Boys Rejoice as Pope Shuts Down Cafeteria

Pope Francis Shuts Down the Cafeteria.

Headline, The Wall Street Journal

I was walking to Sacred Heart School (motto: “The Fear of the Nuns is the Beginning of Wisdom”) and as usual I stopped by Timmy Schoenen’s house first to see if he was ready.


“Tim-my!” I yelled outside his gate although I saw in a second that I didn’t have to–he was already bounding down the steps from the kitchen and practically crashed into me.

“Guess what?” he exclaimed.


“The Pope shut down the cafeteria!”

I checked the handy calendar that came with the wallet I got for Christmas to make sure it wasn’t April Fool’s Day. It was the 15th so maybe he wasn’t kidding. “So no more fish sticks?”

“Yep. And no more yellow wax beans served by sweating stevedore-like lunch ladies.” Timmy got a +99% on the vocabulary portion of the Nebraska Aptitude Test of Basic Stuff.

“Huh,” I huh’ed aloud. “How do you know?”

“It was in the newspaper my dad was reading at breakfast–The Wall Street Journal.”

“The Daily Diary of the American Dream?”

“That’s the one. It’s all business news and stock prices, no sports or comic section.”

I stopped and gazed off into the distance, taking it all in. “So does this mean we won’t have to clean our plates to avoid a lecture from Sister Mary Joseph Arimathea.”

“And get sent back to our table to finish off tuna noodle casserole.”


“Have you ever tried the trick where you drink your milk, open up the carton and stuff that crap inside?”

“Sure I have, lots of times. She’s on to me–says I’m a . . . ‘re-cidivist’–whatever that is.”

“Whatever it is, I’m sure it’s not something good. She’s the ‘bad cop’ of the Sisters of the Precious Blood.”

“I am so gonna enjoy thumbing my nose at her.”

“Careful,” I cautioned. “You never know if this is some kind of Jesuit mind-trick.”

Star Wars fans will be familiar with “Jedi mind tricks,” but most people don’t know that it was the Jesuits who came up with this mental jiu-jitsu. When the Scottish Reformation made Catholicism illegal in 1560, priests learned to parry the question “Are you a Catholic?” in Yogi Berra-like fashion by saying “You mean right now?”

We picked up several anti-cafeteria fellow travelers on the way and by the time we reached the corner of Third Street and Moniteau we were a rabble ready to tear down our personal Bastille, sparing only the chocolate milk, which cost 3 cents a carton, as compared to 2 cents for regular.

As we approached the steps to the “new” building that housed the cafeteria in the basement who should appear on the front steps but our nemesis, Sister Mary Joseph Arimathea. Like Davy Crockett at the Alamo, she apparently wasn’t going down without a fight.

“What’s all this about, you hooligans?” she shouted as she crossed her arms with an air of determination.

“The Cafeteria’s been shut down!”

“Yeah–we want some real food for lunch.”

“Like pizza . . .”

“. . . or hot dogs”

“. . . or hamburgers!”


A smirk stole across Sister Joe’s customarily grim visage, but I didn’t get the sense she was amused.” “If I added up all of your reading comprehension scores, I wouldn’t get to the 50th percentile,” she scoffed.

We looked at each other. “Why do you say that?” Timmy finally managed to gurgle through a throat constricted by fear.

“Because the Pope isn’t shutting down cafeterias–he’s shutting down Catholics who think they can pick and choose their way through church doctrine, observing the ones they like, ignoring the others.”

“Fooled you — I shut down a metaphor, not the REAL cafeteria!”


You could have heard our collective gulp all the way down at the end of the gleaming aluminum bars where the cash register was located. The long exhale of disappointment we let out when we realized that we’d have to keep eating “mystery meat”–charitably described in the menu as “Salisbury Steak”–and deserts of limited appeal, such as Jell-O cubes.

“So,” Timmy said in a dejected tone. “What’s on the menu for today?”

“Sloppy Joes,” Sister Joe replied.

We fell as one to our knees, and Timmy led us in prayer. “Praise the Lord!”

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