Thursday, September 13, 2012

Remembering Canon Offerle

The Rev'd Canon Robert Warren Offerle, CSSS
Today is the year’s mind of the finest priest I ever knew.  He smoked cigarillos, drank cheap light beer, gloried in his collection of bad cuff links, and, more than once, I thought I might kill him before we got home when we went to West Africa together.  He had a stutter and a limp. He was The Rev. Canon Robert Warren Offerle.

He spent most of his life in unglamorous places doing the right thing.  He went to Namibia for five years after college as secretary to the local bishop and was eventually kicked out of the country for he and his fellow clerics’ resistance to Apartheid.  He did stints in Haiti and Panama and spent years in working class parishes in the US and working with the poor.  He was a man of strong theological opinions, but got on well with everyone, put people at ease, and had a tremendous sense of humor.

Canon Offerle didn’t earn my respect because of the things he had done, but because of his motivation for doing them.  I knew when I walked into my old parish in Philadelphia for Evensong that I would find him in his stall, saying his rosary and making his daily meditation before the Blessed Sacrament.  I knew he had said all of the previous Breviary Offices of the day, had offered Mass, and would end the day with Compline. Prayer came first, no ifs, ands, or buts.  His advice on mental prayer was, “Just talk to Him.  He wants to hear, even though he already knows, then listen.”

His commitment to standing with those in need grew out of his faith, not out of his politics.  He certainly had a politics, but he never confused it with the mystery of the Incarnation.  I learned more from him about being a priest over breakfasts after daily Mass at Pete’s Diner than I ever learned in seminary.  For all his earthiness, quirks, bad puns, and wicked gift for mimicry, he was a genuinely holy man.

Pray for me today, Father, as I shall pray for you, until we meet again.