September 13, 2017

Positivity: Stories of Fr. Stanley Rother, from those who knew him

Filed under: Positivity — Tom @ 5:55 am

From Oklahoma City:

Sep 13, 2017 / 03:16 am (CNA).- Unlikely.

It’s a word often used to describe the story of Fr. Stanley Rother, an unlikely priest who came from an unlikely place in the middle of Oklahoma to take on an unlikely task and die an unlikely death, who is now on the unlikely path of becoming a canonized saint.

All of it certainly seemed unlikely, at least for a while, to Fr. Stanley’s little sister, Sr. Marita, who has been a religious sister since the age of 17.

One never really considers that saints could be found within one’s own family, Sister Marita told CNA.

“As young people, when we learned about the saints, their backgrounds, why they became a saint, we said: ‘How did they do it? We could never do that!’” Sr. Marita recalled.

“And then you see something like this in reality, and it puts a whole new perspective on life, on God’s purpose in our life and why we’re here.”

Sr. Marita’s big brother will be beatified in Oklahoma City on September 23. Pope Francis officially recognized his martyrdom, clearing the way for his beatification, in December 2016.

Fr. Stanley was killed in 1981 while serving at a mission parish in Guatemala, at which he had been stationed for 13 years. While at the mission, he had built schools, hospitals, wells and a Catholic radio station, as well as a strong rapport with and love for the people there. In the midst of Guatemala’s civil war, Fr. Stanley briefly left the country in 1981, but returned to be with his parishioners, which cost him his life.

For those who knew him as he was growing up, the idea that Stanley would become a great leader in the faith on the path to canonization would have seemed, well, unlikely.

Growing up with quiet, ‘occasionally ornery’ Stanley

“He was quiet, kind of bashful in a sense, so was I,” Sr. Marita said. “Introverted or whatever you want to call it.”

She said she remembered teachers calling Stanley, herself and their next brother Jim the “three little bears” at school “because we were just like stairsteps” – very close in age.

Stanley was well-behaved – they all were – at school, said Sr. Marita, because in a the small German Catholic town of Okarche, Oklahoma, surrounded by siblings and cousins and relatives, word spread fast if you decided to act up.

But that doesn’t mean they wouldn’t get up to the occasional “ornery” thing on the farm, Sr. Marita added.

One time in particular stood out to her. She was checking the hen house for eggs with Stanley when he asked her to reach up and check under a hen that she was sure had already been checked.

“And I said ‘well you just did it,’ and he said ‘I didn’t do that one.’ So I reached in,” Sr. Marita recalled.

But instead of grabbing a chicken egg, she got a hold of a big (non-venomous) bull snake that had been hiding out in the chicken house.

“And that made me really mad at him, so I chased him to the house for it,” Sr. Marita recalled.

“He got halfway there and I picked up a can from the yard and flung it at him…and it hit him right over the eye. He had a scar there the rest of his life,” she said. “I got in trouble for that one, because I could have hit him in the eye.”

“But that was probably the orneriest thing he did. That was such a scare for me, and he thought it was so funny, and he knew that it wouldn’t hurt me,” she said, laughing.

Stanley was busy helping his parents on the farm, and became president of the school’s chapter of Future Farmers of America, an agricultural club.

He was talented at farming, Sr. Marita said, but he couldn’t ignore God’s call.

Fostering a vocation

There are some things about Fr. Stanley’s story that are not so unlikely.

The fact that his vocation was fostered in the family home in Okarche, Oklahoma, where life revolved around family, farming, and the Catholic schools and parishes, seems very likely.

In fact, there was a lot of discernment about vocations within the Rother family. Sr. Marita said she doesn’t remember who told their parents first, but she and Stanley both declared that they were pursuing vocations the same summer – he would enter seminary, and she would enter religious life. Stanley had just finished high school, and Sr. Marita still had a year left. They hadn’t discussed their decisions with each other before telling their parents.

“We never talked about it that much in the family,” she said, as far as discerning vocations.

But they were surrounded by family and friends who shared their morals and values, and they prayed together daily. …

Go here for the rest of the story.


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