Do not cling to me!

May 28, 2017

Archbishop Paul S. Coakley

On Sept. 23, we will celebrate the beatification of the Venerable Servant of God Father Stanley Francis Rother.

Since opening his cause for beatification and canonization in 2007, we faithfully have adhered to the rigorous protocols that govern every step leading to the official declaration that Father Rother is indeed worthy to be honored among the blessed in heaven.

Beatification declares that the Servant of God is in heaven and worthy to be venerated at least at the local level. Ultimately, canonization is an exercise of papal infallibility, which declares that a person is a saint in heaven and worthy of veneration by the Church everywhere.

At the conclusion of an exhaustive investigation this past December, Pope Francis declared Father Rother a martyr. Because he is a martyr, the miracle ordinarily required for beatification is automatically dispensed. He may be beatified right away. A miracle attributable to his intercession will still have to be verified, however, prior to his canonization as a saint.

Earlier this month, we took another necessary step in the journey toward Father Rother’s beatification. Because the blessed are offered to the faithful as worthy of public veneration, several safeguards must be completed to ensure a worthy veneration. The Church’s protocol requires that the body of the Servant of God be exhumed and examined by medical experts and eye witnesses of his burial to verify the authenticity of the remains and the relics.

We undertook this process on May 10 when we gathered at Holy Trinity Cemetery in Okarche where Father Rother’s body has been interred since his death in 1981. At the end of the day, we completed this reverent and prayerful process by vesting Father Rother’s body in fresh Mass vestments, placing it in a new casket and interring his remains in the chapel at Resurrection Cemetery in Oklahoma City.

Here, they will remain after his beatification until a permanent shrine can be built as a place of pilgrimage and veneration for the faithful. This transfer of the body to a sanctuary is one of the required protocols meant to ensure a proper public veneration of the Church’s holy men and women.

When a man becomes a priest, he is called to leave father and mother, forgo a wife and family of his own so that he can more easily cling to Christ and go where he is sent in service to God’s people. A priest is not his own. He is a man for others. Father Rother understood this and lived this. He left his beloved family and hometown of Okarche. Ultimately, he left Oklahoma when he was sent as a missionary to Guatemala. He spent the remaining years of his life dedicated to the parishioners he served in Santiago Atitlan and Cerro de Oro.

Father Rother’s upcoming beatification and ultimately his canonization are a further reminder that he now belongs to all of us. He has passed beyond the beautiful ties that bind us in this world to become even more a man for others. As Risen Jesus said to Mary Magdalene on Easter morning, “Do not cling to me! I have not yet ascended to the Father.”

Father Rother’s mission is now a universal one as an intercessor from heaven.