This story of the mysteriously appearing and then disappearing priest who comes along to anoint young car crash victim Katie Lentz and pray for her and her rescuers is continuing to get a lot of press coverage.
The Friendly Atheist Hemant Mehta blogs about this and his response, which, while somewhat friendly I suppose, is typical of the unbeliever. That isn't a criticism. Of course the person who doesn't believe in God or the supernatural is limited to natural explanations. But it is also the case that atheists do not always have a good understanding of the religious mind, and I think we see that in his blog.
For example, Mehta points out that this story can be reported less sensationally:
The priest said the crew’s equipment would work… and it didn’t. In fact, another crew showed up and — surprise! — they had working equipment. If the priest hadn’t been there, the second crew would still have showed up. That’s not a miracle, that’s just good timing.
The problem there of course - as anyone who is familiar with the Judeo-Christian worldview and the Bible itself can attest - is that believers do not limit their understanding of the word miracle to: acts which are contrary to the laws of nature.
I'm quite certain that Ms. Lentz, who was requesting prayer, would consider the "good timing" of the second rescue crew arriving in time to save her before she succumbed to her injuries both an answer to her prayers and a miraculous occurrence.
Mehta also has a little to say about the anointing with oil and again he displays his lack of understanding of the Judeo-Christian traditions:
Well, there’s no evidence it had any effect on Lentz’s condition. The priest could just as easily have spun around in circles three times and we would’ve seen the same results. But anointing sounds religious, mysterious, and magical, so people are quick to assume it had an effect.
But Christians do not think of the oil or anointing therewith to be magical or mysterious. The oil is thought of as a symbol of the Holy Spirit of God, the force through which God acts in His creation. That is why the Christian Epistle of James says:
Is anyone among you sick? Let them call the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise them up. If they have sinned, they will be forgiven. (James 5:14,15 - NIV)
Thus it is the faith signified by this ritual that is the means of healing, not some magic or mystery.
So as I pointed in a comment on my original post, this story is going to be interpreted according to the biases of the reader. It is either a "miracle" or a just one of life's odd coincidences. Just as the Cosmos we are all a part of is either a happy little natural accident or a purposeful creation.
Looking at things through the eyes of faith might (or might not) be a wrong way of looking at things, but it is certainly a broader scope than those who lack faith have. There, I suppose, is where a quote left yesterday anonymously in the comments section of my original post fits in:
To one who has faith, no explanation is necessary. To one without faith, no explanation is possible. (Thomas Aquinas)