Holiness is God’s invitation for every human being. The Lord created us to know, love and serve him in this life and to be with him forever in eternal life. Accepting the invitation to holiness means letting go of anything that holds us back from giving ourselves to him in loving obedience. Holiness is not just a possibility — it is even an expectation for the Christian disciple.
The saints help us by offering examples of how to say yes to God’s will in practical ways. The church lifts up holy men and women as patron saints to inspire and guide us in our individual situations. There are patron saints for doctors, lawyers, parents, athletes, carpenters, teachers, priests and virtually every other profession or vocation. I encourage you to find out who your patron saints are (start with an internet search), learn about how they fulfilled the call to holiness, and pray for their intercession.
Personally, I have been inspired and encouraged by the example of Blessed Stanley Rother, a contemporary model of holiness, sacrificial love, pastoral commitment and missionary zeal who just happened to be from my small hometown in Oklahoma. In so many ways, he was also an ordinary person. For a summary of his life and ministry, visit blessedstanleyrother.org and watch a video called “An Ordinary Martyr,” which was prepared for his beautification Mass in September 2017.
Blessed Stanley Rother is recognized as America’s first native-born martyr; he gave his life while serving the indigenous peoples of Santiago Atitlan, Guatemala, on July 28, 1981. He was a diocesan priest who served for 13 years as a missionary and cared for his parishioners during the harshest times of their country’s civil war.
From the time he arrived in Guatemala in 1968, he began working for the integral salvation of the Tz’utujil people. He learned their unwritten language, carried out works of corporal and spiritual mercy, and rebuilt the faith of a community that had been without a resident priest for nearly a century. When his name appeared on a death list, he returned to the safety of the United States.
During his three months home, he discerned God’s will to return to his community lest they be abandoned in the midst of distress. As he wrote in a letter just a few months before his death, “The Shepherd cannot run.” In the face of danger, he desired to be the image of Christ the Good Shepherd for his people.
I encourage you to take time this summer to learn about your patron saints — especially those who lived in the 20th century. They are women and men of heroic faith who were filled with the Holy Spirit and allowed nothing to keep them from the love of Christ.
On July 28 especially, I ask you to seek the intercession of Blessed Stanley Rother for all priests (and bishops) in Western Washington, that we too may allow nothing to separate us from the love of Christ.
Blessed Stanley Rother, pray for us. All our patron saints, pray for us.
Read the Spanish version of this column.
Northwest Catholic – July/August 2020