Almost two months have passed since the beatification of Fr. Stanley Rother, a priest, missionary, and martyr from Oklahoma. I was one of the hundreds of priests and thousands (15,000!) of lay faithful who filled the Cox Convention Center in Oklahoma City.
I’ve known about Fr. Stanley since I was in elementary school. And in seminary, at the Aquinas Institute of Theology, I was privileged enough to be able to write my master’s thesis on Fr. Stanley, specifically on his spirituality as could be gleaned from his letters and life. A few months after I presented my thesis to the faculty, we heard the news that he was officially declared a martyr, paving the way for his beatification on September 23, 2017.
I drove to Oklahoma City from Lubbock, Texas, where I currently serve as the Chaplain and Director of the Catholic Student Center at Texas Tech University. On this drive I couldn’t help but think of the many others, hundreds of others — people that Fr. Stanley touched from Guatemala, people from all over the country, priests, bishops, cardinals — all coming to celebrate the life of an Oklahoma farm boy.
The Cox Convention Center and the blocks surrounding it were packed with people. After checking in and getting vested, I made my way to the convention floor. Walking toward the doors there was joy on everyone’s faces — priests, sisters, consecrated and lay faithful, but also reporters, volunteers, and convention employees.
The video above was shown at the beginning after which the Mass began. The Rite of Beatification occurred between the Kyrie and Gloria and included reading the Apostolic Letter from Pope Francis, unveiling the banner with Fr. Stanley’s image, and processing in with Fr. Stanley’s relics. The Mass itself used the collect and prayers for Fr. Stanley’s feast day (July 28) and was very much a cerebration of Fr. Stanley’s life as well as a celebration of Oklahoma Catholicism with the intercessions in English, Spanish, Vietnamese, Filipino, Comanche, Tz’utujil, and Korean. You can watch the Mass HERE.
Six weeks have gone by and the Catholic media have largely moved on to the beatification of Fr. Solanus Casey. But those of us in the South add the beatification of Fr. Stanley to the flood of Catholic events quietly happening in the Bible Belt.
— two new Cathedrals to serve the growing catholic population, one in Raleigh, NC, and the other in Knoxville, TN
— vibrant Catholic Campus Ministries
— the largest Catholic Parish is in Charlotte, NC
— southern dioceses with increasing numbers of vocations
— a new college seminary
— and more!
On the drive back to Lubbock from Oklahoma City, I recalled my discernment and the Vocation Awareness Program I attended in Dallas. Priests and religious from all around the region were there and one of them said that he envisioned the Southern U.S. being a new Ireland—a place that fosters new growth for the Catholic Church, so much growth that it begins to send priests out to other parts of the country and the world!
This is quietly happening. Fr. Stanley Rother, pray for us!