‘They killed a man, but they created a saint’ - Archbishop Flynn, others describe Father Rother’s life, legacy and Minnesota ties ahead of Sept. 23 beatification

Editor's Note: On Dec. 2, 2016, Pope Francis recognized the martyrdom of Fr. Stanley Rother, a priest of the Archdiocese of Oklahoma.This month, on Sept. 23 in Oklahoma City, the Beatification of Fr. Rother will take place. This is a tremendous blessing for Oklahoma and for the United States. Fr. Rother is the first U.S.-born priest to receive this recognition and it will be only the second beatification ever held in the United States.
 

By Maria Wiering (Sept. 13, 2017 - The Catholic Spirit)

Archbishop Harry Flynn was rector of Mount St. Mary’s Seminary in Emmitsburg, Maryland, when he got a call in 1979 from an old friend from seminary, asking if he could visit for a week. That friend was Father Stanley Rother, a priest of the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City and a missionary in a rural part of Guatemala.

He picked up Father Rother from Dulles airport and was appalled by the horrific situation the priest described in Guatemala. Members of his congregation had “disappeared” and were presumed dead, victims of a civil war between the government and guerilla groups.

“If they asked for a few more cents for picking coffee beans, they were considered communists, and a truck would come into the village that night, stop at the home of the man or woman who asked for a few more cents, take them out to the country, torture them, kill them, and then throw their bodies into a well to poison that well,” Archbishop Flynn said.

Father Rother described the situation “with a passion,” Archbishop Flynn recalled. “It was haunting him. He said, ‘If I speak, they’ll kill me, but if keep silent, what kind of a shepherd would I be?’”

The friends shared meals together that week, but Father Rother spent his days praying at the seminary’s historic Lourdes grotto, a place he had loved while he and Archbishop Flynn were seminarians at “the Mount.” At the end of the week, he told then-Father Flynn, “I know what I must do. I must go back and speak.”

“But,” Archbishop Flynn recalled, “he also said this: ‘They’re not going to take me out and kill me somewhere in the country and then throw my body into a well.’ He said, ‘I’ll put up a fight like they’ve never seen before.’”

Archbishop Flynn took Father Rother to the airport and said goodbye. He knew it would be the last time he would see him alive. Two years later, Archbishop Flynn opened a newspaper to read that an American priest had been killed in Guatemala. He didn’t have to read further to know it was Father Rother.

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