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CASE OF MYSTERIOUS 'MIRACLE' PRIEST GRANTS INSIGHTS INTO WORKINGS OF HEAVEN
No event in recent years in North America has served to validate the Catholic faith in the eyes of the secular public more than news reports last week from Missouri, where, it was said, not far from Hannibal, a "mysterious" priest suddenly materialized at the scene of a serious accident after a 19-year-old girl who was trapped in a car asked her rescuers -- who had tried in vain for an hour to free her -- to join her in verbal prayer.
Almost instantly, a priest appeared. "He came up and approached the patient, and offered a prayer," said a witness. "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." Help came, the tools worked, but when the rescuers -- about a dozen of them -- turned to thank the priest, he was no longer anywhere around -- and they could not figure how that occurred, because the highway was blocked for a quarter of a mile, and there were no bystanders or parked cars anywhere nearby.
Who was he? From whence did he come? He showed up in none of the eighty photos of the scene. Was it an angel, a saint? Local parishes and a spokesman for the archdiocese said the description of the priest matched no local Catholic cleric.
He is now said to have been identified (as Father Patrick Dowling of Jefferson City -- despite insistence by rescuers that no one could have approached the scene), although the priest says he didn't say the words two witnesses said they heard him say (about how their tools would now work), leaving a a bit of mystery.
The priest originally identified himself as a priest in a comment to a Catholic news website but the comment apparently went unnoted for days. The diocese originally was quoted as saying it didn't fit the description of a local cleric.
In cases of legitimate "mysterious strangers," angels seem to come as cheery young men or women, repairmen, or medical personnel (such as nurses). They can materialize what they wish around them -- come in say an oddly colored car or a snow plow (but somehow not a snowplow). They are just there. And they cause ease in what needs to be done. One man who had a near-death experience saw an angel working through the hands of a surgeon (who later said the surgery went smoother than any he had conducted, as in the Missouri case the rescue suddenly went well).
This one went viral on the internet. It has been carried by major secular news outlets, even ABC, Fox, USA Today, the Washington Post, Yahoo, the London Daily Mail, the Huffington Post, and so forth -- many usually skeptical if not hostile to such phenomena.
None of them tried to pooh-pooh it, or even really to offer an alternative explanation (though an explanation, or at least a partial one, there now is).
Even Protestant websites touted the story as miraculous -- despite the fact that the hero was a Cath0lic priest.
"I think that this time I've actually witnessed a guardian angel at work," Jeremiah See of the New London Fire Department told ABC News.
As it turns out, in human form.
Most importantly: in one fell swoop, the Holy Spirit presented the Catholic faith in the most positive of ways -- involved in the supernatural glory and intervention of God.
Not quite what many non-Catholics would maintain.
That an angel would work in the way of a priest said everything.
In that one fell swoop was swept away dozens of negative stories.
It was second only in Pope Francis' recent victory in Rio in its potential for a positive effect (3.7 million at a single Mass!).
The Church is on the mend.
It is rebounding.
It will need to, in th times we face.
When the Spirit is not sufficient in the Church, God will present Him elsewhere: on windows, in reflections, in clouds, on trees, most recently, outside a church on a Cross, as occurred the same week in Providence, Rhode Island.
Ignore those who call it silliness. It's true: in a good number of such instances, it stretches the imagination.
It's anything but clear.
But that's not the point.
No one knows whether it is silly or miraculous, unless one is there to experience the feeling, the grace, attendant to it.
Scoff not from afar.
It's how God instructs us all: not in the head, but in the heart, where resides the spirit.
[resources: In the Arms of Angels and The God of Miracles]
[archives: angel stories]
[see also: Friends, family seek identity of mystery priest and Some think they see image of Jesus, Mary outside Providence church]
[Further note from New London, Missouri, fire department on Facebook: "Katie's surgery was successful today after a 6 1/2 hour surgery. Many are asking about her injuries. Here is a non comprehensive list:
Broken left femur
Broken right femur
Broken right tibia
Broken right fibia
Broken left wrist
9 broken ribs (8 on one side)
Numerous smaller lacerations.]
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