A very “ordinary” priest, who almost didn’t make it to his ordination because of his struggle with Latin, has achieved an extraordinary thing: Father Stanley Rother has become the first martyr of the Catholic Church born in the United States.
“Father Stanley was not a superstar. He was not the best or greatest or brightest or finest in anything. His gift to us is that he was ‘ordinary,’ like us,” said Maria Ruiz Scaperlanda, his biographer. “He was a farmer from Okarche, Oklahoma, who served the Church as a devoted priest both here and in the Oklahoma mission in Santiago Atitlán — where he literally farmed the Guatemalan fields side by side with his parishioners.”
Father Rother served as a missionary for the Oklahoma diocesan mission in Santiago Atitlán, Guatemala, for 13 years. “Once the Guatemalan civil war found its way to their village, Father Stanley not only remained faithful to his service to the Tz’utujil Mayan community, but he also embraced his role as a shepherd willing to stand with and suffer alongside his people,” Scaperlanda explained. “Even with his name on a death list, Father Stanley emphasized (in a letter to Oklahoma Catholics published in the two diocesan newspapers Christmas 1980-81), ‘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.’”