Ember Friday fun: 70s Dinner Party photos

Don’t pull a long face when you fast, Our Lord says. But your stomach is grumbling and you are in a foul mood. It’s Ember Friday. Tomorrow is Ember Saturday, more fasting and abstinence. You can’t bear it anymore.

What to do? Look at these photos from the hysterically funny Twitter account 70s Dinner Party, and you’ll conclude that the Novus Ordo Mass of Paul VI isn’t the only abomination to come out of that nasty decade, the 1970s. You won’t be hungry again after gazing at these masterpieces from the disco era.

70s dinner party

Some ideas for fish Fridays . . .

fish for lent

unhappy fish

friday abstinence

I’d rather be fasting, thank you!

reasons to fast

dubia cardinals




Ghost stories at Christmas

The British have traditionally told ghost stories at Christmas. That is why Charles Dickens wrote his famous story, “A Christmas Carol”. However, the most famous and best ghost stories were written by Montague Rhodes James, better known as M.R. James, a medievalist and provost of King’s College, Cambridge.

His stories were filmed by the BBC in the 1970s. You can find some of them on YouTube.

You can download M.R. James’s short stories for free here. They are best read aloud in a small cozy room, preferably with a fire going, glasses of port or sherry or wine at hand, and candlelight, on a cold, snowy night. Each person in the room should take a turn reading the stories.

I suck at evangelising: adventures in trying to explain the Trinity and the BVM

How is it possible that someone who grew up Catholic, went to Catholic school all her life, was educated by strict nuns, read the Catechism of Pope Pius X last year after returning to the Church, and has been doing a LOT of spiritual reading in order to deepen her faith, has on at least two occasions totally blew it when it came to trying to convert (gently) her non-Catholic husband? It would be utterly tragic if it weren’t so funny.

In my defense, the chances I’ve had of evangelising and converting came in the form of a series of ambushes (accompanied by heavy artillery) from the my significant  other.

(1) ICBM (intercontinental ballistic missile) with nuclear warhead: the Trinity

This query about the Trinity came in the form of an ICBM, least appropriately, over a lunch of ramen noodles in tiny, hot noodle bar. The question posed to me by Dear Husband (DH) was about the Trinity.


“What’s the deal with the Trinity? If the Son came from the Father, why didn’t the Father just speak as if he were the Son? Why did the Son talk about His Father when HE is HE, that is, they are the same?” DH asked.

I explained that indeed they are one essence although they are not one person, but three persons – not like three human persons, although one of them has a human nature. I explained further: the Holy Ghost hovered like a dove over Our Lord at his baptism and came to the Apostles, the Virgin Mary and the disciples at Pentecost.

Second ICBM lobbed at me by DH: “Why if he is the Son of God, or God himself did He get baptised by a mere human, St. John the Baptist?” My answer: “Ehhhh . . . ” followed by loud slurping of noodles . . . “Ehhh because He well . . . wanted to set an example.”) Disaster. Floundering on the sea of ignorance, me, cradle Catholic. Very embarrassed. Our Lord has a right to expect better from me and I just failed.

Result: When I got home, I opened “The Catechism Explained by Fr. Spirago” and read about the Trinity, and I’m better informed, but I still cannot explain it in a way that will satisfy DH or anyone who is deeply skeptical about the existence of God in the first place, as is DH.

(2) Short range missile: did the Blessed Virgin Mary ever get baptised?

Oh dear, that’s a good one. I never even thought of that. This short-range missile was fired by DH from the other side of a table at a French restaurant as we were enjoying a main course of beef cheek simmered in red wine. We had already gone through half a bottle of very good Burgundy. I’m a lightweight when it comes to alcohol, so I was tipsy when I was attempting to plumb the depths of my memory about the BVM’s baptism: no, I don’t recall there ever having been any mention of the BVM’s baptism, but I do know why she didn’t have to be baptised. Let me see . . . why exactly is that? My memory fails me. I just know. Clock is ticking. DH is staring at me, smiling, “Gotcha!”is going through his head.

