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Historic beatification held in Oklahoma 

More than 20,000 converged on Oklahoma City to celebrate the beatification of Blessed Stanley Rother — the first recognized U.S.-born martyr and native-born priest to be beatified 

Michael R. Heinlein OSV Newsweekly

9/25/2017

Blessed Stanley Rother — the Oklahoma missionary martyred in Guatemala in 1981 — was beatified in Oklahoma City on Sept. 23. With his beatification, the universal Church has recognized that Father Stanley Rother is now counted among heaven’s citizenry, and he may be venerated publicly in the places where he lived and died.

While the event marks the second beatification on American soil — the first being 2014’s beatification of New Jersey’s Blessed Miriam Teresa Demjanovich — Rother’s beatification is a first in two significant ways: It was the first beatification of a U.S.-born martyr and also of the first for a native-born American priest. Blessed Stanley’s beatification brings the number of American blesseds to three — soon to be four once Venerable Solanus Casey is beatified in Detroit on Nov. 18.

The beatification, hosted by the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City, was held in the see city’s Cox Convention Center, where attendance far exceeded expectations. The convention center reached its standing-room-only capacity of more than 14,000. And while close to 6,000 more were accommodated in designated overflow areas, the Oklahoma City Police Department reported that about 5,000 were turned away. Some of that number filled nearby hotel lobbies, where TVs broadcast the Mass and crowds of Catholics followed along reverently. Considering the latest figures report an 8 percent Catholic population in Oklahoma, this was no small detail.

The international gathering truly was representative of Catholicism’s global character. The principal celebrant and homilist at the Mass was Cardinal Angelo Amato, S.D.B., prefect for the Holy See’s Congregation for the Causes of Saints. The beatification Mass was attended by 52 bishops in total. Many bishops were from the United States. And in addition to Cardinal Amato, however, other episcopal dignitaries included former apostolic nuncio to Guatemala Archbishop Paul Gallagher, who now serves as secretary of the Holy See’s Secretariat of State, and Archbishop Peter Wells, an Oklahoma native who serves currently as apostolic nuncio to South Africa, Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia and Swaziland. A strong contingency of participants were present from Guatemala, led by many of that nation’s bishops. Filling in the floor seats were nearly 200 men and women religious, almost 200 deacons and nearly 300 priests.

The rite of beatification began with a formal petition read by Archbishop Paul S. Coakley. An official biography of Father Rother was then read by Oklahoma City’s Archbishop Emeritus Eusebius J. Beltran. The participation of Archbishop Beltran in the rite of beatification is notable because he not only knew Father Rother, but he also opened his cause of canonization in 2007.

In his homily, Cardinal Amato reminded the congregation of the historic nature of Blessed Stanley’s beatification. But more than that, now that he is beatified the Church holds up the witness of Blessed Stanley as a model for Christians to follow.

“Father Rother, aware of the imminent danger to his life, prepared himself for martyrdom, asking the Lord for the strength to face it without fear. He continued, however, to preach the Gospel of love and non-violence,” Cardinal Amato said. Planning to donate blood on the morning after his death, Father Rother’s blood was shed the night before instead. “His blood, united to that precious Blood of Jesus, purifies and redeems even his enemies, who are loved and also forgiven,” Cardinal Amato said.

Blessed Stanley Rother’s two living siblings were in attendance at the beatification: Thomas Rother and his wife Marti, and Sister Marita Rother, A.S.C. After the rite of beatification the family was greeted by Cardinal Amato. Sister Marita proclaimed the first reading, which was from the Old Testament book of Sirach.

After Cardinal Amato proclaimed in Latin the apostolic letter of Pope Francis, by which Venerable Stanley Rother was proclaimed to be among the blessed, Archbishop Coakley read an English translation. A newly rendered image, up till then draped in red covering, was unfurled at that moment for the first time. The Archdiocese of Oklahoma City has printed the image on newly designed prayer cards for his cause of canonization, copies of which attendees received following the beatification Mass.

At the conclusion of Rother’s beatification Mass, Archbishop Coakley stated that the work of the archdiocese and the Church in America is not done as far as Blessed Stanley’s cause is concerned. Archbishop Coakley reminded those who attended and participated in the beatification via television, internet and radio that Rother’s beatification is the penultimate step ahead of his canonization. Since Blessed Stanley was beatified as a martyr, no miracle was necessary as is the case in other causes pursuing beatification. Now, according to ordinary procedure, Blessed Stanley’s cause must await a miracle to be reported through his intercession before canonization may occur. 

 

Michael R. Heinlein is editor of The Catholic Answer magazine.