How I Almost Lost My Soul in San Francisco…


While scaling the hills of San Francisco, Joy and I came upon Grace Cathedral—the “cathedral” of the Episcopal Church. It was rather magnificent. I’m a former Episcopal priest and I am, alas, still moved by my old allegiance from time to time. My flesh (or perhaps the devil) suggested that I go in and check it out. “Who knows,” I said in jest, “maybe I’ll throw on a chasuble and celebrate ‘Holy Communion’ service like I did in the old days.”

So we went inside. Immediately, I was awestruck by a beautiful life-size crucifix of our Lord Christ. Evensong was being chanted and it echoed throughout the building. If you have experienced the glory of Anglican Evensong, you know how hauntingly beautiful it can be as it reverberates through a large church.

I then saw a beautiful mural of Saint Francis and Saint Clare. Next I discerned a mural the Blessed Juniper Serra. “Perhaps I have made a mistake,” I said to myself. “The Episcopal Church, even in San Francisco, isn’t so bad after all. This place seems pretty catholic…so aesthetically pleasing.”

Then my eyes adjusted to the darkness. I saw a woman in a cassock pretending to be a priest. Then, I then observed people walking through one of those Gnostic labyrinths on the floor. As I discerned more errors, my entire soul filled with horror. I wanted to leave that place without any delay. Suddenly, the place seemed to have transformed into a den of devils, and I was ashamed that I had even entertained the thoughts that I had about donning a chasuble:

“Like a dog that returns to his vomit
is a fool that repeats his folly” (Prov. 26:11)

I went outside and felt dirty for having gone inside. I made the sign of the cross. Joy and I let out a collective sigh and said a Glory Be in thanksgiving for having been delivered from Babylon. I immediately wanted to call my friends who are still serving as Anglican clergyman and ask them to consider Catholicism. “Anglicanism is not Catholic. Period.”

Never before in my life has Anglicanism been revealed as such a sham. It is antichrist to the extent that it employs Catholic trappings and yet denies the incarnation of our Savior, along with its sacraments. I have no doubt that the false religion at the end of the world will approximate this perfect ensemble of sheep’s clothing.

Apostolicae Curae is comforting after this experience. It is a profound consolation to know that the Most Blessed Sacrament is not confected in these outwardly beautiful places.

Later, I knelt at the humble church of Old Saint Mary’s Catholic Church in Chinatown. It was at that tabernacle that the Sacred Heart of Jesus called me and consoled me. Instead of a labyrinth, I observed the Stations of the Cross. Instead of a lady in a “priestess” cassock, I looked up at the image of the Immaculate Mother of God over the altar. People were kneeling in the pews, telling their beads. This is my home – the New Jerusalem come to rest on earth.

To all my Anglican clergy friends, please come home to Rome. It will be painful, but it is worth it.

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  • Damascus

    I think, Pat, that you have missed my point entirely. Your sarcasm notwithstanding, I will take to heart what you have said. I am not looking for the perfect church because I know that from its earliest days, the has never been perfect, and never will be. What disappointed me here, was the excessiveness of Father Marshall’s posting. It was over-the-top, far out and beyond. It reminded me of the writings of far-right Protestant Fundamentalists when they refer to the Church of Rome as the Whore of Babylon. Now, I find Father Marshall doing essentially the same kind of name-calling. What is interesting to me is that converts to Catholicism become such sword-wielding, mud-slinging Zealots. Instead of calmly, peacefully, and with a high degree of dignity decorum, they go about their business of such off-putting zeal that it makes one hesitate. Peace to you. I only tried to say, as others did, what my take on this submission was. Your slam really wasn’t necessary. As I said, I open to discussion, to be convinced even. I hope you accept my olive branch if I have offended you. 

  • Anonymous

    Keep posting stuff like this i really like it

  • Sam Keyes

    Dr Tighe and Fr Newman are no doubt right in their characterization of the Episcopal Church above, but one must be consistent:  if it’s only a “church” in scare quotes, then it can’t be held to the standards of being a particular church; whatever the claims of its General Convention, there are many faithful Christians associated with that sect, and it is hardly fair to yell at them for being “in communion” with San Francisco when Anglicanism as such has no real theology of what it means to be “in communion.”  As far as Fort Worth goes, or, within the Episcopal Church, many of my friends in the Diocese of Dallas:  it may be “dressing up,” but accusing a child of being the antichrist and whore of Babylon is hardly going to help them grow up.  

    Personally I tend to agree with Fr Hunwicke’s judgment that “Anglicanism” is a “nonsense religion.”  But do not mock the fact that many Anglicans seek (and provisionally, falteringly, grasp) the Catholic Church.  It is Anglicanism that taught me, against and despite itself, that I ought to be a Catholic.  That is why Pope Benedict has given us such a wonderful gift in Anglicanorum Coetibus.  It has nothing to do with Anglicanism on its own merits; it has everything to do with the way that the Holy Spirit used a bad thing, a sham religion, and made it into something capable of showing people the Cross, and through it, the Church.  To treat Anglicanism in the simplistic and reactionary way you do above is to treat the pope as a liar, and to question the real extent of your own “conversion.”  

  • Taylor Marshall

    The Chartres labyrinth is situated at the Western end of the nave and has the same dimensions as the rose window, which is as high up on the facade as the labyrinth is away from the West wall. If you could fold the cathedral over onto itself as if it were hinged where the West facade and floor meet, the rose window depicting Our Lady would line up perfectly with — and cover — the maze.

    The symbolism is as old as the second century. Our Lady the Blessed Virgin unties the knots of Eve.