So this is what I said: “Well, there is a Baptism of Desire . . . ” I knew the second after these words came out of my mouth that it was a big FAIL. DH laughed heartily. I could see from his expression and discern from his laughter that he thinks Catholicism is totally wacky.

I’m suddenly plunged into a deep sorrow, while savouring the beef cheek stewed in red wine. My glass is starting to empty and DH fills it with more wine. There won’t be any more discussions about the BVM (or indeed the Trinity) tonight!

Only later (once the alcohol has worn off) did I remember that the BVM was born without original sin, hence, no need for baptism. Hey, why didn’t the fine bottle of Burgundy insert that answer into my head at the moment the short range missile was fired at me?

On both occasions, my Jewish husband got terrible answers from me and as a result, I don’t think he is any closer to converting to Catholicism. However, he does love the old beautiful churches of Rome, the works of Michelangelo and Fra Angelico and Massacio, Gregorian chant, Baroque music, especially the cantatas of Bach, Matthaeus Passion, Weihnachtsoratorium, . . . there is hope!

I do pray for his conversion everyday, and I try to live my life as an example of a good Catholic. Hopefully, he will convert.

Strange things have happened to me since my return to the Catholic Church

A miracle brought me back to the Catholic Church in March 2017. Now I will tell you the wonderful, strange things that have happened to me since that day.

(1) I received a vision of heaven in a dream.

I dreamt I was walking along a beach, which curved ahead of me in a half moon shape. It was close to sunset. I was alone surrounded by nature. Past the sandy part of the beach I could see only trees and beyond them, majestic mountains. The place looked a lot like Greece. Suddenly, everything before me became charged with energy, a very intense energy that was not of this world. I don’t know how else to describe what I saw and what I felt. I knew that I was looking at heaven and I began to run towards it with my arms raised in the air. In a few seconds, I woke up and received an interior message that it was indeed heaven. I also understood that the vision of heaven had been given to me to encourage me in my return to the Church: to pray fervently, to increase my faith, to remain ever hopeful, to do penance, to perform works of mercy. I don’t remember any other dream in such detail, but this one is as vivid as if I had just dreamt it a couple of minutes ago.

(2) I began to find jewellery.

Very shortly after I returned to the Church, I went on a long trip to Europe. One afternoon, while I was sitting at the edge of the bed of my rental apartment in the southwest of France, I happened to look down toward the floor. Lying there was a delicate bracelet of gold and agate stone. I put it on and it fit me perfectly. My wrists are very thin and I have a hard time finding bracelets that don’t slide off. This one was just the right circumference. Then, a few weeks later, I went to Paris. I was sitting in the garden of a museum, a quiet place where I could get away from the crowds. I looked down and there, lying on the pebbles, was a gold ring. I placed it on my ring finger and it fit me perfectly. Next day, I spent an hour confessing my sins to an Irish priest. It was my first Confession in 40 years.

(3) The first Rosary I bought since my return to the Church, came from the Albi Cathedral in France (note: the Albigensian heresy was defeated by St. Dominic after he received the Rosary from Our Lady).

I don’t know why I bought a Rosary in that particular Cathedral, and not in the other churches I had visited in France and Spain on my trip to Europe in summer 2017. When I visited Albi, it had been 3 months since I decided to come back to the Church. I had already developed a special devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary: I promised to say the Rosary everyday (I had been using my fingers to count the Ave Maria prayers). When I bought my Rosary in the Albi Cathedral shop, I had no idea that Our Lady gave the Rosary to Saint Dominic to aid him in his battle against the Albigensian Heresy in that region, so I did not know the importance of Albi Cathedral and its link to the Rosary. It was only months later, reading Saint Louis de Montfort’s book, “The Secret of the Rosary”, that I discovered how special Albi is in the history of the Rosary and in the Church’s battle against heretics.

(4) My mission in life was revealed to me in a dream.

In January of this year, I began doing a lot of mental prayer. I asked Our Lord: what is my mission in life? Most of us think of our mission in life as something quite grand and heroic: to establish a religious order; to go on a mission to the far corners of the earth; to write a theological treatise; to become a martyr, etc. Anything but this mundane life, right?

The answer given to me in a dream was very surprising and not at all what I would have imagined: my mission is to love.

