all the children coming up on stage to perform their songs and dances they had been preparing all week during their youth programs. This is perhaps where you see fruit of the atmosphere at Catholic Familyland- that it is so acceptable to love Jesus and live your faith. The children feel this and then get to witness the example of the teen volunteers in their reverence and love for the Church. If you are ever skeptical about the youth and future of the Catholic Church, you need only attend a Fest and be encouraged.
I could go on for pages and pages, but hopefully I have done a substantial job in introducing you to this beautiful treasure. The Apostolate has several websites and hundreds of free resources. The main website is familyland.org; for information on Consecration to Jesus through Mary, visit familyholiness.com. There is also familylandtv.com which enables you to watch family friendly shows right from your PC. Our favorite is FamilyCatechism.com. The Apostolate has put their entire Family Catechism online for free. It is so easy to use and a great reference when you or your child has a question about the faith. I close with the words of the Consecration Prayer: All For the Sacred and Eucharistic Heart of Jesus, all through the Sorrowful and Immaculate Heart of Mary, all in union with St. Joseph!
Copyright 2011 Jill Spieldenner