I just finished reading a biography by Michael Daly, called The Book of Mychal: The Surprising Life and Heroic Death of Father Mychal Judge. Father Mychal Judge was a Franciscan Friar whose life ended tragically due to the 9/11 attacks. You may remember the heart stopping photo of him being carried off by his brothers: the firefighters, police officers, and others as he laid limb on the chair. He was recorded as the first official casualty of 9/11 and numbered 00001 on his death certificate. I have also seen the documentary “Saint of 9/11” about his life – three times in the last month to be exact. There are new lessons learned each time.
I went for a quick visit to New York City back in April. This trip came before I read the book and learned who this man really was. What I didn’t realize at the time of my visit was the fact that I walked in his path. I talked to his brothers. I spent some time at a fire station and monastery before my train back to Boston. I had a chance to talk to the firefighters and say thank you for what they do. I felt this spirit and peace as a walked in the station. What I found out was this station, across from St. Francis, was the station where Father Mychal called “home”. It was across the street from where he served at St. Francis. I could feel the grace and love of his spirit. I could feel his presence.
I took particular interest in Father Mychal because before he died, he was a New York City Fire Chaplain. My brother is a Richmond firefighter and I like doing chaplaincy work, so I was intrigued by his life. What I didn’t expect was how touched and encouraged I would be by Father Mychal’s life. He was so much more than a monk or a fire chaplain, although he would never want you to know. He was an angel for AIDs victims. He was a the best friend to the homeless. He was an advocate for the poor. He was a healing touch for those in pain. I received the gifts of grace and love by learning about this man of God. His life was truly remarkable and he served in the most humbled ways. It wasn’t about Fr. Mychal. It was about God. It was about being God’s instrument. It was being a bridge between God and the people. I’m not even sure how to express what I am learning from this “saint” in words. There aren’t enough words in my vocabulary to give this man the grace and love that he deserves.
So instead of coming up with my own, here are the words from the people whose lives were touched by the grace and love of Father Mychal. Then, you can read a few words from Father Mychal Judge himself.
Michael Daly: While praying, Mychal sometimes became so lost in God, as if lost in a trance, that he’d be shocked to find several hours had passed.
Rev. Paul Shackerly: Mychal Judge made serious confrontations with his ‘shadow self.’ He knew that many strengths were located in his weaknesses. So his gifts were all the more precious to people because of their wounded source.
Fr. Michael Duffy: Mychal loved to bring Christ to people. He was a bridge between people and God.
From the documentary “Saint of 9/11”: Fr Mychal anointed a man who was dying of AIDS. When the man asked him, “Do you think God hates me?,” Mychal just picked him up, kissed him, and rocked him in his arms.
Brendan Fay: Mychal had a heart as big as New York. He had room for everybody.
Vina Drennan: There was always the presence of God in him, a peacefulness in the midst of fear, pain and suffering. He had the gift of presence.
Fr Patrick Fitzgerald: God’s love did not pass through Mychal in a passive way like water through a straw. But God’s love took on the character of Mychal Judge — not a perfect personality, but a perfect instrument of God.
A homeless man, a friend: Mychal Judge didn’t hide in the sanctuary; he brought the sanctuary out to us.
From Father Mychal himself, in his Irish tongue:
The firefighters ask me to bless them. But the truth is I feel blessed by them.
If no one told you today that they love you, let me tell you: I love you, and no matter what mess you’re in, you’re always held and loved by God.
Is there so much love in the world that we can afford to discriminate against any kind of love?!
When I don’t know what’s next, I get down on my knees and pray, ‘Lord, take me, mold me, fashion me, show me what You want.’ Then I watch and listen and it will come.
No matter how big the call, no matter how small, you have no idea of what God is calling you to do, but God needs you. He needs me. He needs all of us. (his last homily on Sept 10, 2001)
Thou shall not bullshit. (being honest with yourself and others)
What are you worried about tomorrow for? God hasn’t planned it yet.
I, Mychal Judge, am not capable of doing these things on my own…I walk in, hold a hand, wipe a tear, say a prayer. But that’s not me, that’s the grace of God. I don’t worry about the details…it’s a mystery, it’s God.
Father Mychal, thank you for being a bridge to God for me. I know I don’t need one, but know that you have been one. Thank you for your love and grace. Thank you, for being you.
Grace and Love, Linda