Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Saints, Martyrs, Catholics, and Rules

Father Stanley Rother spent 13 years in Guatemala. He was a parish priest in a small town named Santiago Atitlan. Near-constant wars - including one that lasted 36 years - made Santiago Atitlan a risky place to live.

Father Rother returned to Oklahoma in 1981, but returned to Guatamala some months later: "after recognizing that his heart was with the people," as the Catholic News Agency (CNA) put it.

Then, on July 28, 1981, three men broke into the mission rectory and killed him.

Martyr? Maybe

Is Father Stanley Rother a martyr? A saint? Those are good questions. I don't have answers, because Rome hasn't spoken on the matter yet.

I'm a Catholic, and we've got - what else? - rules about this sort of thing.

Father Rother certainly has a sort of cheering section:
"...The local archbishop expressed his conviction during the homily that the missionary is both a martyr and a saint...."
(CNA)
Does that mean the archbishop is on one side, and Rome on another? No. It means that the local archbishop thinks that Father Rother is a martyr and a saint. Which wraps up the archdiocese-level work in the canonization process. Next step: Rome. The Holy See.

It's Just a Popularity Contest!

Wrong.

I've written about saints before. Bottom line, a saint isn't recognized as a saint until he or she has been linked to two verified miracles. And yes, miracles happen.

I'll grant that the process of declaring someone to be a saint depends on at least a few people who are more-or-less at the grassroots level getting the ball rolling. But no amount of hoopla and publicity is going to change the process - apart from letting the folks at the Holy See know that there's a lot of hoopla and publicity about Joe Doaks, or whoever is being hyped.

Back to Father Rother. The last two paragraphs of that CNA article are a pretty good summation:
"...Citing a 'spontaneous outpouring of prayer and devotion,' in Guatemala and in the U.S. since his death, Archbishop Beltran said, 'We believe and we are convinced that Father Rother was martyred and is now a saint in heaven.'

"To make beatification possible, the postulator must now prove to the Vatican congregation for saints that Fr. Rother was killed solely for his faith, that his death was violent and that he accepted such a death for the faith."
(CNA)
Key points:
  • There's been a "spontaneous outpouring of prayer and devotion" to Father Rother's memory
  • Father Rother's death
    • Was violent
    • May have been only because of his faith
      • Or, not
    • May have been something he accepted for the faith
      • Or, not
Don't get me wrong: There's an archbishop who says that Father Rother was a martyr and a saint. I'm just some Catholic layman. My view is that odds favor the archbishop being right about Father Rother.

But the archbishop is, as far as I can tell, doing this by the book: he's decided that the evidence favors the idea that Father Rother is a saint and a martyr. Now the archbishop is passing the matter on to Rome for consideration.

I'm waiting to see what Rome says about Father Rother.

That's just how we work.

Somewhat-related posts:In the news:

2 comments:

Elizabeth Mahlou said...

The daughter of a friend has spent a number of years in Guatemala -- Peace Corps, I believe. My friends visited her several times. I know that they said it was a little unsafe there, but I guess I did not realize that such violence was going on.

Brian, aka Aluwir, aka Norski said...

Elizabeth Mahlou,

I imagine it depends on who you are, and where you were in Guatemala: as is the case in so many other places.

Your point is well-taken: we often don't realized quite what's going on elsewhere - good and bad.

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