Saturday, July 28, 2018

On the First American Martyr, Blessed Stanley Rother

Blessed Stanley Rother on Being a Pastor

Stanley Rother was a farmer priest coming from the Diocese of Oklahoma and Tulsa.  He struggled academically and was dropped from his first seminary but was given a second chance at Mount St. Mary's Seminary in Emmitsburg, Maryland.  He was ordained in 1963 and served in Oklahoma until 1968, when he answered a calling to be a missionary to Mayan Catholics in Southern Guatamala. 

Fr. Rother's faith and solidarity with his rural agrarian parish endeared him to the natives and increased their faithful participation in church life.  In late 1980, Fr. Rother witnessed a disappearance and torture of some of his parishioners.  When Fr. Rother learned that he was also on a hit list, he briefly returned to the United States to visit family and contemplate how to fully live his vocation.  Fr. Rother returned to Mount St. Mary's Seminary to discern what to do.  Despite being warned that his life was in danger, he sought to return to his mission to celebrate Easter with his people.

Fr. Rother was murdered, presumably by paramilitaries, in his rectory on July 28th 1981.  His people loved him so much that his Mayan parishioners wanted to keep the relic of Fr. Stanley's heart at their simple parish, while the rest of the remains were repatriated to Oklahoma.

Pope Benedict XVI declared Stanley Rother a Servant of God in 2009.  In 2016, Pope Benedict recognized Stanley Rother as having being killed "in odium fidei".   Blessed Stanley Rother's beatification mass was held before an overflow crowd of 20,000 in Oklahoma City on September 23, 2017.  

Blessed Stanley Rother's feast is on day of his martyrdom when he entered into eternal life on July 28th.