Blessed Stanley Rother, the Shepherd Who Did Not Run

Copyright Rebecca Hamilton. All rights reserved.
Copyright Rebecca Hamilton. All rights reserved.

Blessed Stanley Rother’s life and death offer religious leaders who are honestly seeking to follow Christ a contemporary example of how to do it.

After his beatification here in Oklahoma City, I wrote a post for the National Catholic Register. Here is part of what I said:

I wonder what Father Stanley Rother thinks of all this.

He’s now a blessed, beatified martyr of the Church. People say things like “Father Stanley, pray for us,” and they don’t mean it in the casual “please send up a prayer” way that we ask others for prayer. They mean it in the way we might ask a highly-placed person in a corporation to say a good word for our job request.

Humble Stanley Rother, farm boy from Okarche, Oklahoma, is now an all-star in heaven. As so often happens with future saints, he had to struggle to realize his vocation.

The same Stanley Rother who later became so fluent in an obscure Indian dialect that he helped translate the New Testament into that dialect, could not master Latin. He flunked out of one seminary and was accepted at a second only on a conditional basis.

This refusal to quit became the hallmark of his martyrdom. It reminds us that one of the special qualifications for being a saint is a willingness to say “yes” to God, even when that “yes” seems ill-advised and stupid to the outside world.

Father Rother could have left his mission when things got too dangerous. The smart move would have been to come home to Oklahoma, live a fruitful life as a parish priest and die, decades later, in his bed. No one would have thought the less of him. He could have hidden behind the “orders are orders” world of the priesthood and simply taken an assignment in Weatherford or some such place.

But he asked to stay, with full knowledge that his life might be forfeit. He was aware, right up to the moment it happened, that he had a target painted on him and was likely to face being “disappeared” as so many others had been.

But “the shepherd cannot run” he said when explaining why he would not leave. And they did come for him, and he fought them, and they shot and killed him.

As his father said when he heard that his son had been murdered, “They finally got him.” (Read the rest here.)

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