Friday, June 17, 2005

With Thanksgiving for God's Saving Hand

With Thanksgiving for God's Saving Hand Dear Everyone, The title says it all. I will be more dutiful in my prayers to our dear Lord, for he has spared us from living without His most fervent servant, Bishop Robert Vasa. Bishop survives accident by the grace of a ‘very loving God’ 06/16/2005 Bishop Robert Vasa BEND — It was a phenomenal, perhaps even sensational, accident and as far as I know, miraculously, no one was injured. The driver swerved left to avoid an unexpected deer, lost control and swerved back right, again overcompensating, and then swerved left again in a vain attempt to regain control. At that point in the road there were three lanes, and as the driver made his last swerve left, it appeared that it was impossible to avoid a head-on collision with an oncoming vehicle. That would have been very bad. A further swerve right would have ensured such a collision, and so the white Tahoe left the road at nearly 55 miles per hour at a 45 degree angle to the road, very possibly sideways. From there it appears that the Tahoe proceeded sideways and backwards down the steep 20-foot brush- and rock-lined embankment and at some point turned onto its roof for the remainder of the ride. This appears to have happened when, proceeding backward the Tahoe hit some large rock and most likely flipped lengthwise onto its roof. Then the ride mercifully stopped with the Tahoe resting on its top in the eight inches of water running in the creek at the bottom of the ditch into which no one would intentionally drive. Hanging upside down, the driver became aware of two very significant pieces of data. First it was immediately apparent that he was not dead as he fully expected to be. Second, he began to realize that just possibly he was not injured at all. Not being dead and not being injured, the driver was readily able to extricate himself from the vehicle, since the rear windows were knocked out, and he happily discovered that it is really quite easy to move from the front to the rear of an SUV when it is lying on its roof. The most serious injuries the driver suffered were those received from the raspberry bushes through which he tried to climb to get back to the highway. He found it was best to follow the path of destruction carved out by his SUV-turned-sled to gain level ground. After waiting a few minutes at the side of the highway with no one able to see him — did I tell you it was 11 p.m.? — he decided he could go back the car to try to find his flashlight. Back through the brambles, through the water, into the car, but alas no flashlight. He did, however, find his sleeping bag, his computer case and one of two suitcases and his slightly water damaged Breviary. The suitcase contained a miter and a 100-year-old crosier. They likewise appear to be undamaged. In my estimation, the miracle is complete. Realizing that black clothes on a dark night would hardly attract attention he took off his clergy shirt and with his white undershirt was readily able to flag down the next passing motorist. Now the folks who stopped were most generous, but oddly they were rather insistent that they not be there when the police arrived. They did have a cell phone, but the only message it displayed was: No Signal, a familiar phone message in Central Oregon. I think they were relieved, for they readily volunteered to drive down the mountain as far as they needed to in order to receive a signal to call the police. I asked if I could buy a flashlight from them and they generously gave me one before they took off, rather hurriedly I might add, in search of a signal. I had no doubt that they would carry out their mission, which might have been a minor miracle in itself, and so with flashlight in hand I waded down to the car once again. I found my alb, a sweater, and my glasses (they were still in the car in the six inches of water which had accumulated inside). Eventually I found my second suitcase, my tool box, and a pair of jumper cables. The cables were hanging in a tree about 10 feet above where the car had come to rest. The tool box was sitting upright about 15 feet from the car, well out of the water. For those who say this is just the kind of thing for which cell phones are useful need to be reminded of the lack of a signal. This shoots down that theory. Besides, if I had remembered to take my phone on this trip it would have been in that six inches of water in the car like most of the rest of my stuff. Surprisingly the small briefcase containing my laptop computer, upon which this saga is being written at 3 a.m., suffered only a little water damage, and its contents, like myself, appear to be unscathed. Since such an episode is a bit unsettling — I have not been able to sleep and this exercise is a bit of personal debriefing. The State Patrol trooper who brought me to Madras knows well our diocesan bookkeeper and could not have been more helpful, friendly and accommodating. The local pastor of Madras, happy to see that it was his bishop and not a transient ringing his doorbell repeatedly at 2 a.m., readily welcomed me into his home. It is there that I now sit trying to collect myself, amazed at God’s protective hand. It is there that I sit wondering if I am not really in a coma, hanging upside down in a Tahoe, in a deep ditch, off of a very dark and lonely Highway 97. I am pretty sure that I am here, and if I am, as I fully expect I am, it is only, really and truly, by the grace of a most wonderful, powerful and very loving God. You may be wondering what I was doing out that late anyhow. Well, it was the return trip of the Boardman-Hermiston confirmation run, followed by the Cove high school summer camp visit. The weekend was wonderful. The more than 25 young confirmands at Boardman were a bit shy but eager for confirmation. The 88 at Hermiston were a bit more lively and responsive and delightful to be with. Then I could not pass up the opportunity to greet the approximately 30 campers from all across the diocese at Cove. Despite the rather dramatic way the weekend ended, I would not change any part of it — well, maybe the last part. Even this last part, though, was amazing. I found myself walking up and down the side of the highway praying my rosary waiting for a ride or for the police but mostly waiting for shock to set in. As far as I know it never did. I was and am simply happy and genuinely surprised to be alive and uninjured. I will puzzle over and ponder the events of this night for some time to come. For all the events of this weekend, I can simply say, Praise God! I can find no other suitable explanation, and I do not need one. Praise God! Copyright 2002, Catholic Sentinel, Portland, Oregon | Published by Oregon Catholic Press | Legal Information | Privacy Policy