October 6, 2017

Be Our Guest / Doug and Julie Bauman

Martyr’s life and sacrifice lead to journey to beatification Mass

Doug Bauman, left, and his wife, Julie, second from right, are pictured with their daughters Annie, second from left, Betsy and Lily before the Sept. 23 beatification Mass for Father Stanley Rother in the Cox Convention Center in Oklahoma City, Okla. (Submitted photo)

Doug Bauman, left, and his wife, Julie, second from right, are pictured with their daughters Annie, second from left, Betsy and Lily before the Sept. 23 beatification Mass for Father Stanley Rother in the Cox Convention Center in Oklahoma City, Okla. (Submitted photo)

He was a farm boy from Oklahoma. He was a seminarian who struggled learning Latin. He was a missionary priest sent to serve the Tz’utujil indigenous people in Guatemala. As their priest, he learned their language, he worshiped with them, he spread the word of God, he helped them farm, he fixed their farm equipment and he built a radio station.

And when civil unrest intensified in Guatemala in 1981, his name—Father Stanley Rother—appeared on a death list.

He returned home briefly to visit family, but insisted that his heart belonged with his people in Guatemala. He considered himself a shepherd who could not run from his flock. He stood up and defended his faith. And he died a martyr’s death on July 28, 1981.

His life and his sacrifice have touched us.

We first heard of Father Rother a few years ago when we attended the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia. We continued to follow his story and then heard that his beatification Mass was going to take place in the United States on Sept. 23, which is quite rare. We are both teachers at St. Barnabas School in Indianapolis, and have three daughters who attend there. Never wanting to pass up a teachable moment and witness living history, we packed up the family in our 12-year-old minivan and headed west.

With one unplanned stop in Claremore, Okla., to hastily fix a driver’s side window that wouldn’t stay up, we finished the 750-mile, one-way trip in a mere 13 hours. Arriving at the Cox Convention Center in Oklahoma City the next morning, 2.5 hours before the 10 a.m. Mass began, we felt confident that the crowd should still be light. Boy, were we wrong!

The line of more than 10,000 people wrapped around the building. Feeling very thankful that we were able to get in and get five seats together was a real blessing. By 9 a.m., the doors were closed after the arena was filled to its capacity of 15,000. We later heard that an estimated 20,000 people still were outside, unable to get in. What a true testament to Blessed Rother’s life and ministry.

As Cardinal Angelo Amato, prefect of the Vatican’s Congregation for Saints’ Causes, began the liturgy and relics of Blessed Rother were brought up to the altar, we knew that we were witnessing something amazing, something special, something historic. Blessed Rother is the first U.S.-born martyr and the first U.S.-born priest to be beatified.

As Cardinal Amato read the apostolic letter from Pope Francis recognizing the beatification of Father Stanley, we looked at each other, we looked at our daughters, and we all smiled. What a blessing it was to witness his love and life firsthand as a family. At that moment, it became clear why we drove 750 miles the day before to be there.

Blessed Rother served others exactly the way Christ wants us all to serve each other—with compassion, with selflessness, with humility and with a servant’s heart. He was an “ordinary boy” from small town America who answered God’s call in extraordinary ways.

He did simple things in holy and saintly ways. We are all called to holiness, and are all challenged to live as saints. While it is unlikely that we will die a martyr’s death, we can all follow the life and death of Blessed Rother as an authentic example of sacrificial love for God and his people.

With sainthood only one miracle away, let us all pray that through the intercession of Blessed Rother we live out our call to holiness. And let us be prepared to reach out to those around us that are in most need of God’s love.

Blessed Rother, pray for us.
 

(Doug and Julie Bauman and their family are members of St. Barnabas Parish in Indianapolis.)

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