Roman Catholicism: Desperate refuge

In The canonisation of two popes: what better day…To pray to them? To bake biscuits?? Read Calvin???, I related that a CNN interviewer asked the Dean of the Roman Catholic “Westminster Cathedral,”London – one of my favourite haunts when I was just out of my teens – whether Catholics pray to saints. He said no; they serve as an example. NO, no; they certainly do pray to the saints. Maybe the Dean doesn’t pray to the saints, but  we cannot even infer that from his answer.

When I was 19, and a student at the University of Cape Town, I converted to Roman Catholicism. Two years later, this devout Roman Jew was in London where I often sought refuge from the city in the Catholic “Westminster Cathedral” near Victoria station, where I frequently attended mass.

I came upon the Cathedral by accident. I was wandering around the environs of Victoria station when I came across what I took to be a Greek or Russian Orthodox cathedral because of its Byzantine architecture; a strange sight next to the other typical grey London office blocks. The interior of the Cathedral is decorated in mosaics.

westminster cathedral

The Catholic church conducts its services according to the Roman rite (which is the majority Roman Catholic rite) and the Eastern rite. Eastern Orthodox churches such as the Russian Orthodox and Greek Orthodox churches practice the Eastern rite but they are not in union with Rome. Westminster Cathedral uses the Roman rite.

In London there is also the Westminster Chapel (a misnomer, because it is very big), a Protestant church where Dr Martyn Lloyd Jones (formerly a Harley Street specialist), arguably the greatest preacher and Bible commentator of the 20th century was pastor (1939 to 1968), who had and continues to have such a great influence on so many, including myself. Many decades ago, Westminster Cathedral (1962; Martin Lloyd Jones at Westminster Chapel was close by) was my refuge; today, it would be – if I lived in London – Westminster Chapel. From Jew to Catholic to Protestant; from a Catholic Jew to a Calvinist Jew!

Today I speak flippantly of Westminster Cathedral as one of my youthful “haunts.” Yesteryear, it was a desperate refuge. I have to admit, the Roman Catholic Church has got so much that appeals to the religious mind; for one, there is more than enough to feed the senses and the mind, and to intermittently dispel the darkness . Alas, it is not only the flesh that is carnal.


See my Autobiography: In search of French past (2): English Effluence