“The shepherd cannot run at the first sign of danger.” Those are the words of Fr. Stanley Rother, a priest from a farm in Oklahoma. A priest who, in his own quiet way, persisted through his struggles with Latin to become a priest, listened to God’s calling to fulfill a mission in Guatemala, and ultimately laid down his life for the Church and those he served.
This past weekend, my husband and my 13-year-old son traveled to Oklahoma City to attend the beatification Mass for Fr. Rother. My husband and I were hoping it would inspire our son, and give him some interesting substance for a school project.
Even though they arrived at the convention center early, throngs of people were lined up outside the doors. The convention center was full, and as my husband and son entered the lobby area, they were told that even the overflow seating was filled to capacity. There were probably 17,000 people seated in the convention center, and my husband guessed that at least 2,000 were turned away.
At first, this was a huge disappointment. But my husband tried to make the best of it and enjoyed some time with our son. They visited the Oklahoma City National Bombing Memorial and a science museum. And even though the original intent of the trip had fallen through, we realized that our son had been inspired. He was inspired by the crowds of people who wanted to witness a saint being made. He saw for himself the impact that a person who has fully committed his life to God can make.
My son saw the impact of a life of consecration that weekend–both in Fr. Rother and in my husband.
One of the compelling elements of Fr. Rother’s story is that he is an “ordinary martyr”. He grew up as a small farm boy in a family that simply practiced their faith–a family who knelt beside their modest dining table every night after dinner and prayed the Rosary–a family who worked hard, but also never failed to pray hard. But it was this simple life of devotion that led to the crown of martyrdom when the persecutions in Guatemala brought extremists to the bedside of Fr. Rother. It was this simple life of devotion that brought Fr. Rother back to Guatemala, even after a brief escape back to Oklahoma when he learned he was on a “death list” in his mission territory.
While my husband and I fortunately don’t live in mission territory under such severe persecution, we do have daily battles to face. Over-committed schedules, exhaustion, homework, and illness threaten our family’s prayer life. The pulls of worldly pleasures and technology threaten our focus on God. And, at times, we even feel deterred from the “good things” we try to do–like attend beatification Masses.
But, as Fr. Rother said, “The shepherd cannot run at the first sign of danger.” As parents, we are here to shepherd our children–to guide them into the safety of the chosen flock in heaven. We cannot run. Even when it is difficult, even when we don’t feel like it, even when we fail, we must get up again. We must return to our mission territory of our children’s hearts and face whatever awaits us there.
That is what I saw my husband do this past weekend, and that is what my son saw him do. They may have felt the loss of a small battle in missing the beatification Mass, but my husband stayed committed to his life of consecration–that of husband and father. And that was all the inspiration my son truly needed.
Copyright 2017 Charisse Tierney