In case you missed it, this story of a “mystery priest” showing up at the scene of an accident, anointing a young woman, and praying with rescue workers before they were able to free the young woman from the wreckage, went viral in the Catholic world last week. Since no one knew who the priest was (and pictures of the scene didn’t capture him for whatever reason), many thought it could be a miraculous instance of a saint appearing to help people in need.
I had Mass in Ewing MO as the regular priest was sick. As I was returning, I arrived at the scene. The authorities were redirecting traffic. I waited till it was possible to drive up closer. I parked behind a large vehicle about 150 yards from the scene. I asked the Sheriff’s permission and approached the scene of the accident. I absolved and anointed Katie, and, at her request, prayed that her leg would not hurt. Then I stepped aside to where some rescue personnel and the pilot were waiting, and prayed the rosary silently. I left when the helicopter was about to take off, and before I got to my car it was on its way to Quincy. I was amazed at the calmness of the two Highway patrol men. The sergeant was completely in control, amazingly calm. Everybody worked as harmoniously as a Swiss watch despite the critical nature of the scene. I gave my name to one of the authorities, perhaps to the sergeant of Highway Patrol, explaining that I was returning having celebrated Mass at Ewing. It was the sergeant who, at the Sheriff’s request, gave me Katie’s name as I was leaving, so I could visit her in hospital—I assumed she would be taken to Columbia. I think there may have been angels there too and, in this context, I congratulate the fire team from New London and Hannibal, the Sheriff/deputies of Ralls County, the Highway Patrol personnel, the helicopter team, the nurses and all who worked so professionally. God has blessed your work. I hope the credit goes where it is due.
Pretty cool if you ask me!
Of course, at news of it turning out to be a live priest just doing his ministerial duties some jumped at the opportunity to “I Told You So” and to sing the “Miracles Don’t Really Exist” refrain. This is a bummer in my mind, because it shows how closed our eyes can be to the little miracles that happen daily around us.
First of all, this priest just happened to be driving by the scene of the accident because another priest just happened to get sick, and so Fr. Dowling just happened to have to say mass in his stead. Awfully happy coincidences, if you ask me.
Second of all, in all of the early reports of the accident, rescue workers apparently weren’t making much progress before this priest showed up. They were beginning to doubt whether they’d be able to free Katie at all.
Up walks a priest to minister some sacramental graces. Suddenly the rescue workers are able to free Katie. (Meanwhile, Fr. Dowling is nearby offering up a rosary on their behalf).
If you ask me (and I realize—nobody did), this story is a beautiful example of the power of prayer and of the sacraments, as well as the little miracles that happen around us all the time. As Catholics we believe that the sacraments are powers that come forth from the Body of Christ (CCC 1116)! And in this story, we see the power of the Sacraments and the power of prayer in action.
God is working little miracles everyday and is constantly answering are prayers. Do we have the eyes to see?