God Bless the Midwest! This fall the Church has received truly a “good harvest” from the farmland of Oklahoma: Father Stanley Rother (1935-1981), the first American-born martyr, was beatified on September 23, 2017.
Father Stanley Rother was a farm-boy who discovered his vocation to the priesthood, and despite struggling to learn Latin in seminary was ordained in 1963.
Five years later he offered himself for the mission in Guatemala where he served for the next 13 years. He oversaw the translation of the New Testament into the indigenous language and introduced agricultural techniques to improve the crop yield among the poor farmers of the region.
During a brief return to the United States after his name appeared on a death-list, Fr. Rother begged his bishop permission to return to the mission saying: “the shepherd cannot run.”
When his hour came he imitate his Lord unto death, pouring out his life for his flock as a martyr in Santiago Atitlan. Read more about his story on the official website of his cause: stanleyrother.org and see the short video about his life made for the beatification celebration.
Beatification in Oklahoma City: A Family Affiar
On September 23, 2017, Father Stanley Rother, the first American-born martyr, was beatified at the Cox Convention Center in downtown Oklahoma City. Cardinal Angelo Amato, SDB, the Prefect of the Congregation for the Cause of Saints, traveled from Rome to the heart of the Mid-West to celebrate the Rite of Beatification.
Two Oklahoma vocations in our Religious Family (twins from the same family!) along with two other pilgrim sisters traveled out to the heartland for the ceremony. They were able to pray with the local Church as “one of their own” was raised to the honor of the altars. This event was an especially great mystery and miracle in an overwhelmingly Protestant state like Oklahoma where the Catholics make up only 6% of the population.
A first-class relic of the new Blessed was present for veneration.
Very fittingly, the Latino Catholics of Oklahoma were present for the beatification in traditional dance as well as religious processions on horseback.
As they waited outside to get into the Mass, Sr. Misericordia from Florida was delighted to see the faithful Catholics on horseback, and commented that the “Cabalgata” (religious processions on horse-back) are well known in Aguascalientes, her family’s home state in Mexico.
She inquired where they were from, and sure enough, the Cabalgata was formed of Mexican families originally from Aguascalientes now living and working in Oklahoma. Knowing that some of her family had settled in Oklahoma, she asked if there were any from her town and mentioned her family name. One man on horseback answered her in Spanish saying, “yeah, some of them are here…I’ll tell them to try to find you.” A few minutes later, Sister was surrounded with some of her cousins!
Pilgrimage to Okarche
After the beatification, the sisters traveled to Okarche, the tiny town where Bl. Stanley Rother grew up.
They visited Holy Trinity, the parish where he was baptized and served as an altar boy for many years.
There the were able to meet a number of the members of his family, including his sister, Sr. Marita Rother!
The sisters also visited the small museum containing a number of his personal effects…second class relics!
Finally, they also prayed where his body buried in Oklahoma…though his heart is buried appropriately in Guatemala.
More Documentaries about Father Stanley Rother
To learn more about his story we provide this link to “Oklahoma Martyr”: Episode 604 (28:46), a documentary made by the local Oklahoma PBS station and aired on April 13, 2017. The video includes footage of his parents, interviews with his family members, and testimony of the medical miracle attributed to his intercession.
The 2009 documentary “A’plas – The story of Father Stanley Rother” (26:47) made by Diego Colombi also tells the story of Fr. Rother’s sacrifice for his flock in the context of the political conditions prevailing in Guatemala in the 1970’s and 1980’s.
July 28 is Blessed Stanley Rother’s feast day, which can be celebrated with the following proper Collect prayer:
who gave your priest Blessed Stanley
the heart of a pastor and the fidelity of a martyr,
grant, through his intercession,
that the humble flock may reach
where the brave Shepherd has gone before.
Who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.
Blessed Stanley Rother, pray for us! May the heartland of America continue to give missionary saints to the Church!
From Oklahoma, Kansas, Missouri, Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota…keep praying for our priests, seminarians and sisters hailing from the Midwest!