Sunday, February 7, 2016

'The Shepherd Who Didn't Run' Blog Tour: Day 11, Susan Stabile

My husband Michael likes to say that my work (for 30 years now?!) in the Catholic press has brought into our lives some of our best and closest friends. 
It is certainly true that my work has blessed me/us with some phenomenal faith-filled people!
But it is his work as a law professor that I have to thank for bringing Susan Stabile into my life! 
Susan is a spiritual director, a retreat leader, a gifted writer, and yes, a law professor. Like me, Susan yearns for the ocean and loves the Camino de Santiago (which she walked a few years back!). 
One of the many things that I appreciate about Susan is how well she brings together in her writing and her speaking the many aspects of her life and her rich experience, allowing her faith journey and honesty to touch the hearts of many. Her book, "Growing in Love and Wisdom: Tibetan Buddhist Sources for Christian Meditation," is a great example of this! 
Do check out Susan's blog, appropriately titled, CREO EN DIOS!



Who is Father Stanley Rother?  Not a household name, except perhaps for the people in the state from which he hailed, and I knew nothing about him. My dear friend Maria Ruiz Scaperlanda, the incredibly talented and award-winning author and journalist, has done her part in rectifying our ignorance with her new book,The Shepherd Who Didn’t Run: Fr. Stanley Rother, Martyr from Oklahoma.
Given how many things are on my plate right now, it says a lot that once I picked up the book I did not put it down again until I finished it.  No small part of that is simply that Maria is a gifted storyteller who paints vivid descriptions of the man and the people who he served.
A large part of what compelled me, however, was the man himself.  Rother, once thought not smart enough to complete seminary studies to become a priest who seemed more at home tilling the fields or building retreat facilities than writing sermons, deserves to be remembered for his selfless commitment to his people, a commitment that led to his martyrdom.
Maria’s book takes us through Rother’s family background, his upbringing, his struggles in seminary and his early priesthood.  But the most compelling part of Rother’s life begins in 1968, when he was appointed to Oklahoma’s Guatemala mission team.  We learn from Maria about Rother’s growth in his life as a missionary.  One commentator observed that Rother “didn’t go there to do anything.  He went there to be there, with the people.  And because he was there, other things happened…like the school, and the clinic, and farming the fields.”  He was tireless in performance of his pastoral duties as well as developing cropland and other activities designed to better the lives of the poor in the area he served.
Alas, Guatemala during the time Rother was there began to look more and more like the El Salvador in which Oscar Romero ministered.  (And much of what I read about Rother reminded me of Romero.)  Violence and upheaval, massacres,  disappearances, persecution of the church as well as the people.  It was an increasingly dangerous situation, especially for those, like Rother, who raised their voices for social justice.
In early 1981, Rother made the last of his visits to his family.  At the time it was clear his life was in danger and most people believed he should not return to Guatemala.  He himself knew that if he returned he would be deported or killed.
But stronger than any fear or concern for his own safety, Rother felt, “I need to be with my people.  When warned not to return he said “My life is for my people.  I am not scared.”
And so he did return, much to the joy (and surprise) of the people he served and served with.  And he paid the ultimate price for doing so.
If you want to be inspired, if you want to look at the life of someone who truly deserves the label hero (as well as martyr), if you want an example of what it looks to give such a complete “yes” to God that you can accept whatever consequences flow from it, read Maria Scaperlanda’s book about this man, Fr. Stanley Rother, “the shepherd who did not run.”
I would also encourage you to take a look at Maria’s blog, which you can find here.


Saturday, February 6, 2016

'The Shepherd Who Didn't Run' Blog Tour: Day 10, Marge Fenelon

The reason it's hard to describe Marge Fenelon is because she has her hand in so many cookie jars!  Marge is a Catholic author, blogger, speaker, journalist-- not to mention Catholic radio personality. 

And I am proud to call her my friend... I hope you enjoy her Q & A conversation with me, from her blog -- over at MargeFenelon.com!

