Thought for the Day – 28 July 2018 – The First Memorial of Blessed Stanley Francis Rother (1935-1981) Martyr “The Shepherd Who Didn’t Run”
In Guatemala, Blessed Stanley spent his life in the service of his flock and, over time, he became one of them. He helped his people cultivate farms for crops, advised them in all manner of life’s problems and even pulled teeth for them when necessary. But he was more than a social worker; he was their father — the one who preached to them the Word of God in their native tongue, catechised them and their children and distributed the sacraments through which they grew ever closer to God.
The backdrop to his work and ministry in Guatemala is the political turmoil that wreaked havoc on the country in the 1970s and ’80s. Eventually, Rother became a victim of the guerrilla fighting and was killed for defending the rights and dignity of his people. His death was no less noble than his life had been. Though he had been warned multiple times that he was a target and despite having been home months before his death, Rother willingly chose to return to Guatemala to defend and remain close to his people. He wrote to this effect just months before his death, saying, “the shepherd cannot run at the first sign of danger. Pray for us that we might be a sign of the love of Christ for our people, that our presence among them will fortify them to endure these sufferings in preparation for the Kingdom.” (excerpt OSV)
This loving shepherd brings to mind the words of Pope Francis way back on 28 March 2013, just 2 weeks after his election to the Papacy, that our priests must be “shepherds living with the smell of the sheep.” And so, we too, must be extending ourselves to our neighbour!
Prayer for the Canonisation of Blessed Stanley Rother
O God, fount of all holiness,
make us each walk worthily in our vocation,
through the intercession of Your saints,
on whom You bestowed
a great variety of graces on earth.
Having graced Your Church
with the life of
your priest and martyr,
Blessed Stanley Rother,
grant that by his intercession
this humble flock may reach
where the brave Shepherd has gone.
Grant that Your Church may proclaim
him a saint living in Your presence
and interceding for us all.
Through Christ our Lord.
Below is a plan and facade view of the huge Cathedral Shrine, planned to honour Blessed Stanley in Oklahoma. – http://stanleyrother.org/shrine/
One Minute Reflection – 28 July – Saturday of the Sixteenth week in Ordinary Time, Year B – Today’s Gospel: 13:24-30 and The First Memorial of Blessed Stanley Francis Rother (1935-1981) Martyr
‘Sir, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then has it weeds?’…Matthew 13:27
REFLECTION – “In today’s gospel, my friends, we see that when the owner of the field had sowed his seed in good soil, the enemy came while he was sleeping and sowed weeds in it. What this means is that God created Man good and perfect but the enemy came and sowed sin. This was Adam’s downfall, a terrible fall that opened the door to sin in the human heart.
Are you saying that we must pull out the weeds? “But no,” the Lord replies, “for fear that in pulling up the weeds you pull up the good seed as well. Wait until harvest.” This is how the human heart must remain until the end, a mixture of good and bad, vice and virtue, light and darkness, good seed and weeds. God did not wish to destroy this mix and refashion a nature in us where there would be nothing but good seed. He wants us to fight, to strive to prevent the weeds from taking over. The devil comes to sow temptation across our path but we are able to overcome it by grace, we can smother the weeds. Three things are absolutely necessary against temptation: prayer to enlighten us, the sacraments to strengthen us and vigilance to preserve us. Happy are souls that are tempted! It is when the devil discerns that a soul is tending towards union with God that he redoubles his rage.”…St John Marie Vianney (1786-1859)
PRAYER – All-powerful and ever-living God, splendour of true light and never-ending day, chase away the night of sin and fill our minds with the glory of Your coming. Take away our heart of stone and give us a heart of flesh, help us in our battle with sin and the devil. By our prayers, Your holy sacraments and the strength of the Holy Spirit, may we be ever vigilant of the evil one. Blessed Stanley Rother, although evil surrounded you, you kept your eyes on the Lord, knowing He was always with you. Hear the prayers of Blessed Stanley on our behalf dear Lord. We make our prayer through Christ, our Lord with the Holy Spirit, one God forever, amen.
Our Morning Offering – 28 July – Saturday of the Sixteenth week in Ordinary Time, Year B
Lord, I am Yours By St Francis de Sales (1567-1622) Doctor of the Church
Lord, I am Yours,
and I must belong to no one but You.
My soul is Yours,
and must live only by You.
My will is Yours,
and must love only for You.
I must love You as my first cause,
since I am from You.
I must love You as my end and rest,
since I am for You.
I must love You more than my own being,
since my being subsists by You.
I must love You more than myself,
since I am all Yours and all in You.
