by Marc and Julie Anderson
OKLAHOMA CITY — On Sept. 23, more than 14,000 people witnessed the beatification of Father Stanley Rother at the Cox Convention Center here. Among the thousands were two Benedictine monks from St. Benedict’s Abbey in Atchison — Abbot James Albers and Father Meinrad Miller, chaplain of Benedictine College. Both monks are distantly related to each other and the newly beatified priest.
The pair was among 288 priests and 51 bishops from around the country, including Archbishop Paul Coakley of the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City, in attendance. Cardinal Angelo Amato, SDB, the prefect of the Congregation for Saints’ Causes, served as the principal celebrant of the Mass.
The rite of beatification started with Archbishop Coakley, accompanied by Archbishop Emeritus Eusebius Beltran and Dr. Andrea Ambrosi, postulator of the cause, addressing the cardinal with the official request for beatification.
As the rite continued, Archbishop Beltran read a brief biography of the priest.
Cardinal Amato then read the apostolic letter from Pope Francis declaring Father Stanley Rother to be counted among the blessed of the Catholic Church, after which Archbishop Coakley read an English translation.
The rite continued with the unveiling of a tapestry of the martyred priest, after which applause broke out in the convention center. A relic of Blessed Stanley Rother was processed to the side of the altar as “Holy God, We Praise Thy Name” was sung by the choir and those in attendance.
Sister Marita Rother, ASC, and Tom Rother, along with his wife Marti, joined the cardinal and the archbishop to exchange greetings. Sister Marita and Tom Rother are the late priest’s two living siblings.
In his homily, Cardinal Amato extolled the late priest’s heroic virtues.
“In a period of grave social and political turbulence in Guatemala, Father Rother lived as a perfect disciple of Christ, doing good and spreading peace and reconciliation among the people,” said the cardinal. “Unfortunately, his immediate recompense on this earth was persecution and a bloody death, in accord with the words of Jesus: ‘Unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat; but if it dies, it produces much fruit’ (Jn 12:24).
“His blood, united to that precious blood of Jesus, purifies and redeems even his enemies, who are loved and also forgiven.”
The cardinal also invited those in attendance to remember the priest’s martyrdom with joy.
“His martyrdom, if it fills us with sadness, also gives us the joy of admiring the kindness, generosity and courage of a great man of faith. The 13 years spent as a missionary in Guatemala will always be remembered as the glorious epic of a martyr of Christ, an authentic lighted torch of hope for the church and for the world. Formed in the school of the Gospel, he saw even his enemies as fellow human beings. He did not hate, but loved. He did not destroy, but built up.”
As he ended his remarks, Cardinal Amato said, “This is the invitation that Blessed Stanley Francis Rother extends to us today — to be like him as witnesses and missionaries of the Gospel. Society needs these sowers of goodness. Thank you, Father Rother! Bless us from heaven!”
Both Abbot James and Father Meinrad think Father Rother’s example will inspire many.
“This is a historic moment in the American church, and I think we’re going to see many fruits,” the abbot said.
“Going to the beatification of Blessed Stanley Rother was much more for me than going to a social event for a distant relative,” said Father Meinrad. “Blessed Stanley, through baptism, is related to all of us. In Christ, we all are brothers and sisters, sons and daughters of our merciful Father. It was this awareness that led to his martyrdom. For him there were no second-class citizens.”
“When he insisted on seeing the humanity and the face of Christ in all people,” Father Meinrad continued, “he was put on death lists. In spite of this, he did not give in to fear, but trusted God. He told people that, if he should be killed, they should light the Easter candle and sing Easter hymns. The awareness of the resurrection of Christ flooded his soul.”
“I think he will become a model,” concluded Father Meinrad, “for ordinary, hard-working people who do not abandon their faith, but always trust in the goodness of God.”