Have you ever attended a beatification?
Me too and me neither.
It was the Friday night before a good ol’ boy from Oklahoma took one more step closer to becoming a Saint.
My family and I were gathered around our living room watching EWTN’s documentary on Fr. Stanley Rother’s life.
Our boys, ranging in ages of 8 years to 5 months old, had varying interests in our Family Movie Night choice.
The older two were intrigued by the close-to-home aspect, as well as the “action” parts of Fr. Rother’s life.
The younger ones were a little more interested in, well, anything else.
Hey, we tried.
It was an attempt at making the Catholic marathon ahead a little more meaningful to our little guys. We knew the beatification would be 2 to 2.5 hours and we were planning arriving early. We were looking at four hours of lines and sitting for our kids. We were already bracing for chaos.
After the documentary I checked Facebook to see what more to expect the next morning.
The archdiocese had posted bullet points on “things to know for tomorrow.”
All seemed good to go, expect parking nightmare, but other than that — we were all going to be given commemorative coins. Bonus!
Then, I read the comments.
There were people saying they’d heard tales of folks camping out for this thing.
Then, there were people wondering if they should be getting there earlier than planned.
This was the first air of urgency I felt for the need to arrival crazy early. Before then, the word on the street was get there early, but no need to panic.
Hindsight is 20-20 … and I should have panicked.
Before bed we set the boys’ clothes out and packed all gear necessary for calming the wiggles. We set our alarm for 6:30am and found it hard to sleep from the excitement of the experience ahead.
We arrived in downtown at 7:30 and had successfully beat a parking disaster. We found a close spot to the Cox Convention Center (where the beatification was going to be held) and walked to our breakfast reservation that was across the street.
We had thought ourselves geniuses to have come up with this plan.
Get to downtown early, beat all others parking, have a nice family meal and then walk comfortably to the Cox Center by 8:30.
As we sat at our breakfast we began to panic.
The line to get in was circling the Center; we saw no end.
Could the out-of-nowhere panic on social media the night before have been legit? … Surely not.
No ticket was needed to get in and most of our family and friends were planning on arriving about the same time.
We would be fiiiiine.
We kept coming up with reasons we were still going to have seats and it would all work out.
We wrapped up the meal, walked across the street and began looking for the end of the line.
No end in sight.
There was talk of auxiliary rooms being set up, just in case.
Surely we wouldn’t be in one of those … right?
At 8:25 we finally found the end of some line leading some where and immediately thought ourselves idiots for sitting down for breakfast.
Long line story short, we didn’t make it into the arena.
We watched the EWTN stream (that kept buffering itself) from one of the auxiliary rooms.
I had a horrible attitude about it. I was crushed. I wanted to be in that arena so bad. I wanted that experience so much. I wanted to see God’s presence and a ton of priests!
As I listened to myself, I noticed a trend in my thoughts.
“I, I, I, I.” Me, me, me.
I later came to understand, my family’s story was a small part of a big story, the one we were all there for, Blessed Fr. Stanley Rother’s story.
That day an unprecedented number of people from all over bombarded downtown Oklahoma City for this incredible event.
The archdiocese had no idea the interest would be so great.
I’ve heard a story about some of Fr. Rother’s family being worried that no one was going to show up for his beatification.
Some have reported 17,000 were inside the Cox Center (arena and overflow rooms) and at least 2,000 were turned away.
There are also tales of busloads that didn’t make it in having to pick five of their faithful to be allowed into an overflow room.
One of my friends witnessed a group of nuns walking up to the Cox Center, only to be told they were already at max capacity so were going to have to watch from somewhere else.
Blessed Fr. Stanley Rother’s beatification was a Mass you were blessed to be a part of, no matter where you were participating.
In the arena, an overflow room, somewhere downtown on a big screen or at home.
He is our first U.S. born martyr and first U.S. born priest beautified.
This was and is a big deal.
If you haven’t already, take a moment to get to know him.
Here is the link to the documentary that was shown at the beginning of this historical moment: Ordinary Martyr, The Life and Death of Blessed Stanley Rother
I hope you take the time to watch, it is beautiful and inspiring.
Copyright Stephanie Stovall 2017