50 years ago today (may 25), Servant of God Stanley Francis Rother was ordained a priest for the then-Diocese of Oklahoma City and Tulsa.
As you may recall, my current book project is a biography of Father Rother, an Oklahoma missionary whose cause for canonization is in progress.
Oklahoma farm boy Stanley Rother was shot to death on July 28, 1981, while serving the poor of Santiago Atitlán, Guatemala, earning him a Martyr's crown. He was 46.
I am taking a break today from our French pilgrimage tales to remember, honor, and offer prayers of thanksgiving for the gift of his life and his priesthood.
I also remember in prayer Father Tom Connery, classmate of Father Rother in the seminary, and all others who also celebrate today their 50th anniversary of ordination.
a young Father Rother, standing at Lake Atitlán,
in his beloved Guatemala
In honor of this exceptional and joyful commemoration, I am quoting below a description of Father Rother’s ordination day, as told by the great Oklahoma journalist and historian, Father David Monahan:
"The twisting, bumpy, 10-year journey to priestly ordination ended for Stanley Rother on May 25, 1963, at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Cathedral in Oklahoma City. Family members and friends of the 10 men to be ordained squeezed into the cathedral.
Ordinations carry their own drama. The Roman Catholic Church, after extended testing and education of those moving toward ordination, nods affirmatively to the candidates joining the ranks of the ministerial priesthood of Jesus Christ. Each candidate is called by name. Each one literally answers that summons.
“Franciscus Stanislaus Rother,” the bishop’s assistant called loudly. Stanley responded with a firm “Adsum” (I am here). The candidates lay face down on the floor as the chanted Litany of the Saints poured over them repeatedly asking the champions of Christ to pray for those being ordained.
Then Bishop Victor Reed prayed over the 10, begging the Holy Spirit to rush upon them. In silence, he laid his hands on their heads one-by-one in a rite which goes back to the roots of the faith community in Jerusalem.
Later in the ceremony, Stanley’s hands were smeared with fragrant chrism in a special rite to consecrate those hands for their holy work: celebration of the Eucharist, baptism, anointing of the sick, blessings. He knelt before the bishop, placed his hands in the bishop’s hands, and solemnly promised obedience and respect to Bishop Reed and his successors.
Finally, the newly ordained priests vested with the traditional priestly liturgical garments, and celebrated the Eucharist with the bishop.
Immediately following the ordination Mass, the new priests gave individual blessings to their parents, other family members, friends, and other priests. One can imagine the proud joy with which Gertrude Smith Rother and Franz Rother knelt before their oldest child to receive his blessing. They were followed by Sister Marita, Jim and Mary Lou, Tom, and many other Rothers.
In his diary, Stanley summed up the day with: “Very excited.” For the reticent Father Stanley Rother that emotional state translates into something like extreme delight or overwhelming happiness."
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And would you join us in praying for the Canonization of Father Stanley Rother, Oklahoma Martyr?
source of all holiness,
in every generation you raise up
men and women heroic in love and service.
You have blessed your Church
with the life of Stanley Rother,
priest, missionary, and martyr.
Through his prayer, his preaching,
his presence, and his pastoral love,
you revealed Your love and Your presence
with us as Shepherd.
If it be your will,
may he be proclaimed
by the universal church
as martyr and saint,
living now in your presence
and interceding for us all.
We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen