Bless Me Father is the true story of an incredible South African life. Born into a violent and broken family, and growing up in a variety of institutions, Cape Town based poet and writer Mario d’Offizi tells his remarkable, often shocking and ultimately inspiring life adventure – one that spans several decades in a country undergoing radical change. From his tough days at Boys Town to wild years in the advertising world, a stint in the restaurant business and a sharp edged journalistic adventure in the DRC, d’Offizi tells his critically acclaimed story with the unfailing sensitivity and warmth of a true poet.
“Shortly after his return, he began to write about his experiences – these narratives rekindled memories, which he developed into the controversial novel, Bless Me Father. “The pastors and orphans I had encountered there and in Zambia took me back to my own past, and so the DRC narrative evolved into an autobiography,” he says.
d’Offizi has lived an eventful life since his childhood, growing up in a broken home full of uncertainty and violence, he ended up in Boys Town – where his life took a turning point. In this part of the story we meet Father Reginald Orsmond. A man described by the Catholic Church having the “…ability to touch the hearts and purses of other people with his enthusiasm, led to the establishment of the great institution that we know today.”
d’Offizi depicts the painful experience of being sexually violated by a Catholic priest, growing up in a dysfunctional home while exploring his own sexual identity. “He would give you a drink, put hands in your lap and tell you certain urges were not evil…” Mario writes in the book. The book was obviously not the best publicity for Boys Town. After reading the book, I wondered how Mario managed to document such a painful story so lightly and articulately with occasional comic relief.
“After writing certain painful parts, I would stop writing for a couple of days. At times I just wanted to shelve the book completely. My publisher encouraged me to finish and set a deadline which forced me to finish the book in the short time I did.”
An autobiography is an i-story from which everyone (or just the targeted audience) can learn lessons. There are things to identify with and readers won’t feel alone with their thoughts and experiences. One message that stood out in the book for me was:Deflect/Reflect. “Deflect the negatives and the shit that comes your way. Deflect them with strength and purpose. Don’t counter-punch. Life is not a martial art. Reflect the love you hold within.”
The book took him only a month to complete. His exceptional memory resonates throughout the book, his first draft was well received by his family members, friends and strong backing from his editor, Andrew Miller, encouraged him to finish the book in the short time he did.”
by Vuyo Seripe