Credit: Fr. David Monahan, courtesy of the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City Archives

Oklahoma’s eponymous state song rings out, “We know we belong to the land.” These words came to life in the person of Oklahoma’s prospect for sainthood, Blessed Stanley Rother. Born in the swirl of this land in a dust storm in 1935 and working that same land with his hands as a farmer, Father Rother honed these simple skills with the love of Christ in service that carried him to the priesthood and, eventually, to sainthood.

Western Oklahoma has a beauty all its own: blue skies with panoramic views of flat to rolling plains where the only houses in view are those of neighbors a mile or more away. It is a land of wheat farms and vegetable gardens where farmers also raise cattle, horses, chickens and pigs, not necessarily for sale on the market but mostly for their own use.

In the Dust Bowl in the 1930s, the wind and soil were not your friends. Being German and Catholic in a predominantly Protestant Bible Belt state, where only 3 percent of the population was Catholic, was challenging. (Oklahoma also had a significant Ku Klux Klan presence who targeted Catholics, among others.)

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