Thursday, February 4, 2010

Father Mychal Judge

Recognized officially as the first victim of the September 11th attacks on the World Trade Center Towers, Father Mychal Judge was a Franciscan who served as chaplain for the New York Fire Department. He was killed (if I'm not mistaken) by falling debris from one of the collapsing World Trade Center towers. Much has been said of Father Judge, including reports that he was gay (in orientation, not practice). His sexuality was discussed in the 2006 documentary The Saint of 911, which chronicles major events of his life, and includes interviews with colleagues and other individuals who knew him personally.

I know many bloggers have written extensively on Father Judge (especially right after his death as reports of his life began to surface) both in favor and in condemnation of the late priest. Some Catholic authors have thrown in their two cents on this subject matter and vigorously denied Father Judge was gay. These authors allege that Father Judge's life is being commandeered by gays and lesbians to promote their agendas and political objectives. Others, however, have supposedly given proof that Father Judge was gay by submitting excerpts of entries he made in his journals. He also supposedly revealed the true nature of his sexual orientation to friends and colleagues who were close to him. By all accounts, Father Judge remained faithful to his sacerdotal vows of celibacy and remained chaste to the last minute of his life.

I was hesitant to write this post simply because individuals like Father Judge have become a cliche poster child for Catholic controversy. Regardless of the benevolence and authenticity one detects in his life, it's almost impossible to avoid recognizing that his time on earth is celebrated more by a politically correct caucus than by any faithful Catholic coterie. When the name of Father Judge is brought up for discussion, those sources who are vehemently anti-Catholic diminish their quasi-misanthropy for all things Catholic without actually appreciating that Father Judge was Catholic as well. Perhaps they regard him as their type of Catholic.

I recently came across this image again, which is what triggered this post:

In this picture - which still moves me 9 years after the September 11th attacks - I'm assertively reminded of what I would describe as the inherent fragility of the human sinner. In this final image, Father Judge's politics, right's and wrong's, flaws and weaknesses have all come to an abrupt and violent end, and are devoid of the rigor and fervor that may have caused other people to dislike him. Gay or straight, regardless of who he was, in this picture he seems so fragile, so human, so surrendered, and so broken by the unspeakable evil that lurks inside the worst of human nature.


Shirley said...

Only the Just Judge is worthy to judge Fr. Judge.

Tom in Vegas said...

Amen, Shirley.

Mike and Kim said...

Beautiful post, Tom. I, too, am still so moved by that picture. It is through our brokenness that HIS light shines through, and regardless of what is thought by others, or even ourselves, this picture screams to me "Come to Me" truly is all that matters.

Mychals Prayer said...

In my dealings with Catholics and non-Catholics from all over the world, as editor of the Saint Mychal Judge website, I’ve encountered very little controversy over the matter of his orientation.

I’ve talked with thousands of people whose faith has been profoundly enhanced by Mychal’s extraordinary spirituality and works of mercy. Two anecdotes which were typical of Mychal’s life:

Mychal once gave the winter coat off his back to a homeless woman in the street. He later said, "She needed it more than me."

While praying, Mychal would sometimes "become so lost in God, as if lost in a trance, that he'd be shocked to find several hours had passed" (Michael Daly)

Perhaps some on the PC left admire Fr. Judge ‘despite’ his being Catholic. But very many orthodox Catholics also admire Fr. Judge ‘despite’ his being homosexual. They recognize true holiness when they see it.

For example, Archbishop Timothy Dolan declared in his inaugural homily, "The Risen Christ is alive in consecrated religious, women and men, in whom Elizabeth Ann Seton, Frances Xavier Cabrini, and Mychal Judge find most worthy heirs, as you continue to give the Word flesh in your simplicity of life, charity, and obedience." (4/15/09)

And Father Mike’s portrait smiles down from the walls of almost every firehouse in NYC -- hardly bastions if anti-Catholicism.

I appreciate your comments on the photo of Mychal’s lifeless body being recovered from Ground Zero. But it’s important to remember that this photo exemplifies his whole life of selfless holiness and heroism.

I invite readers to visit:

"First and foremost, he was a priest in love with Jesus. He would bring Jesus into every place he was called. Where Father Mike was, Jesus was there. He was a living example of Christ´s love and forgiveness. He had limitless love, unconditional love." (NYPD Detective Steven McDonald)

Tom in Vegas said...

Mychal's Prayer-

I have no doubt that Father Judge was a devout man who exemplified holiness to all those he came across. However, I must disagree with you when it comes to the comments that imply Father Judge has a universal acceptation among Catholics (I say this with a tremendous sense disappointment). I have NO doubt that he was a good man, but some fragments of his life (you can see some of the supposed fractiousness of his sacerdotal life in the Saint of 911) are objectionable to some very devout Catholics. Are there Catholics and non-Catholics who revere him and exalt his memory? The answer is thankfully yes. But this doesn't mean that he's not a source of controversy for some individuals, if not for his sexuality, then because of other factors that arouse from it (some say that he cross-dressed - perhaps as a joke - on one overseas visitation).

Again, I DO like Father Judge and I have prayed to him on many occasions (I carry an article with me from a magazine that briefly honored his life. I have attached that article to two of my favorite prayers). I have NO doubt he was a good man, a holy man, but nonetheless a source of controversy.

Terry Nelson said...

Here's what I've come to think about all of this - I don't care what Fr. Mychal said he was - he gave his life for Christ and the men to whom he ministered - love covers a multitude of sins. The last photo says it all.

Tom in Vegas said...


Beautifully said!