A powerful Voice said: “Who is going to love people if not you? Who will comfort them when they’re sad, lonely, in pain, abandoned, dying? Who will feed the hungry and house the homeless? Who will give hope to those who are so deep in despair that they want to kill themselves? The Voice continued: “One day, I will come and as I promised, I will make all things new. No one will suffer anymore. But until then, you, My servants, need to do My job on earth. When I return, I will ask you: did you do the tasks I assigned to you? You will be judged according whether you did the tasks I gave you.”

I woke up from this dream in tears. I have kept these words in my mind and I ask myself if I’m doing it. Every day I infuse all of my actions with love for Our Lord: chopping vegetables, grocery shopping, talking to my husband, dining with my friends, etc. When I started doing this, I realised how impatient I am and how I lose my temper very easily. This mission hits me at the heart of my worst vice: my pride. This mission to love is not any easier than a mission to start a convent or go into the Amazon jungles to preach the Word of God. It is very difficult to remain mindful of my thoughts, words and actions every day. I find that I fail often and have to go to Confession.

(Side note: I finished reading the autobiography of St. Therese of Lisieux last week. In the book, she says, “At last I have found my vocation; my vocation is love!”)

(5) Prayer request regarding meaning of John 16:5-16 was answered.

A few days ago, I did my mental prayer/meditation on John 16:5-16, the passage in which Jesus tells the Apostles that it is expedient for Him to go away. I did not understand it. Why did He have to go so soon? Why not continue preaching for thirty or forty more years after the Resurrection? I pondered this for 15 minutes in mental prayer, asking for illumination on what this passage really means. The next day, I woke up and when I checked my Podcast app, and there, downloaded, was a sermon on the meaning of . . . John 16:5-16! I listened to it and finally understood why Jesus had to leave so soon after the Resurrection.

(6) I prayed that the insurance company reimburse me for medical expenses and they did – in full.

My insurance company had been giving me a hard time for five months on a claim I filed for reimbursement of medical expenses. The amount is significant. Week after week, I received nothing, but lies and bureaucratic rubbish. I don’t know why it never occurred to me to pray for assistance in the past, but a few days ago, I did. Within 48 hours of my prayer, I got an email from the insurance company informing me that they will reimburse me for the entire amount. I was shocked. I had expected to recover at most, fifty percent of my expenses. Lesson learned: never doubt the efficacy of prayer.

(7) Serendipitous finding of a clean plastic bag – a funny coincidence.

Last week, while walking with my friend and her dog, we realized only after leaving her apartment that she had forgotten to bring a small plastic bag to pick up the dog’s droppings. We were in quite a panic, wondering where was the nearest convenience store. What happened next is amazing. We both looked down on the sidewalk and saw, right in front of our eyes, a clean plastic bag. How did it get there? Why at that moment? Sidewalks here in Japan are spotless and don’t have rubbish lying around, least of all plastic bags, let alone ONE CLEAN plastic bag. So she picked it up and a few minutes later, of course, she had to use it for the dog.

The occurrences I’ve mentioned above never happened to me in my “old” life, before I came back to the Church. It’s all very strange and marvellous.

Follow Father Johannes Schwarz on his pilgrimage along the Via Alpina Sacra

Follow Father Johannes Schwarz on his pilgrimage along the Via Alpine Sacra starting May 15, 2018 by visiting his Instagram and YouTube sites.

Father Schwarz’s website, 4kmh.com says:

The The Via Alpina Sacra is the attempt at the longest pilgrimage route through the alps connecting 8 countries and more than 200 of the largest, most beautiful, oldest, highest, most significant Catholic shrines, churches and monasteries. Its length is about 2550 miles (4100km) with 600.000 vertical feet (180.000m) of positive elevation change (i.e. counting only ups). Its starting point is the patriarchal basilica of Aquileia (Italy). Its end point is one of the oldest monastic settlements in the West on the island of Saint-Honorat (410) off Cannes (France).


Today he posted this photo (see below) of the stunning Patriarchal Basilica of Aquileia on the northern end of the Adriatic Sea, near Grado, where he begins his pilgrimage.