Friday, July 31, 2020

of hearts and memories and home and peach trees and turning 60

Three years ago, my family surprised me with fruit trees for my birthday – a pear, a plum, and a peach tree. As is always true in life, I had no clue then how much my life was getting ready to change or how different my daily landscape would become.


Fast forward to last Spring, the months when all my energy became focused on going to heart rehab -- and on the reality of moving and finding a new house in Oklahoma City.


As I look back on it now, it’s downright humorous to see how the two became one!


For the past year and a bit, I have felt an undeniable parallel connection between the house we lovingly called Casa Scap and my body. It may sound ridiculous, but as I’ve struggled and stumbled over the physical changes and reality of a heart condition and my aging body, I have also fought and cried over the changes and the letting go of that old but familiar home of 23 years.


I know it’s just a house. And I know we will make new memories in the new house. Believe me, I know. That Waverly Ct house was the 23rd house I have lived in! 


It’s not just about the memories, or the stories, or the Sacraments that we have celebrated there – from First Communions and weddings, to baby showers for my Grands. 


It’s not just about my wrinkles, or the sagging, or the new scars and meds – or the fact that I’ll be turning SIXTY in a couple of weeks.


It’s about ALL of it. 


Saying goodbye to our Norman home reminds me – no, REFLECTS and visualizes for me, how my role as a mother has changed, how different my life as a grandmother is now, and how precious is the life we have left, both as a couple and as individuals. 


The last time I walked through our Waverly Court house a few days ago, my eyes watered as I could see with my heart’s eyes the many beautiful moments we experienced there. I consciously and deliberately offered prayers of thanksgiving for the walls and rooms that allowed us to welcome and love the dozens, or rather hundreds, of young people over the years. 


And I brought home, to our new house, a bag full of pears and peaches. I laughed out loud when I saw that the fruit trees were loaded with peaches and pears – for the first time, ever! 

Oh, God’s sense of humor…

Monday, July 27, 2020

Padre Apla's: santo subito! or at least muy pronto

“The shepherd cannot run at the first sign of danger.

Pray for us that we may be a sign of the love of Christ for

our people, that our presence among them will fortify them to

endure these sufferings in preparation for the coming of the Kingdom.”


~Father Stanley Rother, 

from his Christmas letter to Oklahoma Catholics, 

months before his martyrdom


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Speaking to a plaza full of people in front of the Parroquia de Santiago Apóstol at the 35th anniversary of Blessed Stanley Rother’s martyrdom, Monseñor Gonzalo de Villa y Vásquez, S.J., then-Bishop of Sololá y Chimaltenango (now Archbishop-elect of Santiago de Guatemala) repeated over and over the word pronto at every reference he made regarding Father Rother's canonization. 

He is honored and remembered, but above all, he is their priest, Padre Apla’s, the shepherd who didn’t run away from danger, who stood faithfully and lovingly with his suffering people. 


[Hablando sobre Padre Apla’s]… su martirio se inscribe literalmente en las palabras de Jesús… dar la vida por sus amigos, por su pueblo, por aquellos a quienes se les confió su cuidado… 


[Asi como el año pasado honramos a Monseñor Oscar Romero como martir]… hoy, igualmente, aquí en Atitlán en el recuerdo aparecide la vida y la memoria de Stanley Rother, Apla’s… pedimos a Dios que pronto llegue el día en que la iglesia reconozca oficialmente su martirio… 


[al regresar a Atitlán] podemos decir que Apla’s humanamente selló su muerte trágica.  Con ojos de fé… sabemos y proclamamos que esa muerte trágica y cruel abrió para el la vida eternal…


por eso hoy celebramos con alegría esta misa, y por ello damos gracias a Dios por el recuerdo y el ejemplo de este sacerdote ejemplar…  y pedimos para que pronto no solo lo recordemos, sino que lo tengamos como intercessor.


¡Que así sea!


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[Speaking about Father Stanley’s death]… his martyrdom is a literal manifestation of Jesus’ words… to give his life for his friends, for his people, those who were entrusted to his care.  


