Who is Blessed Stanley Rother?

I asked the same question a few years ago. Then the Napa Institute appointed Oklahoma City Archbishop Paul Coakley as our ecclesiastical advisor. He helped me develop a devotion to Blessed Stanley — and several friends of the Institute and I just made a pilgrimage to his shrine.

Blessed Stanley was an American priest, born in 1935 outside Oklahoma City. A farm boy who sought a vocation in the priesthood, he was ordained in 1963 for the then-Diocese of Oklahoma City. In 1968, the diocese established a mission in Guatemala, where Blessed Stanley went. He was murdered by assassins allegedly hired by the government in 1981. Amazingly, he knew he was on a death list, but he returned to his flock anyway

Pope Francis recognized Blessed Stanley as a martyr in 2016. And in 2017, he became the first American-born priest to be beatified. (You may enjoy this quick write-up of his story—or if you have time, this 21-minute video.)

I’ve long wanted to go see Blessed Stanley’s shrine in Oklahoma City, and this month, I finally had my chance as part of a Napa Institute Experience. We spent two and a half days there, with every moment memorable.

On our first night, we had Holy Mass at the Our Lady of Perpetual Help Cathedral, where Blessed Stanley Rother was ordained. The next morning, we rose early and ventured out to the Shrine, 15 minutes from downtown. Archbishop Coakley raised $90 million to build the shrine, which has a beautiful Our Lady of Guadalupe Tepeyac Hill. We walked up to the top to take a group photo.

We celebrated Mass with the body of Blessed Stanley Rother, which is buried at the Shrine. But his heart is still left in Guatemala. After his murder, the nuns collected his blood on the floor and put them into jars. The blood is still liquid, 43 years after his death….

The next day, we went to the farmhouse in Okarche, Oklahoma where Blessed Stanley Rother was born and raised and where he prayed the rosary with his family daily. We met his relatives, including his sister-in-law, who is still alive, and his nephew and niece. He also has a cousin who is a Catholic priest, Fr. Don Wolf — a cousin of Bishop Mueggenborg. Bishop Mueggenborg’s grandparents are buried next to Blessed Stanley Rother’s grandparents in the Catholic cemetery in Okarche.

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After touring the house, we went to the Holy Trinity Parish, where Blessed Stanley served and attended Mass. The Mass was followed by an hour of adoration and a visitation to the cemetery.

That’s where Bishop Mueggenborg told an unforgettable story. As a college student, his grandparents asked him to be an altar server at their 50th wedding anniversary Mass — which was celebrated by none other than Blessed Stanley Rother. On that day, at that altar, he decided that he would indeed be a priest. He told the story of giving a Mass of thanksgiving after his ordination and using the very chalice that Blessed Stanley Rother had used. It was a powerful testament to Blessed Stanley’s impact on individual Catholics, to say nothing of the Church as a whole….

From an email sent by Tim Busch of the Napa Institute