Thursday, September 8, 2011

fr Mychal Judge, o.f.m.

The Saint of 9/11

The body of Mychal Judge was tagged with the designation "Victim 0001", as the first official casualty of 9/11. mychaljudgebyshannonstapleton.jpgIn the famous Shannon Stapleton/Reuters photo, he is being carried out of the lobby of the North Tower where he had been killed by debris from the collapsing South Tower. He was a Catholic priest of the Franciscan Order of Friars Minor assigned to the monastery at the Church of Saint Francis of Assisi in Manhattan on West 31st Street. He was also a chaplain with the NYFD and one of the first responders to the attack on the twin towers. He was a recovered alcoholic and he was gay.
Now called the "Saint of 9/11", Father Judge had earned a reputation for kindness and compassion that infused his ministry to the poor, addicts and persons living with AIDS.
Fundie Watch
He clearly defined his personal vocation and mission, helping the neediest, the downtrodden and alienated LGBT Catholics. With little time left to rail against church leaders guided by hypocrisy and homophobia, Father Judge simply offered mercy where it was in short supply. It is said that the harshest criticism he may have spoken was "Is there so much love in this world that we can afford to discriminate against any kind of love?"
Many people who worked with Father Judge knew he was gay but did not define him primarily by that descriptive. Instead, they defined him by his work, and they came to a greater acceptance of LGBT equality because of their respect and admiration for his ministry. I recently asked well known author and co-founder of the gay Catholic group Dignity New York, Father John McNeill, about Father Judge.
He said, "I was Mychal's spiritual advisor. He was so full of joy and mirth and his heart just reached out to the people in his care. He seemed to feel the pain of people in pain, and he entered into their private hell, and as soon as he did, it was no longer hell. That is how powerful he was as a comforter. Mychal showed such love, especially for people dying from AIDS. He would walk into their hospital room with his holy oils to do the sacrament of 'anointing of the sick' and he would throw aside the bed clothes and massage their feet with the holy ointments."
Among the victims and heroes of 9/11 were many other gay people who have been claimed and memorialized and honored by their families, friends and communities. Although a documentary film has been made about the extraordinary priesthood of Father Judge, and a section of West 31st Street has been renamed for him, The Roman Catholic Church has turned its back on all requests to initiate the process of making him an official saint of the church. A gay priest who ministers to gay people and is not heavy handed about gay sex is an inconvenience and a source of anxiety for the Catholic hierarchy who have redesigned their scrutiny of candidates for the priesthood to discourage and weed out men like Mychal Judge.
I have asked the spokesman for the Archdiocese of New York for information about any plans New York Archbishop Timothy Dolan may have to honor or reference Father Judge on the tenth anniversary of 9/11, and I will update this post should I receive a response.
(A version of this article appears on the cover of 10,000COUPLES.)


Gary Kelly said...

The Roman Catholic Church has turned its back on all requests to initiate the process of making him an official saint of the church.

I turned my back on the Roman Catholic Church years ago. As far as I'm concerned, fr Mychal Judge is a saint, and that'll do me.

JustinO'Shea said...

Sad isn't it, Gary. . .all this back-turning. . However, I'm with you on Fr Mychal. . . no one needs all that canonization process. . I don't. .St Mychal is a good holy saint. . the kind I can be comfortable with.
He was free to be himself, as God called him to be. . .in spite of all the turning backs on him! "I did it my way. . "

There is a good dvd about him; I've seen part. I am trying to ferret out a link.

Stew said...

I love St. Mychal's comment "Is there so much love in this world that we can afford to discriminate against any kind of love?"

I suppose some would say yes to that.

Jim said...

Looks like we (you Justin) have started the process right here! St. Mychal sounds like the wonderful man that he was.....saintly for sure.

It's just the RCC being it's very arrogant self. We don't have to wait for them.

Gary Kelly said...

What I don't understand is how a church can throw a pile of bricks together and say God lives here. Where did God live before religions were founded and churches were built? It's kinda like a custody case in court, except it's the kids claiming custody of dad. Hehe. Fair dinkum, I think human beings are nuts.

And the further you stand back from it all, the nuttier they are.

JustinO'Shea said...

So. . .standing there. . .looking around. . .what are all the nutty peeps telling you, Gary. or are they ignoring you?

I ran across a book once, the title of which struck me. . ."Conjectures of a Guilty By-Stander". . . t'was sort of a social commentary. . . I like this and have used it. . ;-)

Coop said...

The Catholic church and its technicalities... oy vey.
The men in big hats seem so far removed from the rest of us. They sure act like it.

I read the entire homily by Fr. Duffy. Very moving... no words.
St Mychal spent his life living by example. That's what is important.

Gary Kelly said...

I agree with Coop: living life by example is what matters.

As to JustinO's question: what are all the nutty peeps telling me. Well, they're not actually telling me anything directly. I simply make observations and judgements... rather like David Attenborough does when he observes wildlife on his documentaries.

It's all a matter of perspective isn't it. What Edmund Hillary saw when he stood on top of Mt Everest was quite different to what Neil Armstrong saw when he stood on the moon.