On this Saturday, September 23, Fr. Stanley Rother will become the first U.S.-born priest to be beatified. I wrote once before about Rother, the subject of a wonderful book by my even-more-wonderful friend, Maria Ruiz Scaperlanda, titled The Shepherd Who Didn’t Run.
Rother ministered to the poor in Guatamala at an incredibly difficult time of armed internal conflict in that country. Among other tasks, Rother was faced with searching for the bodies of the desaparecidos – people who “went missing” by government and military action.
In a recent article for America Magazine, Scaperlanda writes
“And what do we do about all this?” wrote Father Rother to a friend. “What can we do but do our work, keep our heads down, preach the Gospel of love and nonviolence.” To use Pope Francis’ image, Father Rother was a shepherd who smelled like his sheep.
Paraphrasing the words St. Paul used in Acts 13:22 to recall God’s reason for favoring King David, it is clear that Christ found in Rother “a man after his own heart,” one “who did all that was asked of him”—to the point of martyrdom.
As he wrote at the end of his final Christmas letter from the mission to his church back in Oklahoma in 1980, “The shepherd cannot run at the first sign of danger. Pray for us that we may 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 coming of the Kingdom.”
On July 28, 1981, Father Stanley Rother, the servant of love, was murdered in the parish rectory, martyred for the Gospel and for his sheep.
I will be at the Jesuit Retreat House in OshKosh from Thursday night through Sunday, giving a preached Ignatian retreat for women. We will recall Fr. Stanley’s model of discipleship and pray for those to whom he ministered.