[Referring to Oscar Romero’s canonization last year] … today, in the same way, here in Atitlán, we honor and recall the life and memory of Stanley Rother, Apla’s… we petition to God that the day will soon arrive when the universal Church officially recognizes Father Stanley’s martyrdom. 


[With his return to Atitlán] we can say that in human terms Father Stanley sealed his tragic death.  With eyes of faith we know and proclaim that his tragic and heartbreaking death opened for him the doors to eternal life.


That is why today we celebrate with joy this Mass, and why we give thanks to God for the example and the memory of this exemplary priest… and we ask that soon we can not only remember him, but also have him as intercessor on our behalf.


May it be so!


[my un-official translation of Archbishop Gonzalo de Villa y Vásquez’ homily]

July 28, 2016


Padre Francisco – Padre Apla’s -- Father Stanley Francis Rother: 

the young parish priest who put aside his fears, courageously agreeing to serve the People of God in Oklahoma’s mission in Santiago Atitlán, Guatemala.


Father Stanley, the man who struggled to pass Latin and learn Spanish, yet succeded in learning the challenging Mayan language of his Tz’utujil parishioners.


Father Stanley, the farmer from Okarche, Oklahoma, who believed plowing the fields standing next to his Tz’utujil farmers was part of his vocation as a minister of God’s love.


Father Stanley, the shepherd who chose to face death rather than abandon his flock—the shepherd who didn’t run.


And, finally, Father Stanley Rother, already the first martyr from the United States, and the first priest from the U.S. to be declared a Blessed. 


Yes, may we not only remember this exemplary priest, but may we also be able to have him as saint and intercessor on our behalf – and may it happen, ¡muy pronto!


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Want to learn more about Blessed Stanley Rother? 

Check out my biography of our Oklahoma martyr, and SOON, available also in Spanish

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Tuesday, July 7, 2020

remembering Pat, on the 7th anniversary of her death...

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
   In verdant pastures he gives me repose;
Beside restful waters he leads me;
   he refreshes my soul.
 He guides me in right paths
   for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk in the dark valley
   I fear no evil; for you are at my side
With your rod and your staff
   that give me courage.
 Only goodness and kindness follow me
   all the days of my life;
And I shall dwell in the house of the Lord
   for years to come.
                                                 ~Psalm 23

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I will never be able to hear Psalm 23 and not visualize my dear  Pat Stankus in my heart’s memory. 

As part of her preparation for our Camino de Santiago pilgrimage, Pat memorized all the words of the Psalm in order to use it as a prayer mantra as we walked. And by the end of our 350+ miles of walking together, I, too, had internalized the words that we proclaimed out loud together—usually on physically challenging days, or when walking uphill!

It’s been exactly seven years since Pat completed this earthly pilgrimage

I miss her. I miss being able to call her to get her opinion on a decision, or being able to share pictures or stories of our grandchildren over email. I miss her spiritual insights, and hearing about the novels and non-fiction books she had just read (and then mailed to me, along with a note telling me what she loved about it).

I miss how she waited for me on her front swing, anticipating whenever I was coming over to visit. I miss her surprise cards and just-because gifts. I miss her sweet, generous heart and the way she made me feel loved, unique, and truly myself. I miss hearing the way she said "Amen!" with her whole being every single time she received the Eucharist. 

And I am still caught off guard by emotions and tears, as I was the other at prayer, when reading out loud Isaiah 25: 6-10.  It was the exact Scripture that I proclaimed at Pat’s funeral Mass.

I will forever associate Pat with the story and the image of Saint Nicholas, the fourth century bishop of Myra (modern day Demre, Turkey), who was known for his generosity to the needy and for his acts of surprise gift-giving. Pat loved Saint Nicholas as a special friend and, clearly, her mentor in generous giving! 

On the Camino, whenever we encountered San Nicolás, which was often, Pat and I made a point of lighting a candle and saying a prayer together for our families and for all who are in need.  

But no memory stands out more than celebrating Mass together at the 12th century church of San Nicolás in the Camino town of Portomarín, Spain. I can still see Pat smiling, with the joy and genuine giddiness of a little girl!

St. Patricia Elaine of Austin, pray for us.