 

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The Shepherd Who Didn’t Run – 

Q&A with Author Maria Ruiz Scaperlanda


I’m incredibly excited to tell you about a new book written by talented author Maria Ruiz Scaperlanda! 
I had the great privilege to review and endorse The Shepherd Who Didn’t Run: Fr. Stanley Rother, Martyr from Oklahoma (Our Sunday Visitor, December 2015 $19.95)I’m grateful to have been given a sneak peek at this amazing story that is so craftily written and compelling that I couldn’t put it down.
I’m also grateful to have been granted a Q&A with Maria and to share it with you as part of The Shepherd Who Didn’t Run blog tour! I love author Q&As because they give me a chance to look behind the scenes of the book, to learn the interesting anecdotes and little-known facts that went into the making of a great work like this one.
So, without further ado, I invite you to sit down with Maria and me and take a look behind the scenes of The Shepherd Who Didn’t Run.
Q: Every book has an interesting back-story about how the concept came to be. What is yours?
A: First of all, thank you so much for helping me spread the story of Father Stanley Rother, Marge!  I very much believe that he’s a saint for our time. We need the inspiration and example of good holy men and women like him, so thanks for helping me tell more people about him!
Now, about the book, since I was commissioned by the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City to write this, which is not that interesting of a back-story – I’ll answer the question in terms of the title!
In a letter to the Catholics of Oklahoma that was published in the two diocesan newspapers that final Christmas (1980), Father Stanley described the hardships and violence that the community was enduring.
The reality is that we are in danger. But we don’t know
when or what form the government will use to further
repress the Church…. Given the situation, I am not
ready to leave here just yet… But if it is my destiny that I should
give my life here, then so be it…. I don’t want to desert
these people, and that is what will be said, even after all
these years. There is still a lot of good that can be done
under the circumstances.
 He ended that Christmas letter with this beautiful quote,
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.
He truly was the shepherd who didn’t run!  To the end, Father Stanley wanted – and chose –to be God’s presence to his people. That’s why he’s such a beautiful example for this Year of Mercy. He lived the way of mercy.
Q: What was your biggest challenge in writing the manuscript?
To read the rest of my Q & A with Marge, just click here!

Friday, February 5, 2016

'The Shepherd Who Didn't Run' Blog Tour: Day 9, Karen Anne Mahoney

Our next stop on 'The Shepherd Who Didn't Run' Blog Tour is the beautifully titled blog, "Musings from an Irish Heart"by Karen Anne Mahoney!
Karen describes herself as a Catholic woman trying to live a holy life... as a wife, mother, grandmother and writer--much like me! I would also add that Karen is a generous, loving friend and a prayerful, faithful woman of faith. 
With thanks to Karen for joining this crazy cyber-tour... 
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When I first learned about Maria Scaperlanda’s latest book, The Shepherd Who Didn’t Run,” admittedly, I was a little embarrassed because I had not heard of Fr. Stanley Rother, the Oklahoma priest murdered in Guatemala. As a Catholic writer, I felt as if I had missed the boat in not hearing about this incredible priest who was martyred for the Faith.
cover
Luckily for me, my friend Maria sent me this book and I was able to catch up. For those who think that martyrs were only around in “the olden days” think again. Fr. Stanley Rother is a modern day martyr who lived and died for the Faith.
Rother and his four siblings grew up on a farm in very rural Okarche, Oklahoma in a deeply religious family. He learned all aspects of farm life from his father and was expected to carry on in the family business. But one day, he startled his family when he opted for clerics and a bible rather than blue jeans and a pitchfork. Young Stanley was called to the priesthood.
The seminary was difficult for him as he was not the best student. Failing class after class, Fr. Stanley persevered, calling upon the intercession of St. John Vianney for assistance. He was sent to serve in rural Oklahoma, but was soon called to missionary work in Guatemala to serve the indigenous Tz’utujil community of Santiago Atitlán. The agricultural community was perfect for Fr. Stanley with his farming background. He worked alongside his parishioners to build a farmer’s co-op, a hospital, school and the first Catholic radio station. Through this station, catechizing even more remote villages was possible.
Rother-Children-(Larger)
Fr. Stanley was loved so much in his little village that he became known as Padre Francisco, and later called Padre Aplas. He was a quiet and faith filled man and one who reminds me a bit of Pope Francis for his kindness and willingness to selflessly serve others.
Unfortunately, the Guatemalan civil war encroached in the peaceful community that Fr. Stanley had now called home. Each day there was more violence, killings and disappearances. Santiago Atitlán became a dangerous place for Fr. Stanley due to his relationship and camaraderie with the people. There were many who wanted him to leave and to “encourage him,” death threats were levied upon his parishioners. His life was also threatened, but he didn’t want to abandon the people he loved so much. He often repeated the words of Jesus to reinforce his mission, “At the first signs of danger, a shepherd can’t run.” John 10
unnamed           For a short time, Fr. Stanley returned home to Oklahoma when the violence was at its vilest. His name had been placed on a death list and he was warned not to return to Guatemala. Not wanting to leave the people, he returned in time to celebrate Holy Week with his parishioners. Three months later, on July 28, 1981, he was sleeping in his library when three masked men entered the room in an attempt to kidnap and murder him. The invaders shot him twice, once in the jaw and once in the temple.
Through Fr. Stanley’s witness, we see his heart for Jesus, the Good Shepherd. A heart after the “one who gives his life for the sheep.”
To read the rest of Karen's post... go here!

