Saturday, September 23, 2017

A missionary priest is blessed

Today, September 23, an Oklahoma-born diocesan priest who was martyred in Guatemala will be declared blessed. Father Stanley Rother, known as Padre Francisco or Padre ‘Aplas to the people he served in Santiago Atitlán, Guatemala, was a farm boy who almost never made it to the priesthood. Yet he was loved by the indigenous people he served.

Last night I listened to the Vatican Radio interview with María Ruiz Scaperlanda who wrote a recent biography on Father Stanley, The Shepherd Who Didn't Run: Father Stanley Rother, Martyr from Oklahoma.  (There is also an earlier book, Love in a Fearful Land by Henri Nouwen.)

I was struck when María mentioned his “gift of presence.”

Presence is central to my understanding of my mission here. Sure I will teach, preach, preside at Celebrations of the Word, bring Communion to the sick, lead workshops, help projects; and now, as I deacon, I will baptize and preside at weddings and funerals. But what is essential is “to be present,” to witness to the loving presence of God here among the poor.

As Father Stanley noted in a letter:

[O]ur presence here means a lot for the people…. When I hear the people during Mass here on Sunday or Thursday, the cacophony of prayers going up to the Lord, His presence must be there. I am delighted to be a part…. At first signs of danger, the shepherd can’t run and leave the sheep fend for themselves. I heard about a couple of groups of nuns in Nicaragua that left during the fighting and later wanted to go back. The people asked them where were you when we needed you? They couldn’t stay and were forced to leave. I don’t want that to happen to me. I have too much of my life invested here to run.

That inspires me to deepen my commitment to be here, no matter what. As Father Stanley also wrote:

We just need the help of God to do our work well and to be able to take it if the time comes that we are asked to suffer for Him.

I have written previously about Father Stanley Rother here and here

Quotes taken from María Ruiz Scaperlanda’s The Shepherd Who Didn’t Run.

The photo is taken from the page of Vatican Radio’sinterview of María Ruiz Scaperlanda who wrote a recent biography of Fr. Stanley Rother.

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