I spent a large part of this morning watching in “live streaming” from my computer the beautiful celebration and Santa Misa that took place today in Santiago Atitlán, Guatemala, in honor of the 35th anniversary of the death of Father Stanley Rother, the American martyr from Oklahoma who was killed in 1981 in their parish rectory.
I was mesmerized by the beautiful liturgy and could not stop watching!
Unlike the celebration I attended in Atitlán for the 30th anniversary five years ago, this year’s took place on the plaza in front of the historic church of Santiago Apóstol (St. James). The parish built and decorated a beautiful stage setting, one large enough to hold the many priests, bishops and dignitaries that attended and participated in the tri-lingual liturgy (Spanish / Tz’utujil / and some English).
The plaza was jam-packed with people, many holding umbrellas to protect them from the hot summer sun. I took a number of screen shots of my computer’s desktop in order to remember what I saw, but none do it justice! Even so, I’ll post some of the images here (below), just to give you a flavor of what I experienced.
I would have loved to be in Atitlán for the celebration! But nevertheless, I am very grateful for technology that allows me to connect and even participate from across the globe.
I also want to post here for you some of the words of Bishop Gonzalo de Villa y Vásquez, S.J. from today’s homily – first in Spanish (as he said them), and then my own (unofficial) translation to English.
I was moved by the Bishop’s continued use of the word “pronto” every time he made a reference to Father Stanley’s canonization!
[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… es nuestra petición, es nuestra oración, y es también el tributo que hoy rendimos al pastor que no huyo – al que regresó después de haber salvado su vida alejándose de su parroquia – para sel el pastor fiel que acompaño a su pueblo sufriente…
[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!
+ + +
[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. This is our petition. This is our prayer—and it is also the tribute we offer today to the shepherd who did not run, the shepherd who, after going away to safety, returned in order to stand beside his suffering people.
[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!
~Bishop Gonzalo de Villa y Vásquez,
Diocese of Sololá y Chimaltenango
A few extra links, in case you’re interested in more information:
For a link to the Father Stanley Rother Guild, here.
And a few recent articles I’ve written on Father Stanley Rother. --
In Sooner Catholic, click here.One more -- check here for some beautiful photos I found on Facebook from today's celebration in Atitlán by photographer Carlos Damian! A couple of examples:
In Our Sunday Visitor Newsweekly, click here.
And in the current issue of Maryknoll Magazine.
[PHOTOS © Carlos Damian, 2016]