An Alter Christus upon the Highway
A priest is called to be an alter Christus—an “other Christ.” And like the Master he follows, most of the time he serves the Church in the hidden, quiet way of the soul. Once in a while, however, it is God’s will that His priest serve in a very visible, even extraordinary fashion—even without the priest knowing it.
On July 8, 2020, as Fr. John Killackey was returning to the FSSP apostolate in Harrisburg through heavy rain and low visibility, he saw an accident through the mist that must have happened only moments before. Pulling over and seeing the extent of the wreckage, he grabbed his Oil of the Sick and went to assist. The witnesses led Fr. Killackey to one the victims of the crash, and he administered conditional Last Rites.
“I was trying to do everything properly, and then get out of the way so that the EMTs, policemen, and firefighters who were arriving could do their good work….It is a moment I will never forget, and we need to pray for all those involved in this accident and their families.”
Fr. Killackey then began walking up the highway to see if anyone else needed a priest. As he returned to his car, it started to rain again. It was at that point that someone took a photograph of the priest in cassock, walking in the rain—a photograph that would be widely shared with the story of the accident on social media.
Fr. Killackey insists, however, that he was a vessel of grace who just happened to be there at the time. “So many other priests would have done the exact same thing in that situation. Countless other priests never photographed—and far more deserving of a picture—have been that ‘other Christ’ to people now and through the centuries.” Father was also quick to give credit to the EMTs who “worked very hard that day to rescue people and got drenched to the bone in the rain.”
And while he thinks it was Providential he was there to administer the sacrament, he believes the photograph had nothing to do with him as a person, but his office.
“It was a moment to show what the priesthood is. The priest is one who lives for Christ and is supposed to be ‘another Christ.’ He brings Our Lord to people in the sacraments at all moments of life, but particularly during the difficult moments such as at the end of life when we prepare to meet God. That is why the priest belongs on those scenes so that through him, Our Lord can give grace to souls in those difficult moments.”
He also takes the occasion to offer a spiritual reminder on what’s important.
“We never know when Our Lord may call us to Himself, and want to make sure that we keep focused on Him. We all find ourselves getting distracted by the details and cares of this life and it makes it easy to lose sight of the great end for which we are created, the one which will last forever.”
July 20, 2020