One of the more intriguing stories last week was that of the mysterious priest who arrived on the scene of a vehicular accident in Missouri. 19-year old Katie Lentz was on her way to church when a drunk-driver smashed her car. Emergency workers tried for more than an hour to get Lentz clear of the wreck and it looked like she wasn't going to make it. Just then a Catholic priest appeared, anointed Lentz with oil and prayed with her. It was very soon after that firefighters and EMTs got Lentz out and flown to a hospital. And the priest? He vanished before anyone had a chance to thank him for being there.
Curiously, he didn't turn up in any of 90-some photos that were made of the crash site. Between that and the effect he seemed to have on everyone involved, many have wondered if it was an angel who came to Katie Lentz's assistance.
|Father Patrick Dowling|
Though the highway was blocked off, “I did not leave with the other cars,” Fr. Dowling commented. He parked as close as he could, “and walked the remaining 150 yards. I asked the Sheriff if a priest might be needed … on checking, he permitted me to approach.”Something I couldn't help but appreciate: Father Dowling reported that he administered the Catholic sacraments of Anointing of the Sick and Absolution to Katie Lentz. Which would be routine for a priest "except that there was something extraordinary it sounds like, in the sequence of events that coincided in time with the Anointing. You must remember, there were many people praying there, many, many people... and they were all praying obviously for healing and for her safety.”
“When the young lady asked that I pray her leg stop hurting, I did so. She asked me to pray aloud and I did briefly … the rescue workers needed space, and would not have appreciated distraction. I stepped to one side and said my rosary silently until the lady was taken from the car.”
Once Lentz was removed from her vehicle, he explained, “I then shook hands with the Sheriff, and thanked him, as I left. I have to admire the calmness of everybody involved.”
The thing is, according to news articles from the past week, Lentz worships at an Assemblies of God congregation. She isn't Roman Catholic. Neither does it sound like the denominational background of anyone involved was ever questioned or commented upon. It was one person who happened to be a follower of Christ being at the scene to minister to another follower of Christ when she needed it most.
There are no doubt some who are going to be disheartened to discover that it wasn't a real angel who came to the side of Katie Lentz and those working to save her life, but rather a very human priest. But that doesn't mean that it wasn't a miracle.
Miracles don't have to be shimmering demonstrations of supernatural wonder and glory. Do I believe that God allows miracles to happen? I absolutely do. Even today. And some of them are of the sort that one can't readily explain away. Believe me, I've tried.
But that isn't what most miracles are. A miracle is God letting things "click" into place, at precisely the right time. And Father Dowling's being on the highway that close to the accident is as much a miracle as any miracle out of the New Testament.
Personally, I take great comfort in knowing that it was Father Patrick Dowling who came to Katie Lentz's aid. Because if God can use one of His mortal flock to work a miracle through, He can do the same with any other. Including you. Perhaps even me...