Thursday, February 4, 2016

'The Shepherd Who Didn't Run' Blog Tour: Day 8, Karen Edmisten


How blessed I am to have generous friends who are willing and even excited to help me spread the story of this great saint and martyr!

"The Shepherd Who Didn't Run" Blog Tour continues today at Karen Edmisten's, "the blog with the shockingly clever title." 

Karen is a gifted writer and author, and she has a new book coming out THIS month (and already available for preorder!), "You Can Share the Faith, Reaching out one person at a time," also from Our Sunday Visitor Books.  




It's a genuine privilege to be part of Our Sunday Visitor's blog tour for a new book from my friend, María Ruiz Scaperlanda. Here she is:

 Don't you want to sit down and have a cup of coffee with her?


Here's a little more about her: 
In the past 30 years, María has been published broadly in the U.S., including the New York TimesOur Sunday VisitorSt. Anthony MessengerColumbia, and other national and diocesan publications. 
Maria’s work as a Catholic journalist has taken her on international assignments in Central America and the Caribbean, the Middle East, and throughout Europe. But perhaps her favorite assignment was covering Pope John Paul II’s historic visit to her native country, Cuba. 
Her primary life-time assignment, however, has been as wife to Michael for 34 years, mother to four grown children—and now “Bella" to six adorable grandchildren!

In addition to her journalism, María has written a number of books. Her latest, The Shepherd Who Didn't Run: Fr. Stanley Rother, Martyr from Oklahomapublished by Our Sunday Visitor, tells the extraordinarily moving story of Fr. Stanley Rother, a missionary and martyr who died at the age of 46.



