On Saturday afternoon, my dear friend, the Rev. Fr. Philip Roulette, fell asleep in the Lord. He had fought the good fight against cancer for a couple of years.
We met in 1983 when I was called to be rector of St Mark’s Church, Highland, in the Diocese of Maryland. Philip was a son of the diocese. Whenever a priest transferred into the diocese, he would invite him to lunch. He was twelve years older than I, yet, for reasons that will always remain opaque to me, he chose me for friendship. We eventually became best friends. Friendships come and go, yet our friendship continued. I will be preaching at his funeral this coming Saturday.
Philip and I also shared a terrible bond. We each lost a son. “Al,” he would frequently tell me, “the grief never goes away. One simply learns how to bear it.”
A month ago Philip called me and informed me that he was dying. I drove up to Baltimore a few days later and was privileged to share an hour with him. We reminisced about life in the Diocese of Maryland and in particular the Baltimore Declaration. Philip was the one who encouraged our clergy support group (which at that time consisted of Philip, me, and four other priests) to make a statement in response to theological developments in the Church. He was particularly distressed by the growing pluralism that effectively compromised the unique identity and salvific work of our Savior. “We have to do something,” he told me in a telephone conversation. And so we got to work on a confession of faith, which we eventually shared with the diocese and national church. For fifteen minutes we were celebrities. But the Declaration did not achieve what we hoped it might achieve. Minds were not changed. The Episcopal Church continued on its merry way. But I remain proud of what we attempted. And it all happened because of the courage and perseverance of Philip Roulette. The Declaration cost him dearly within the diocese—many viewed him as a traitor—but he had no regrets. All that mattered to him was faithful witness to the Lord.
At the end of our conversation I prayed with Philip and anointed him with oil. I then placed his hands on my head and asked for his blessing. He prayed for me. We embraced. Tears streamed down our faces.
I will miss Philip terribly. This cuts deeply. He was a faithful and godly priest. He was a loving husband, father, and grandfather. He was a true gentleman and a man of integrity. He was my friend.
The Baltimore Sun published Philip’s obituary this morning. Please do read it.
Pray for the soul of my friend Philip Roulette. Pray for his lovely wife, Kitty, and their son, Randolph, and their several grandchildren.
May his soul and the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace.