Lincoln, Neb., Sep 20, 2017 / 04:50 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- An Oklahoma priest martyred in Guatemala will be beatified on Saturday, and his life has much to teach us, Bishop James Conley of Lincoln has said.

“To trust God can be risky and even dangerous at times,” Bishop Conley said in a Sept. 22 column for the Southern Nebraska Register.

“It requires courage. To be courageous requires that we know the Lord. To know him requires that we pray. Not all of us are called to martyrdom, as Father Stanley Rother was. But each one of us is called to trust the Lord, and to know him, love him, and serve him bravely.”

The priest’s life “gives me pause to reflect on my own courage, or lack thereof, in following the Lord,” the Nebraska bishop said. “Fr. Rother was so confident in what the Lord wanted of him. He was unwavering in courage. He walked into danger, even when others warned him against it. At the heart of his courage and confidence was his intimacy with the Lord in prayer.”

Father Rother’s beatification Mass will be said Sept. 23 in Oklahoma City. Before his last Christmas, the priest wrote home about the dangers in Guatemala: “The shepherd cannot run at the first sign of danger.”

Fr. Rother, a priest of the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City, was from the town of Okarche, Okla. A few years after ordination, he became a missionary to Guatemala, where he would spend 13 years of his life. The dioceses of Oklahoma City and Tulsa had established a mission in Santiago Atitlan, a poor rural community of mostly indigenous people, largely Tz’utujil Mayan Indians.

Drawing on life growing up on his family’s farm, the mission priest would work the fields and repair broken trucks. He built a farmer’s co-op, a school, a hospital, and the area’s first Catholic radio station.

The dangers of Guatemala’s civil war approached the village in 1980, and Fr. Rother supported his friends and parishioners even as many were abducted and killed – “disappeared” in the local phrasing. In January 1981, his name was found on a hit list. He returned to Oklahoma for a few months, but after receiving his bishop’s permission he went back.

On the morning of July 28, 1981, armed men broke into Fr. Rother’s rectory. They were from the non-indigenous ethnic group called the Landinos, who had been in conflict with Guatemala’s indigenous people and rural poor since the 1960s.

The men intended to disappear him, but he resisted. He struggled but did not call for help, so others at the mission would not be endangered. Fr. Rother was shot dead and the attackers fled.

Pope Francis officially recognized his death as a martyrdom in December 2016.

For Bishop Conley, Fr. Rother’s life and death provokes many questions. The priest did not have to be in Guatemala and could have stayed in Oklahoma.

“How many of us would choose to follow the Lord to a near certain martyrdom? Or, if we heard that a friend believed God was calling him to serve in a dangerous mission in a violent country, how many of us might try to stop him?” he asked.

“It would be natural to do so, and reasonable. And yet Fr. Rother knew what the Lord called him to do, and he proceeded faithfully and fearlessly. His bishop, and his family, and his friends, had courage too: the courage to trust that the Holy Spirit was leading him, even when following the Lord into the violence of Guatemala was dangerous.”

“None of us should relish danger for its own sake. None of us should be reckless without purpose,” Bishop Conley said. “But the Christian life is about following the will of the Lord, without counting the cost. And to do that, we need to know and hear the Lord’s voice, and we need to understand the movements of the Holy Spirit.”

Bishop Conley will attend Fr. Rother’s beatification Mass with dozens of bishops, scores of priests, and thousands of other Catholics.

“We will remember the holiness of Fr. Rother, and thank the Lord for the gift of his selflessness,” the bishop said. “We will pray that we might have the same courage that he did, and the same love for our mission, and for the Lord.”

“May Fr. Rother pray for us, as we turn to the Lord, seeking the courage to do his will.”

Washington D.C., Sep 20, 2017 / 12:00 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The Sistine Chapel Choir will perform in the U.S. for the first time in three decades, and will sing compositions that one expert says are an important heritage of the American Church.

Italian priest Father Massimo Palombella directs the Sistine choir, which will be singing works by Renaissance composers such as Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina, Antonio Allegri and Tomás Luis de Victoria.

“As in Rome, this style of Renaissance polyphony would be adopted by the Churches of the New World as the standard style of music, especially for the Mass,” Dr. Grayson Wagstaff, dean of the Latin American Music Center at The Catholic University of America, explained to CNA.

On Sept. 20, a free concert will be hosted at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington D.C., next to The Catholic University of America.

After attending Italy's prestigious conservatory and spending years as a theology and music teacher, Fr. Palombella became the director at the Pontifical Music Chapel, and began conducting the choir in 2010.

Dr. Wagstaff applauded the Salesian priest's efforts to use the Vatican's historic repertory and rejuvenate this style of music into the daily life of the Papal Chapels.

Fr. Palombella will be performing sounds iconic of the Mexico City Cathedral and the many works of the Spanish composers which had made their way to the “new world.”

“These works by Spanish composers would be the core of music transmitted, taught and copied in manuscripts in Mexico,” Dr. Wagstaff said. “Young boys from Mexico (then 'New Spain') would be selected to receive training in music and become boy choristers for the cathedrals.”

He added that this music is very significant to the “Church's artistic patrimony,” and now has the ability inspire “parishes to focus on quality music and learning about the Church’s legacy of art,” especially from Latin America.

Fr. Palombella studied philosophy and theology at the Salesian Pontifical Unversity, and trained under organ players Luigi Molfino and Bishop Valentino Miserachs Grau. He also attended the Conservatory of Turin.

Ordained a priest to the Salesian order in 1995, he began teaching dogmatic theology at the Pontifical Salesian University and the Language of Music at Sapienza University of Rome. He then succeeded Father Giuseppe Liberto as director of the Sistine Chapel Choir.

In his remarks to CNA, Dr. Wagstaff noted the importance that the upcoming concert has to the university.

“For us, this is a celebration of CUA's role as one of the great centers in the world for teaching and preserving this musical legacy of Catholic tradition as well as our wonderful tradition of musicology and research on the history of music in Rome.”

Washington D.C., Sep 20, 2017 / 10:02 am (CNA/EWTN News).- A Senate committee on Tuesday voted to advance a bill that seeks to ensure U.S. aid reaches Christian genocide victims in Iraq.

“The vote from this morning is an important step toward providing relief for those victims of the genocide committed by ISIS,” Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.), one of the sponsors of H.R. 390, the Iraq and Syria Genocide Emergency Relief and Accountability Act of 2017, stated.

Christians in Iraq who were forcibly displaced from their homes by the expansion of Islamic State in 2014, and many of who have been living in Iraqi Kurdistan, have been dependent on the Chaldean Archeparchy of Erbil and aid groups like the Knights of Columbus and Aid to the Church in Need for basic needs like rent, heating, and food.

Although Mosul and surrounding towns on the Nineveh Plain have been liberated from Islamic State control by coalition forces, some families have not yet been able to return to their homes since they may not have the resources or security to repair their homes and resume their normal lives.

The U.S. has declared that Islamic State committed genocide against Christians, Yazidis, and Shi’a Muslims in Iraq and Syria but, despite being genocide victims, Christians in Iraq have also reported that they have not been receiving official U.S. aid. The aid from NGOs is “not enough,” Smith has said; the Christians need to have access to official U.S. humanitarian aid.

“We’re not asking for new money,” Smith said at a June press conference before his bill passed the U.S. House. “We’re asking to make sure the money that’s in the pot is provided to those who have been left out and left behind for about three years.”

Christians could have much greater access to the aid if it was allowed to go through churches and church organizations, who are able to reach Christian populations, Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.), another sponsor of the bill, said at the press conference.

“The State Department would not allow any U.S. dollars to flow to church organizations. And this legislation allows for that,” she said.

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee voted Sept. 19 to advance the bill out of the committee, moving it closer to a floor vote. Smith praised Tuesday’s vote, saying the bill provides much-needed support to the Chaldean Archeparchy of Erbil, which has hosted Christian victims of Islamic State for several years.

“Chaldean Catholic Archbishop Bashar Warda has been sustaining more than 95,000 Christians who escaped ISIS – almost one third of Christians remaining in Iraq,” Smith said.

“It is incomprehensible that the U.S. has not done more to help,” he said, noting that the bill should be passed soon, as “lives are depending upon it.”

And time is running out to ensure that Christians get the assistance they need. Since the Christian families have been away from home for three years and their children are going without education for another year, the Knights of Columbus said they received reports that families could leave Iraq for good by the fall if they do not have a viable way of returning home.