A brief summary of the book from OSV:
Fr. Stanley arrived in Guatemala in 1968, and immediately identified with his parishioners' simple, farming lifestyle. He learned their languages, prepared them for the Sacraments, and cared for their needs. Fr. Stanley, or "Padre Francisco" as he was called by his beloved Tz'utujil Indians, had found his heart's calling.  
After nearly a decade, the violence of the Guatemalan civil war found its way into the peaceful village. Disappearances, killings, and danger became daily occurrences, but despite this unrest Fr. Stanley remained hard at work, building a farmer's co-op, a school, a hospital, and the first Catholic radio station, used for catechesis. 
In early 1981, his name was on a death list, so he returned to Oklahoma and was warned not to return. But he could not abandon his people, so he went back, and made the ultimate sacrifice for his faith.
~~~~~

Perhaps the best way to introduce you to the book is through a conversation with María. I think you'll find, as I did, that you are touched by María and her spirit before you even get to the first gripping pages of this beautiful book about a holy and inspiring Servant of God.


Q. When and how did you first learn about Fr. Stanley Rother's story? What made you want to write a book about him? 

Karen, I want to begin by thanking you for your interest in my book—and above all, for helping me spread the story of Oklahoma Martyr Father Stanley Rother!  I am so happy to be “here” today. 

The Church of Oklahoma has done a great job of making sure that the story of Father Stanley Rother is passed on from generation to generation. When we first moved to the state, my kids (who attended Catholic schools here) came home talking about the local priest who died in Guatemala—and I became intrigued! I wrote a few articles about Father Stanley for various Catholic publications.  Years later, when the Archdiocese opened the cause and began working on this project, I was invited to be part of the Historical Commission, mostly working with the Spanish documents.  This is the group that collected information on Father Stanley and prepared a report to send to the Vatican requesting to open his Cause for Canonization. 

A year after our work was completed, our group traveled to Guatemala and made a pilgrimage to Santiago Atitlán the parish and village where Father Stanley lived and where he was killed. On that trip I also met our (then) new Archbishop, Paul S. Coakley. And it was Archbishop Coakley who invited me – and commissioned me, to write the book! 

Working on this project and telling the story of this holy man has been such a privilege. Our world is so hungry for heroes!  And this farm boy from Oklahoma who grew up to be a martyr for Christ is so much more than a comic book super hero. He shows us that we are all called to be holy where we are, as we are—and that is true heroism. 


Q. Fr. Rother was from Oklahoma, where you currently make your home. How long have you lived in Oklahoma, and what brought you there? What has surprised you the most about Oklahoma and its people? 

Our family moved from Texas to Oklahoma 22 years ago because my husband Michael came to teach at the University of Oklahoma College of Law.  Michael and I met at the University of Texas Catholic Student Center, so we call ourselves displaced Longhorns living in Oklahoma Sooner-land.  Since you’re in Nebraska, I think you understand what this fiery dynamic really means, especially during football season! 

But since I was not born in either, I will risk offending both Texans and Oklahomans by saying that I think they have more in common than they do differences.  The southwest is such a unique, colorful, friendly world. The people of Oklahoma are generous, welcoming, easy-going. Perhaps it’s living in tornado alley, but it takes a lot to rattle people here! 

Coming from a Hispanic Catholic culture where being Catholic is the assumption, what has been a surprise and a great witness to me is how strong the Catholic Church is in Oklahoma, where Catholics comprise 3-6 percent of the population!  When I hear colleagues talk about their state’s church experience, especially in the two coasts, I am reminded about how blessed we are to be living here. We have a strong and active Catholic community in Oklahoma – and a great leader in Oklahoma City’s Archbishop Coakley. 

Q. What surprised you the most about Fr. Rother's story? 

To read the answer and the rest of Karen's conversation with me, just click here!

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

'The Shepherd Who Didn't Run' Blog Tour: Day 7, Woodeene Koenig-Bricker


When I first met Woodeene Koenig-Bricker, I was in awe of the fact that she was a full-time freelancer and able to make a living writing for the Catholic press. Trust me, this is no small feat!

Years later, this talented Catholic journalist hired me to write a column for the magazine she was heading, Catholic Parent, writing on family life and finding God in the day to day of my growing family--a column I continued until that great magazine went to Heaven.

To this day it remains one of my favorite regular assignments in all my years as a journalist!

Woodeene is a talented, prolific writer with a long list of great books to her name. And she remains a generous, loving colleague and dear friend.

She is today's Blog Tour post, from her blog Ordinary Time.

Oh, and just for fun, do check out this great story about Woodeene's latest gift to her community: as a Flower Fairy Godmother! I love this!

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This blog has been a bit, well, a lot dormant while I've been living "Ordinary Time." But I'm bringing it up for a very special reason....my dear friend Maria Scaperlanda has an awesome new book out--The Shepherd Who Didn't Run--the story of Fr. Stanley Rother, the martyr from Oklahoma.


Now Maria lives in Oklahoma and I've visited there--with tornados and horrible weather and blistering heat I think living there would be martrydom, but that's not what Maria is writing about. In her eloquent way, she shares the life...and death of a real, true, modern-day martyr.



