This is a great feel good story to be sure, but the hype surrounding the “mystery priest” seems like much ado about nothing.
[New London Fire Chief] Reed says Lentz was pinned in between the steering wheel and the seat. After 45 minutes passed, medical workers told rescue crews that Katie was failing and fast. That’s when Reed decided to move the car, which was standing on its side, back on all four wheels.
About an hour into the rescue, Katie asked rescue workers to pray out loud with her. That’s when a priest appeared out of no where.
“He came up and approached the patient, and offered a prayer,” Reed said. “It was a Catholic priest who had anointing oil with him. A sense of calmness came over her, and it did us as well. I can’t be for certain how it was said, but myself and another firefighter, we very plainly heard that we should remain calm, that our tools would now work and that we would get her out of that vehicle.”
Many religions use anointing oil in religious rituals and practices. The oil is a symbol, more or less, of divine influence and/or power. That is what makes this story so intriguing. A priest showing up at the scene of a horrific car crash and helping to calm the victim and the rescue workers is one thing, but this is something else. Notice that Chief Reed never states the priest used the oil, but the author of this piece certainly wants readers to make that connection.
After getting Katie safely into the Air Evac helicopter, at least a dozen of the rescue workers turned around to thank the priest who was no where in sight. The highway had been blocked for a quarter of a mile during the hour and a half rescue, leaving no bystanders and no parked cars nearby.
So the highway is blocked for a significant portion of the rescue, and nobody bothers to ask the priest how he managed to come upon the scene? And why would they let him just stroll up to vehicle wreckage?
I don’t doubt that a priest really was present at the scene of the crash. The article alludes to a rather divine entrance though, and that I do doubt. I find it far more reasonable to assume the priest was on foot and able to approach the accident scene undetected whilst the rescue workers were busy attempting to save the victim’s life.
What do you think? Was this a guardian angel sent answering the victim’s prayers? Or was this a case of a priest being in the right place at the right time?
UPDATE (13-Aug-2013) The person has been identified and curiously, people misremembered things.
The mysterious priest who gave anointing to a Missouri woman trapped in her wrecked car has been identified as Father Patrick Dowling of the Diocese of Jefferson City.
Though the highway was blocked off, Father Dowling revealed he “did not leave with the other cars.” After parking as close as he could to the scene of the accident, he said he walked the remaining 150 yards.
“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,” he said.
But Father Dowling said he could not explain other mysterious events that coincided with his ministering at the accident scene.
“I didn’t say another word,” he said. “I did not say anything like the machinery would begin to work or they would succeed in getting her out of the car.”
The priest said, “That did not come from my lips, though two people heard it.”
So, we have some answers. The extraordinary situation seems less extraordinary but just fortuitous. The Reverend was doing his job. I suspect the remaining inconsistances can be resolved as a result of the chaos of the situation. No miracles here. Just people doing the right thing when called upon.