Today, 28 July 2018 , is the First Feast Day of Blessed Stanley Francis Rother (1935-1981) Martyr, Priest, Missionary. Blessed Stanley was born on 27 March 1935 in Okarche, Oklahoma. He was martyred by gunshot at approximately 2am on 28 July 1981 in his rectory in Santiago Atitlán, Sololá, Guatemala.
Stanley Francis Rother was one of 4 children of Franz Rother (8 August 1911 – 2 July 2000) and Gertrude Smith (23 May 1913 – 24 October 1987), who had a farm close to that town in Oklahoma; sister Betty Mae, who became Sister Marita and two brothers, Tom & Jim. Stanley was strong and adept at farm tasks. Then after completing his high school studies at the Holy Trinity school he declared his calling to the priesthood to his parents. His parents were pleased with their son’s decision though his father asked him: “Why didn’t you take Latin instead of working so hard as a Future Farmer of America?” To prepare for this, he was sent to the Saint John Seminary and then to Assumption Seminary in San Antonio in Texas. His talents gained working on the farm left him with other duties at the seminary and his studies suffered and he struggled with Latin. He served as a sacristan, groundskeeper, bookbinder, plumber and gardener. After almost six years the seminary staff advised him to withdraw.
After consultation with his local bishop Bishop Victor Reed he then attended Mount Saint Mary’s Seminary in Emmitsburg in Maryland from which he graduated in 1963. Bishop Reed ordained him to the priesthood on 25 May 1963. Rother then served as an associate pastor in various parishes around Oklahoma and in 1968 – at his own request – he was assigned to the mission of the archdiocese to the Tz’utujil people located in Santiago Atitlán in the rural highlands of southwest Guatemala.
So that he could be in closer touch with his congregation, he set out to work to learn Spanish and the Tz’utujil language which was an unwritten and indigenous language that the missionary Ramón Carlín once recorded. He served in Santiago Atitlán from 1968 until his death. Rother lived with a native family for a while to get a better grasp of practical conversation and worked with the locals to show them how to read and write. He supported a radio station located on the mission property which transmitted daily lessons in both language and mathematics. In 1973 he noted with pride in a letter: “I am now preaching in Tz’utuhil.” During that time, in addition to his pastoral duties he translated the New Testament into Tz’utujil and began the regular celebration of the Mass in Tz’utujil. In the late 1960s Rother founded in Panabaj a small hospital, dubbed as the “Hospitalito”, Father Carlín served as a collaborator in this project.
By 1975, Rother had become the de facto leader of the Oklahoma-sponsored mission effort in Guatemala as other religious and lay supporters rotated out of the program. He was a highly recognisable figure in the community, owing to his light complexion as well as his habit of smoking tobacco in a pipe. Since there was not a Tz’utujil name equivalent to “Stanley,” the people of Father Rother’s mission affectionately called him “Padre Apla’s,” translated as “Father Francis,” in reference to his middle name.
Rother put his farming skills to good use in Guatemala, on one occasion operating a bulldozer from 7:00 am to 4:30 pm to clear land on local farms, stopping just for Mass. His door was open to all people. There was one old man who appeared each day for lunch and others came for advice on personal or financial affairs. Some even turned up to have their teeth extracted. On one occasion he accompanied a boy to Guatemala City to be treated for lip cancer, from which the boy was eventually cured.
Within the last year of his life Rother saw the radio station smashed and its director murdered. His catechists and parishioners would disappear and later be found dead, with their bodies showing signs of having been beaten and tortured. In December 1980 he had addressed a letter to the faithful in Oklahoma and wrote about the violent situation: “This is one of the reasons I have for staying in the face of physical harm. The shepherd cannot run at the first sign of danger.”
At the beginning of 1981 he was warned that his name was on a death list (he was number eight on the list) and that he should leave Guatemala at once to remain alive. One parishioner warned him in January: “Father, you’re in extreme danger. You must get out immediately.” Rother was reluctant but he nonetheless returned to Oklahoma in January, though he later asked the archbishop for permission to return: “My people need me. I can’t stay away from them any longer.” Another reason for returning was that he wanted to celebrate Easter with them. His brother Tom said to him, upon hearing that Stanley wanted to return to Guatemala: “Why do you want to go back? They’re waiting on you and they’re gonna kill you.” Rother said: “Well, a shepherd cannot run from his flock.” “Pray for us that we may be a sign of the love of Christ for His people,” said Fr Stanley, “that our presence among them will fortify them to endure these sufferings in preparation for the coming of the Kingdom.” Rother went back to Santiago Atitlán in April and knew that he was being watched.