The blurb on the back says it better than I can:

"The shepherd cannot run at the first sign of danger." - Fr. Stanley Francis Rother
Fr. Stanley Rother was true to his word. He did not run. And was martyred at the age of 46.
Fr. Stanley arrived in Guatemala in 1968, and immediately identified with his parishioners' simple, farming lifestyle. He learned their languages, prepared them for the Sacraments, and cared for their needs. Fr. Stanley, or "Padre Francisco" as he was called by his beloved Tz'utujil Indians, had found his heart's calling.
After nearly a decade, the violence of the Guatemalan civil war found its way into the peaceful village. Disappearances, killings, and danger became daily occurrences, but despite this unrest Fr. Stanley remained hard at work, building a farmer's co-op, a school, a hospital, and the first Catholic radio station, used for catechesis.
In early 1981, his name was on a death list, so he returned to Oklahoma and was warned not to return. But he could not abandon his people, so he went back, and made the ultimate sacrifice for his faith.
"Pray for us that we may be a sign of the love of Christ for our people," said Fr. Stanley, "that our presence among them will fortify them to endure these sufferings in preparation for the coming of the Kingdom."

Ever since I was just able to read, I saturated myself in the stories of the martyrs. I know I could never make that ultimate sacrifice, but I am deeply and profoundly humbled by those who can.

And I'm deeply and profoundly humbled by Maria's great gift of storytelling and inspiration. Read the story of Fr. Rother---and be inspired.

It's available from www.osv.com and on amazon at:  http://www.amazon.com/The-Shepherd-Who-Didnt-Run/dp/1612789153

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

The Shepherd Who Didn't Run Blog Tour: Day 6, Maria Morera Johnson


I love this review in a special way in that it comes from someone who knows a thing or two about saints--especially Badass saints and martyrs like Father Stanley Rother.

Besides having a great name, Maria Morera Johnson is a Cuban-born American like me. She is also the author of "My Badass Book of Saints: Courageous Women Who Showed me How to Live" and the co-host of "Catholic Weekend" on SQPN. When she is not being a writer, she is a catechist and a very funny and talented speaker (I've seen her in action!).

You really do need to meet her. Drop by her blog here. And check out her post on my book:

Review: The Shepherd Who Didn’t Run


I often have opportunities to review books. This blesses me in a number of ways, mostly because I get to read things I might not intentionally select for myself. Because books seem to find their way to me, I’ve been able to broaden my knowledge base and world view. Sometimes it’s a humbling experience — especially when it means learning about amazing people such as Father Stanley Rother.

Sons of Oklahoma

I first heard about Fr. Stan on an episode of Catholic Weekend when co-host Steve Nelson mentioned him. In fact, I’m pretty sure Steve had spoken about Fr. Stan before. You see, Steve is from Oklahoma, and Fr. Stan’s story is very close to him.
[NOTE: This is NOT a live link -- but click here to check out the Catholic Weekend episode on SQPN]

Fr. Stanley Rother was a priest from the Diocese of Oklahoma City and Tulsa, who after only a handful of years as a priest, asked to go to Guatemala as a missionary. He overcame trials with language, learning not only Spanish, but Tz’utujil as well. In the process, he fell in love the people he served.
Guatemala was a dangerous place for Fr. Stan. His connection to the people and the ways in which he enriched the community eventually drew the attention of factions who wanted to eliminate him. Scare tactics that included threats via murders of his own parishioners didn’t deter him. Although he returned to the US briefly, ultimately, his heart remained in Guatemala where he returned and was eventually murdered in his own home.

The Book

The Shepherd Who Didn’t Run: Fr. Stanley Rother, Martyr from Oklahoma

by María Ruiz Scaperlanda


Shepherd
click to purchase the book
María Ruiz Scaperlanda tells Fr. Stan’s story — a gift for people like me who yearn to make sense of the Saints, and yearn even more to grasp the depth of conviction and strength of trust in the Lord that would give an ordinary man extraordinary courage.
Saints are local. They come from ordinary families, parishes, and communities like Okarche, Oklahoma. But their impact is universal. They belong to the whole Church. They remind us that holiness is our fundamental vocation. Saints represent the full flowering of the grace of our baptism.
~Most Reverend Paul S. Coakley, Archbishop of Oklahoma City
Foreward
Scaperlanda’s tribute to this holy soul inspires me to continue in my ordinary work — to be present to those I serve, and in that way, follow Fr. Stan’s example:
To put it another way, Fr. Stanley came to understand with clarity the importance of “presence.” By constantly striving to deliberately be present to the people in front of him, to the needs in front of him, Father Stanley proclaimed a God who lives and suffers with his people.
~ María Ruiz Scaperlanda
The Shepherd Who Didn’t Run

In the past 30 years, María has been published broadly in the U.S., including the New York Times, Our Sunday Visitor, St. Anthony Messenger, Columbia, and other national and diocesan publications. Maria’s work as a Catholic journalist has taken her on international assignments in Central America and the Caribbean, the Middle East, and throughout Europe. But perhaps her favorite assignment was covering Pope John Paul II’s historic visit to her native country, Cuba. Her primary life-time assignment, however, has been as wife to Michael for 34 years, mother to four grown children—and now “Bella” to six adorable grandchildren!


Click here to drop by Maria Morera Johnson's blog