An Ordinary Martyr
On September 21st, about thirty St. John Vianney Seminarians hit the road and went on Pilgrimage to Oklahoma City for the Beatification of Fr. Stanley Rother.
Life of the Blessed
Who was this new blessed? Father Stanley Rother was a priest for the then Diocese of Oklahoma City and Tulsa. Heeding the call of Pope Saint John XXIII, Father Rother volunteered to serve at a mission in Santiago Atitlan, Guatemala. His connection to the people was immediate. He not only learned Spanish and their native language of Tz’utujil, but also assisted in translating the New Testament into the indigenous language.
This saintly man grew in holiness as he lived the poverty of the people he served and aided their sick as well as assisting the farmers. As he served, a civil war began between the militaristic government and the guerrillas.
Thousands of Catholics were killed and many of the priests and catechists disappeared. Eventually, Father Rother’s own name appeared on a death list. For his safety, he returned to Oklahoma but was determined to give his life completely to his people. On his heart was the conviction that, “the shepherd cannot run.”
He returned to Atitlan during Holy Week of 1981. Early on the morning of July 28, three men entered the rectory, fought with Father Rother and then executed him.
The people of Santiago Atitlan mourned the loss of their shepherd and friend. As a result of their devotion, the heart of Father Rother remained in Guatemala, while his body was taken to Oklahoma City.
The Pilgrimage to Oklahoma
Our seminarians were blessed with the opportunity to venerate the gravesite of Father Rother with Cardinal Amato, who beatified the martyr. In addition, they visited the home parish of the beloved priest and prayed where he celebrated his first mass.
The most beautiful moment was of course the beatification in the Cox Convention Center. Packed with over ten thousand bishops, priests, deacons, religious, seminarians, and faithful, the Mass of Beatification was a powerful event.
Yet the most moving moment was recognizing the ordinariness of this man. Our seminarians heard and saw the martyr’s sister, his cousins, friends and parishioners. Instilled from all their testimony was the understanding that Father Stanley was like each and every one of us.
He laughed, he prayed, he struggled, and he lived a life that was not necessarily different from any of us. Yet above all, Father Stanley
Rother was faithful. He responded to Lord’s call that brought him to seminary, he accepted God’s invitation to serve in Guatemala, and he heeded the needs of the faithful of Santiago Atitlan, which brought certain death.
May the faith of Blessed Stanley Rother inspire each of us to remain faithful to the prompting that God gives us in order that we may become the saints we are called to be.