Saturday, August 17, 2013


Fr. Dowling (image via CNA)
Stevie Wonder defines superstition as "when you believe in things that you don't understand." Although I enjoy the song, let's face it, we all believe in things that we don't understand. I don't understand nuclear physics or why my wife loves me, but I believe both to be true, and I don't consider either belief to be superstition.

Merriam-Webster has a better definition:
Superstition: a belief or practice resulting from ignorance, fear of the unknown, trust in magic or chance, or a false conception of causation
 Recently the news was all abuzz about the "mystery priest." From USA Today:
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.
"I think it's a miracle," Reed said. "I would say whether it was an angel that was sent to us in the form of a priest or a priest that became our angel, I don't know. Either way, I'm good with it."
Now, immediately, several people began to speculate whether this was a supernatural event. Take Joel and Lisa Schmidt, for instance, who hypothesized that the priest might be Fr. Lukas Etlin.

I became aware of the story from a friend who is a non-believer, who brought it to my attention as the kind of thing I would be interested in. And they were right, I was very interested in the story. My non-believing friends chuckled kindly at my superstitious belief in the supernatural. They dismissed the story as likely a hallucination of people under stress. Clearly the photographic evidence shows it was just wishful thinking, and so they pooh poohed all the hoopla and investigation.

As it turns out, it wasn't a supernatural event at all but an actual living priest with the  (somewhat ironic) name Fr. Dowling, who happened to pass by and prayed with the young girl and anointed her. Mystery solved.

Now although my non-believing friends may point to this incident and say "look at those superstitious Catholics" let's look at the definition of the word and see who fits it better. On the one hand we have Catholics and Christians who said "we don't know what this is, but we'll keep and open mind and investigate." For instance, in the article above Chief Raymond Reed said it could be an angel or a priest, or as the Schmidts said, we should investigate from both a supernatural and natural perspective.

On the other hand we have non-believers who would not bother to investigate because it is clear wat the answer is - it must be a mistake.

Which group is rejecting the unknown, acting in ignorance and trusting in chance?

Now, what do you think of this?

[Update, Michael Fanelli on Facebook pointed me to the following clip o the mystery priest - World Over - 2013-08-15 -- the "Mystery Priest" - not embedding it so I can give the offset where the story startes.]


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