Among the many joys and splendid memories of my recently concluded ad limina visit there is one which offers the hope of truly lasting and far-reaching effects. More on this below!
First, I want to thank you for your prayers for the ad limina trip. It was a grace-filled experience. As expected, during our pilgrimage to the threshold of the tombs of the apostles we (the bishops of Oklahoma, Texas and Arkansas) conducted an intense round of meetings with various dicasteries of the Roman Curia. This was the necessary business portion of the visit. The spiritual dimension of the pilgrimage included time for prayer and Masses at the major basilicas of the Eternal City. One of the most precious personal experiences was a private meeting with Pope Benedict XVI, accompanied by the other two Bishops of the Province of Oklahoma City: Bishop Slattery of Tulsa and Bishop Taylor of Little Rock. We discussed with the Holy Father the pastoral situation in each of our dioceses as well as our common concerns and challenges. I assured him of the prayers and the support of the faithful of the Archdiocese.
After concluding the full course of events I scheduled an additional appointment at the Congregation for the Causes of Saints to express my support for the cause of the Servant of God, Fr. Stanley Rother. During my meeting with the Prefect, Cardinal Amato, he was eager to assure me that significant progress had just been made. After careful study of the cartons of materials which the Archdiocese had submitted on behalf of Father Rother, the Congregation had just affirmed the “juridic validity” of the case. This is the first, but very significant, affirmation by Congregation in the continuing process that we hope will lead ultimately to the canonization of Father Stanley Rother.
The next immediate step is to begin the development of a “positio”. The positio is the formal presentation of evidence based on all of the testimony that has been received. It is a detailed report which will demonstrate that Father Rother died as a martyr for the faith. When the positio has been completed, a process that will take between one and two years, it will be presented to the Congregation for the Causes of Saints and to the Holy Father. It is the Pope who makes the ultimate judgment regarding martyrdom. If the Holy Father affirms that Father Rother died as a martyr, then permission will be granted for his beatification immediately.
We have come to an important moment in this process. It is very important that we increase our prayers for Father Rother’s beatification and canonization. If Fr. Rother is judged to have died as a martyr, a miracle obtained through his intercession will not be required for his beatification. However a miracle obtained after his beatification will be necessary in order for him to be canonized as a saint.
The beatification and canonization of Father Rother would be a great blessing for the whole Church, particularly for the Church in America and Guatemala. The Blesseds and the Saints are reminders that we are all called to holiness of life. Holiness is possible. Our vocation is to become saints. The evidence of holiness is the most compelling witness in the work of the New Evangelization and the renewal of faith. I am firmly convinced that the Lord desires to grant this gift to the Church. Our part is to pray with confidence and perseverance for the beatification and canonization of the Servant of God, Fr. Stanley Rother.