The mess hall was crowded and very loud, full of boys and girls of all ages. We made our way to an empty table keeping our heads down for fear of being recognized as interlopers. I slid into place next to one of the boys.
A whistle blew and the room grew silent. An imposing man who strongly resembled Grizzly Adams, without the bear, stepped up on a chair towards the front of the room and held his hands in the air. The camp followers raised their hands. I wasn't sure what to do. I decided that I would hold my hands in a half raised position thus not fully supporting the religion that I didn't belong to and not fully denying my own. I looked like I was being held at gunpoint in a bad western. It was better than nothing and I wanted breakfast before I was discovered and thrown out. He led the group in prayer. A long prayer. I thought he was going to thank the Lord for each and every person in the room when the cook stepped out of the kitchen and imitated a slicing motion with a wooden spoon across his throat. It ended abruptly. I clapped. The lone clapper in the camp. I pretended that I was doing a cheer to save myself from embarrassment. "Jesus, Jesus, he's our man . . . if he can't do it no one can!"
Another toot of the loud whistle thankfully silenced me and the food was brought out on carts by a battalion of efficient kitchen help. They looked like they were pushing dim sum carts at a Chinese restaurant. It was then that I noticed a handwritten menu board placed on either end of each table. Not only were pancakes on the menu but there was also bacon, and eggs and juice. I was in heaven and couldn't wait to chow down. Our cart arrived, bringing with it the aromatic smell of breakfast. The server asked us what we wanted as he lifted the domes off the plates. The boy next to me ordered for all of us. "We'll have some Penance Pancakes, some Bible Bacon, a few Sacrificial Sausages, a pitcher of Old Testament O.J., and you can leave the Coffee Chalice here on the table." The girls and I stared at our plates. I wasn't so sure I wanted to eat Sacrificial Sausages, or anything that started with the word "Old" but beggars can't be choosers so I decided to go with it. It didn't take much to convince me of anything in those days.
The food didn't look any different to me than normal stuff so I figured the names were probably part of a Bible vocabulary lesson at the camp. I asked the boy across from me to pass the Second Coming Syrup and Bible Butter which were already on the table. I heard somewhere that Sacrificial Sausages tasted better that way or so I said at the table to make some conversation. The boys ignored me, eating as if this was their last meal. I guess reading the Bible worked up an appetite. I dug into my plate and ate the delicious pancakes, all the while asking God for forgiveness for being such a traitor. Our church pancake breakfasts were nothing like this one. Our food was named after famous people; Aunt Jemima pancakes and Jimmy Dean sausages. Various thoughts swirled around in my head. Maybe they were saints or martyrs or something. We hadn't studied that yet in school. I ate and drank until I was in a semi-comatose state.
That shrill whistle blew again and Grizzly Adams stood on the chair. He asked for the Prayer Warriors to join him. A war cry erupted from the crowd as they pounded on the tables with their fists and stomped their feet. That woke me up in a hurry. My spidy sense was in full alert. Two of the boys from our table got up and made their way to the front of the hall. If they started speaking in tongues, I was out of there. If snakes came out of a basket, I was out of there. If the image of Jesus appeared behind them, I was out of there. Nothing like that happened. The Prayer Warriors put on a skit about Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden. The closest thing to a snake was a neck tie borrowed from the Preacher to act in its place.
Our time at Bible Camp soon came to an end. The nuns and teacher had sent out a search and rescue team when we didn't come back from our walk and they stormed the hall looking for us. Grizzly Adams thanked us for joining them. The Bible Boys thanked us and all in all it was an enlightening experience. They weren't so different after all.
When we sat down at the table for dinner that night back at our cabin I thought about the different names that the Bible Camp used for their food. I looked at our food and decided to bring a little of what I learned at the Bible Camp to our table. I looked at Sr. Gertrude and asked her to please pass the Messiah Meatballs. Sr. G. looked at me and said, " They were all out of those at the local store, so I bought Mama Gina's instead." And I said, "Well then, pass those and some of that Sainted Spaghetti!"
the end . . .