When emergency crews had spent nearly an hour trying to cut Katie Lentz out of the mass of metal that had been her car, things were looking grim.

The vehicle, an older model Mercedes, was made of tough stuff and had dulled all the firefighters’ saws and other tools. Worse, Lentz was starting to fade, fast.

But then, something that witnesses later labeled miraculous happened.

Lentz and the emergency crew prayed together, and then according to witnesses a priest appeared, as if from nowhere. He said a prayer over Lentz, anointed her with oil and told the emergency crew that their tools would now work properly and everything would be all right.

“He came up and approached the patient, and offered a prayer,” New London, Missouri, fire chief Raymond 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.”

Soon, another battalion showed up with fresh tools and the rescue suddenly went much more easily.  Lentz was freed from the wreckage and was taken to a hospital in time to save her life.

She had multiple broken bones and is facing several surgeries, but Lentz is expected to survive.

After the emergency crew finished its work, several of the team members looked for the priest to thank him, but he was nowhere to be found. The highway had been blocked off for a quarter mile in each direction, so there were no parked cars or bystanders in the area. The priest had seemingly vanished.

As of this writing, no one has identified the priest, but as far as Lentz’s family and other witnesses are concerned, he was an angel, flesh and blood or otherwise.

“All along the way, her foremost request is for people to pray and to pray out loud,” said Lentz’s mother. “We would like nothing more than to carry that message forward for her.”

Ultimately, whether the priest was an ordinary man or an actual angel doesn’t matter. He had a profound effect on people who needed help that day.

Lentz preist

Have you seen this priest? Composite sketch from witnesses’ descriptions.

That’s the way it is with miracles. They happen all the time, and you either recognize them or you don’t.

Many of us tend to fixate on the idea of miracles only involving burning bushes, parting of the seas or raising of the dead. We think that miracles are things that violate the natural order, but that’s not so. A wise pastor once remarked that miracles are events that actually represent the highest potential of the natural order, that inspire by showing us what is possible with God.

Some people recognize what a miraculous thing life is, others can have the entire universe laid out before them and see nothing but random, meaningless accidents and illusions.

Disbelievers are like the fellow I encountered decades ago in an English literature class who just didn’t get it. The teacher and students had spent the entire class period discussing the poem “Ode to a Grecian Urn.” It was almost time to pack up for the day, when this fellow finally raised his hand to ask a question: “What’s a ‘green shinern’?”

Whenever I hear someone suggest that there is no “evidence” of God’s existence, I think of the “green shinern.” They just don’t get what’s been right in front of them.

Miracles, whether they are burning bushes or just a reassuring word and a promise in a moment of trouble, do occur regularly. It’s up to us to see them.