Thursday, August 08, 2013

Priest Mysteriously Appears, Anoints the Sick, Mysteriously Vanishes

Who was he? Where did he come from, and where did he go?

Emergency workers and community members in eastern Missouri are not sure what to make of a mystery priest who showed up at a critical accident scene Sunday morning and whose prayer seemed to change life-threatening events for the positive.

Even odder, the black-garbed priest does not appear in any of the nearly 70 photos of the scene of the accident in which a 19-year-old girl almost died. No one knows the priest and he vanished without a word, said Raymond Reed, fire chief of New London, Mo.

Carla Churchill Lentz, mother of the teen who was critically injured, said emergency workers have told her there is no way her daughter should have lived inside such a mangled car. Of the priest, she said, "I do believe he certainly could have been an angel dressed in priest's attire because the Bible tells us there are angels among us."

The scene unfolded Sunday morning. Katie Lentz, a sophomore at Tulane University, was driving from her parents' home in Quincy, Ill., to Jefferson City, Mo., where she has a summer internship and planned to attend church with friends. The Mercedes she was driving collided with another vehicle on a highway near Center, Mo. The accident crushed Lentz's vehicle into a ball of sheet metal that lay on the driver's side, Reed said.

Reed's team and emergency workers from several other jurisdictions tried for at least 45 minutes to remove the twisted metal from around Lentz. Various pieces of equipment broke and the team was running out of choices. A helicopter waited to carry Lentz to the nearest trauma center. Though Lentz appeared calm, talking about her church and her studies toward a dentistry degree, her vital signs were beginning to fail, Reed said.

"I was pulled off to the side by one of the members of the" helicopter evacuation team, Reed said. "He expressed to me that we were out of time. Her condition looked grim for her coming out of that vehicle alive. She was facing major problems."

At that point, Reed's team agreed to take the life-threatening chance of sitting the vehicle upright so that Lentz could be removed from it. This is dangerous because a sudden change in pressure to the body can be critical, he said.

That's when Lentz asked if someone would pray with her and a voice said, "I will."

The silver-haired priest in his 50s or 60s in black pants, black shirt and black collar with visible white insert stepped forward from nowhere. It struck Reed as odd because the street was blocked off 2 miles from the scene and no one from the nearby communities recognized him.

"We're all local people from four different towns," Reed said. "We've only got one Catholic church out of three towns and it wasn't their priest."

Reed and the other emergency workers were on their knees. The priest of about medium build, maybe 6-feet-tall, stood above them.

"This priest approached Katie and began to pray openly with her," Reed said. "He had a bottle of anointing oil with him and he used that."

Another firefighter who had been watching said it appeared as if the priest also sprinkled Reed and two other emergency workers nearby with oil.

Everything happened quickly after that. Twenty emergency workers pulled together and sat the car upright, Churchill Lentz said. Katie Lentz's vital signs improved and a rescue team from a neighboring community suddenly appeared with fresh equipment and tools. Lentz was removed and rushed to the hospital.

With Lentz gone, the rescue team prepared to clean up, Reed said.

"We all go back to thank this priest and he's gone," he said.

Initially, they assumed he had to get to his home church to lead Sunday services. But then they looked at their photos of the scene.

"I have 69 photographs that were taken from minutes after that accident happened — bystanders, the extrication, our final cleanup — and he's not in them," Reed said. "All we want to do is thank him."

Who is he, this mystery priest? Where did he come from? Where did he go?

Certain evangelicals will tell you that only one man ever born of woman was exactly six feet tall:

"Now wait, John, that's just foolish for the lack of sense. Ain't no mortal man on this earth exactly six feet tall."

"I'm saying what the stranger said."

"But the only one who was exactly six feet—"

"Hold your tater while I tell about it."


"Troy," said Mr. Absalom, "I'm just as glad as you are about all this. But don't credit me with that bridge-idea. This carpenter here, he thought it up."

"And now I'll be going," spoke up the carpenter in his gentle way.

They both looked on him. He'd hoisted his tool chest up on his shoulder again, and he smiled at them, and down at Little Anse. He put his hand on Little Anse's head, just half a second long.

"Fling away those crutches," he said. "You don't need them now."

All at once, Little Anse flung the crutches away, left and right. He stood up straight and strong. Fast as any boy ever ran on this earth, he ran to his daddy.

The carpenter was gone. The place he'd been at was empty.

But, looking where he'd been, they weren't frightened, the way they'd be at a haunt or devil-thing. Because they all of a sudden all three knew Who the carpenter was and how He's always with us, the way He promised in the far-back times; and how He'll do ary sort of job, if it can bring peace on earth and good will to men, among nations or just among neighbors.

It was Little Anse who remembered the whole chorus of the song—

"Shoo, John, I know that song! We sung it last night at church for Christmas Eve!"

"I know it too, John!"

"Me! Me too!"

"All right then, why don't you children join in and help me sing it?"

Go tell it on the mountain,
Tell it on the hills and everywhere,
Go tell it on the mountain
That Jesus Christ was born!

(You can read the rest of this fine Silver John story by Manly Wade Wellman here.)

Probably sometime in the next couple of days there'll be a follow-up to this story, identifying the priest and why he so suddenly appeared and so suddely vanished. But you know what? I hope not.


Jennifer said...

I hope not. I hope it stays a mystery. I like it that way.

Anonymous said...

I want to see the pictures; I've yet to find them on the internet