On Friday of last week Fr. Stan Rother, a priest originally from Oklahoma, was declared a martyr for his faith. The news gave me a personal sense of joy.
Although I didn’t know Fr. Rother, I feel like I did. Many times I have visited the church in Guatemala where he was killed. Each time I have gone with a group of parishioners to our sister parish, San LucasTaliman, we have gone to Fr. Rother’s parish, Santiago, in the neighboring town on Lake Atitlan.
Fr. Stan had been sent by his own Diocese to work with the Tz’utujil Indians in Santiago. He came to love the people and they him. During the country’s civil war, many of the locals were being tortured and killed. When Fr. Stan’s discovered his own name was on the death squad’s list, he went back to Oklahoma. But after a while he told his family and his bishop, “When the sheep are in trouble, the shepherd doesn’t run.” He returned to Guatemala and took precautions, sleeping in a different place each night.
Nonetheless, Fr. Stan was killed one night. I have knelt in that small room where he was martyred and prayed for strength and for commitment to my mission.
The word martyr means witness. My prayer today is that all of us will willingly give witness to our faith by the way we live…and die.
“This is how all will know you are my disciples if you have love for one another.”