This excellent article in the current issue of First Things has some great insights about motivating boys to noble action.
What I think I have come to understand about boys is that a desire to commit violence is not the same thing as a desire to commit evil.
Several years ago, two boys in our parish, faced with a school assignment to form a “good-citizenship club,” surprised their mother by deciding to start a Eucharistic-adoration society. Each month this club, which now numbers more than twenty boys, offers hours of adoration for various prayer intentions. This year, in honor of the Year of the Priest, the boys are praying for all the priests in our diocese by name, in monthly rotation.
If it seems a little unlikely, this vision of twenty teen and preteen boys choosing to spend hours of their time kneeling silently in church, let me divulge two secrets. The first is the name of the club: the Holy Crusaders. They chose, deliberately, a title that evokes knighthood, even war. No pastel, goody-two-shoes club, this.
The second is the initiation rite, devised and performed by our parish’s young priest a year in the church. This rite involves a series of solemn vows to be “a man of the Church,” “a man of prayer,” and so forth. It includes induction into the Order of the Brown Scapular, the bestowing of a decidedly manly red-and-black knot rosary, and the awarding of a red sash. What the boys look forward to, though, with much teasing of soon-to-be inductees about sharpened blades and close shaves and collars pulled protectively high on the neck, is the moment when a new boy kneels before Father and is whacked smartly on each shoulder with a large, impressive, and thoroughly real sword.
These Holy Crusaders are, after all, ordinary boys—sweaty and goofy and physical. For them to take the Cross—to take it seriously—requires something like a sword. For them to take the sword, knowing what it’s for, requires the Cross.