The path to sainthood consists of many steps. One of those steps to make sure that the person’s life story and cause is well known. Up until now, you may have never heard of Father Stanley Rother, but based on the wonderful new book, The Shepherd Who Didn’t Run, Father Stanley Rother, Martyr from Oklahoma, I hope and pray that will change!
My own involvement with this project began some time ago. Catholic journalist and author María Ruiz Scaperlanda told me that she was writing a book about Father Rother. This caught my attention because a priest that I know went to seminary with Fr. Rother, so I was familiar with him. One thing led to another and this provided me with the opportunity for me to connect Maria to Father Tom Connery to further her research.
So who was Stanley Rother? This book will sweep you away as you learn more about this man of humble beginnings, growing up in rural Oklahoma on a farm. Expected to carry on the farming tradition himself, he surprised his family when he announced that he wanted to be a priest. Scaperlanda introduces us to “shepherd who didn’t run,” even as he struggled academically at seminary. His quiet persistence could not keep him from failing, but other doors open as he finds himself at a different seminary – with very different results.
Moving at a lively pace, this books leads the reader through the events that lead Father Rother to the village of Santiago Atitlán in Guatemala. It was here that Father Stanley grew into Padre Francisco, as he was known, and ultimately called Padre Aplas. Although he once struggled with Latin in the seminary, he learned Tz’utujil, the language of the local people. His devotion to those he served was legendary, and his quiet and faithful presence was treasured.
There are so many rich details, so many moving anecdotes and stories to take in. It was the kind of book that had me fighting sleep so that I might go on. To read of someone of such humble faith who lived a life of incredible service is a gift, and a motivator. As I turned each page, I kept thinking of the many similarities between Pope Francis and Father Stan, with their gifts of simplicity and the desire to serve others in the name of Christ.
And was in serving that Rother was assassinated. Guatemala was a land scarred by a long civil war and social unrest. In that unrest, what could be more dangerous to than a priest who brought dignity and hope to the people he lived amongst. He was killed because of his goodness. Father Stanley Rother was a steadfast shepherd, formed in and following Christ, a man who did not waver when it came to giving it all for God.
My review of this book does little justice to the story of this amazing priest and martyr. The real story is found in the book itself, a book that I hope you will read and share with others. One of the things that struck me in my advance reading was the power of the book for adult and high school level catechesis, as well as vehicle for parish book clubs. It will also make for excellent Lenten reading, prayer, and study.
The Shepherd Who Didn’t Run is published by Our Sunday Visitor and is available for order from the publisher, or at other places books are sold. The author Maria Ruiz Scaperlanda, who for the past 30 years has been published broadly in the U.S., including the New York Times, Our Sunday Visitor, St. Anthony Messenger, Columbia, and other national and diocesan publications.
Maria’s work as a Catholic journalist has taken her on international assignments in Central America and the Caribbean, the Middle East, and throughout Europe. But perhaps her favorite assignment was covering Pope John Paul II’s historic visit to her native country, Cuba.
Her primary life-time assignment, however, has been as wife to Michael for 34 years, mother to four grown children—and now “Bella” to six adorable grandchildren!
You can follow Maria and learn more about her life as well as be inspired by her writings at her blog, Day By Day with Maria. In fact, this post is part of a big blog tour, which you can explore when you pay her blog a visit. If you want to learn more about Father Rother’s cause for canonization at this link from the diocese of Oklahoma City. Whatever you do, I hope you will pray for his cause and spread the word by reading and recommending this excellent volume.