On the morning of 28 July just after midnight, gunmen broke into the rectory of his church and shot him twice in the head after a brief struggle. The killers forced the teenager Francisco Bocel (who was in the church at the time) to lead them to the bedroom of the “red-bearded Oklahoma-born missionary.” The men threatened to kill Bocel if he did not show them Rother and so Bocel led them downstairs and knocked on a door near the staircase saying: “Father. They are looking for you.” Rother opened the door and a struggle ensued as Bocel ran upstairs hearing Rother yell: “Kill me here!” One shot pierced his jaw and the fatal shot struck the left temple; there were bruises on both hands. His father Franz – upon hearing the news of his son’s death – rang his eldest daughter Marita in Kansas and told her: “They got him.” She hung up the phone and wept.
Father Rother was one of 10 priests murdered in Guatemala that year. His remains were flown back to Oklahoma and were buried in his hometown on 3 August 1981, in Holy Trinity Cemetery. At the request of his former Tz’utujil parishioners, his heart was removed and buried under the altar of the church where he had served.
Three men were arrested on charges of murder within weeks of Rother’s murder, another man and a women were sought for questioning at that stage as well. The three men arrested admitted to having entered the church in a robbery attempt and also admitted to having shot Rother dead when the priest attempted to stop them. Despite the confessions, many people familiar with the circumstances of the murder considered the three accused persons as innocent and the prosecutions to be a cover-up of paramilitary involvement in the murder. Convictions for all three men were later overturned by a Guatemalan appellate court, under pressure from U.S. authorities. No other suspects have been prosecuted for the murder.
On 1 December 2016 his Beatification received approval from Pope Francis after the Pope confirmed that Rother had been killed “in odium fidei” (in hatred of the faith). On 13 March, 2017 the date for his Beatification was announcedand was Beatified on 23 September 2017 at the Cox Convention Centre, with Cardinal Angelo Amato presiding over the Beatification – as the Prefect of the Congregation of the Causes of the Saints on the Holy Father’s behalf at a Mass attended by approximately 20,000 people.
St Acacius of Miletus
St Alphonsa of the Immaculae Conception/India FCC (1910-1946)
St Arduinus of Trepino
St Botwid of Sudermannland
St Camelian of Troyes
St Celsus of Rome
Bl Davíd Carlos-Marañon
St Eustathius of Galatia
St Irene of Cappadocia
Bl John Soreth
St José Caselles-Moncho
Bl José Melchór García-Sampedro Suárez
Bl Josep Castell-Camps
St Longinus of Satala
St Lucidius of Aquara
Bl Manuel Segura-López
St Nazarius of Rome
St Pedro Poveda Castroverde
St Samson of York
Bl Stanley Francis Rother (1935-1981) Martyr
He is the first US-born Priest and Martyr to be Beatified (on 23 September 2017) and the second person to be Beatified on US soil following the 2014 Beatification of New Jersey-born nun, Blessed Miriam Teresa Demjanovich S.C. (1901-1927).
His First Feast Day today, 28 July 2018
St Pope Victor I
Martyrs of Laodicea – 8 saints
Martyrs of Thebaid: A large but unspecified number of Christians who were imprisoned, tortured and murdered together in the persecutions of Decius and Valerian. 3rd century Thebes, Egypt.
Martyred in the Spanish Civil War – Thousands of people were murdered in the anti-Catholic persecutions of the Spanish Civil War from 1934 to 1939.
Martyrs of Fernán Caballero – 14 beati: Fourteen Claretian clerics who were martyred together in the Spanish Civil War. – 28 July 1936 in Fernán Caballero, Ciudad Real, Spain. They were Beatified on 13 October 2013 by Pope Francis.
Bl Antolín Astorga Díez
Bl Enrique Serra Chorro
Bl Gregorio Charlez Ribera
Bl Joan Ayats Plantalech
Bl Joan Bover Teixidor
Bl Joan Costa Canal
Bl José Aurelio Calleja de Hierro
Bl José Gutiérrez Arranz
Bl Josep Camí y Camí
Bl Josep Martí Coll
Bl Lluis Casanovas Vila
Bl Lorenzo Arribas Palacio
Bl Manuel Collellmir Sentíes
Bl Miguel Léibar Garay
Bl Narcís Felíu Costa
Bl Pedro Alonso Fernández
Bl Pelagi Ayats Vergés
Bl Pere Vilar Espona
Bl Primitivo Sandín Miñambres
Bl Ramon Gros Ballbé
Bl Vicente Toledano Valenciano
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