booklady's Reviews > Love in a Fearful Land: A Guatemalan Story

Love in a Fearful Land by Henri J.M. Nouwen
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's review
Sep 10, 2008

really liked it
bookshelves: history, hagiography, travel, war, 2009, adventure, biography, books-on-books, church-documents, crime, religion, prayer, favorites
Recommended to booklady by: Richard Klinge
Read in July, 2009

“We diocesan priests have lost our historical sense. If Stan (Fr. Rother) had been a Jesuit, twenty books would have been written about him by now.” -Fr. John Vesey to his fellow priests during a Tulsa-Oklahoma City clergy week 5 June 1984

Love In A Fearful Land was the first biography I read about Father Stanley Rother after my initial pilgrimage in 2009 to Okarche, OK, his hometown, a little farming town along highway 3. Since then I’ve returned to Okarche every year on the anniversary of Father Rother’s martyrdom, July 28th to go to Mass and participate in whatever festivities his home parish of Holy Trinity puts on. Okarche is also famous for Eischens Bar. They claim to be Oklahoma’s oldest bar but most people who go there could care less about their age; they go for the mouth-watering chicken. Eischens is one of two places in Oklahoma you are supposed to visit before you die. Yes, the chicken is good, but I recommend you also go down the street and see where an American martyr went to church. Holy Trinity is amazingly beautiful and there is a small collection of pictures and other memorabilia belonging to Father Stan.

Although Love In A Fearful Land wasn’t what I was expecting – a straight biography of the martyred Father Stanley Rother it is an interesting and worthwhile book, because it brings together in one book three incredible priests who never had the chance to meet. The author, Fr. Henri Nouwen, the best known of the three, has written over forty spiritual books and yet he was in the middle of a writing slump at the time Fr. Vesey asked him to tell the story of a quiet Oklahoma farm boy who became a priest, traveled to Guatemala in the late 1960s and fell in love with the people there. Writing this book brought Fr. Nouwen out of his slump.

Love In A Fearful Land is agonizingly brief, as was the life of Fr. Stan, this gentle yet strong priest, beloved by his family and friends back home in Oklahoma as well as his parish in Guatemala. Wanting to know more than the book could tell me, I had to content myself with studying the all too few surviving pictures of Father Rother. He is always smiling and so is everyone who is with him. Despite the constant danger he lived in, Fr. Rother was not seeking martyrdom; he just believed a shepherd’s place was with his ‘flock’.

On the night of July 28th shortly after midnight, three men broke in to the rectory and attempted to kidnap Fr. Rother as was the practice of the time. There was a civil war in Guatemala in 1981 and the government was powerless – or claimed it was anyway – to stop roving bands of terrorists from kidnapping anyone perceived as a threat. Once kidnapped, the individuals were brutally tortured, killed and their bodies left by the side of the road or worse yet, never found. It was considered far better not to be taken alive. Father Rother, apparently put up quite a fight before he was shot twice in the head. The room where he died is now used as a chapel by his flock who has already proclaimed him a saint.

He is buried in Okarche; his heart is buried in Guatemala.

Here is the prayer for canonization the Archdiocese of Oklahoma has written in his honor.


On the 28th of this month I'm going on pilgrimage to Holy Trinity Church, Father Stanley Rother's home parish, in Okarche, Oklahoma. It's the 28th anniversary of his death in Guatemala. We've been praying for his canonization for many years now, but I've yet to visit his town or parish and ... always wanted to!
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Comments (showing 1-8 of 8) (8 new)

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message 1: by Bear (new)

Bear May your pilgrimage be fruitful and more than you expect it to be!

Jennifer Just ordered this, booklady! It sounds wonderful!

message 3: by booklady (last edited Jul 20, 2009 12:01PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

booklady Hope you like it! I'm going to post this review to my blog -- probably tomorrow -- as well as the experience of going to Okarche next week. We're so hoping he becomes the first Oklahoma saint!

booklady This was in an e-mail from my mom who tried to add a comment here but is having some technical difficulties. Still I loved her sweet words so much, I wanted to include them:

Date: Monday, July 20, 2009, 7:59 PM


I think that's so neat that you are going to Father Stanley Rother's parish on the anniversary of this death. I have been saying that prayer you sent me ever since I got it and I am asking him for a cure for Eric and Luke. Wouldn't that be a wonderful miracle to have him canonized?

Will try to remember on that day to commemorate his death. Wish I could go with you.



Dear Mom! I wish you could come too! Well maybe next year sweetheart! love you lots! ((hugs))

Jennifer Ah, booklady, please share with us how your pilgrimage goes next week!

message 6: by Pete (new)

Pete Caccavari I have heard many good things about Fr. Henri Nouwen but have never read any of his work. I need to check him out.

message 7: by booklady (last edited Jul 21, 2009 08:27PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

booklady Yes, Jennifer, I plan to write up about the pilgrimage. Besides Mass and Adoration, I plan to visit his grave and see whatever else there is to see. I'm also going to see if I can pick up a copy of The Shepherd Cannot Run: Letters of Stanley Rother, Missionary and Martyr. Supposedly there are new copies of it on sale for $10, but so far, I've only found used copies on-line at greatly marked up prices.


I haven't read anything else by Father Nouwen in a number of years, but the best !!! thing I ever read by him -- and it's a definite 5***** book is The Return of the Prodigal Son! You will never hear/think about that parable the same way again.

message 8: by Pete (new)

Pete Caccavari Thanks for the tip, Booklady. I'll have to check that one out.

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