Heart of first martyr from the U.S. kept with his people in Guatemala

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Born in a small town in Oklahoma, Stanley Rother grew up on a farm. There, he learned the importance of both physical work and a good prayer life.

After being ordained a priest, Fr. Stanley joined the diocesean mission team and moved to Santiago Atitlan in Guatemala. For 13 years, he served the Tz’utujil people, who are descendants of the Mayans. 

Blessed Stanley Rother Shrine

The translation of the New Testament and the Mass. And so that was one of those things that he took part in because he knew that it was important that these people that he was serving really needed to be loved by being able to hear the Gospel in their own language.

When Fr. Stanley arrived in the village in 1968, the country's civil war had already been raging for 8 years. Yet, Fr. Stanley and the other priests focused on educating, catechizing and helping the local people in their daily struggles.

Blessed Stanley Rother Shrine

When Blessed Stanley Rother arrived, he saw that there were a lot of human needs that needed to be met.
He saw that there was this, not only spiritual need, but then for the spiritual needs to flourish, he also had to do a lot of hands-on actions, where it's like building a hospital, a school, a radio station that broadcasted catechesis.

Nothing was too much for Fr. Stanley to do to serve the people in Guatemala. For example, he would ride on a motorcycle to be able to bring the Eucharist to people in the remote parts of the region.

His work in the village and defense of the Catholic Church made him a target for the government. His name was placed on a death list.

The bishop in Oklahoma called Fr. Stanley back after the threat increased. But the whole time, Fr. Stanley felt he needed to return to Santiago Atitlan. He wrote in a letter, “A shepherd cannot run at the first sign of danger.”

Blessed Stanley Rother Shrine

He knew that if he left that the military would have really no hurdle to jump over to try to get to the people who they wanted to get to. And so he knew that it was something that he had to go back and fight for his people by just loving them.

On July 28, 1981, three men entered Fr. Stanley's rectory. After a struggle, they killed him. 

Fr. Stanley was beatified in Oklahoma City in 2017. Over 20,000 people from around the world attended the ceremony. He is the first martyr from the United States and the first U.S. born priest to be beatified. 

If it is my destiny that I should give my life here, then so be it. A shepherd cannot run at the first sign of danger. Sincerely in Christ Jesus, Stanley Rother

-He had the courage to be whatever God called him to be. No matter what that meant.

Fr. Stanley's body is buried in Oklahoma. But his heart, just as in life, is still in Guatemala with his people. 


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