Visiting the Church of a Martyr
Everyone is still doing great and our travels are going well. We are now in Panajchel near lake Atitlan. This is about a three hour drive from Santo Tomas. On our drive yesterday we passed through many towns and villages and made a stop in San Lucas Toliman at the mission of the Diocese of New Ulm, MN. We listened to the pastor, Fr. Greg, tell us about their coffee project and how it helps the farmers to receive fair wages. We bought coffee while there and were also given free bottles of honey that is made there.
Panajchel is much different than life at the Mission. This is a more touristy area where people are willing to barter on the streets for just about anything. One of the things I was most looking forward to here was our trip across the lake to Santiago Atitlan. We were suppose to drive there yesterday but because of a flat tire on our bus we got a late start and had to cut that destination out due to rain and fog. This morning we crossed over by boat to visit the church that was once a mission of the Diocese of Oklahoma City. This is the church where Fr. Stanley Rother was assassinated in 1981 for his work in providing refuge and protecting the Mayan people from attacks on their land and their lives.
Visiting this church is very humbling. So many scenes in this church portray the suffering of the Mayan people in this town and also their love for Fr. Rother. Since we have been here we have heard a lot about the violence that has taken place and the people who have acted by faith to protect and care for others. During those years it would have been so easy for these people to leave for the safety offered by living in the U.S. but they chose to stay and many died for that choice. Fr. Rother was not the only one to lose his life as a result of the violence in Santiago, a deacon and some religious women were also assassinated there.
The Archdiocese of Oklahoma City has begun the canonization process for the martyrdom of Fr. Rother for which three conditions must be present: 1) The person who committed the assassination must have had the motive of killing the victim only because of the victim’s faith.
2) The person who was killed must have accepted to die for the faith. and 3) The death of the person must have been violent. After visiting this church I have no doubts this man deserves to be called a martyr. As our group spent time in the church it seemed that this is a place that draws one into prayer and into a desire to want to understand the suffering of others.
Below is a prayer I found this afternoon after wanting to learn a little more about Fr. Rother. Tomorrow we are off to Antigua for part of the day and then to Guatemala City to conclude our trip. Thank you for your prayers, once again.
source of all holiness,
in every generation you raise up
men and women heroic in love and service.
You have blessed your Church
with the life of Stanley Rother,
priest, missionary, and martyr.
Through his prayer, his preaching,
his presence, and his pastoral love,
you revealed Your love and Your presence
with us as Shepherd.
If it be Your will,
may he be proclaimed
by the universal church
as martyr and saint,
living now in your presence
and interceding for us all.
We ask this through Christ our Lord.
authorized by Archbishop Beltran of Oklahoma City on the 25th anniversary of Fr. Rother’s death