Five years since 9/11. Five years since Father Mychal Judge, a Franciscan priest and FDNY chaplain, heard the report on his police and fire scanner and drove forty blocks downtown to be with his men at the World Trade Center and to wind up dead and named as the official first victim of the attack.
Mychal Judge was hailed as a living saint by politicians and Church officials alike— until a few days after his death, when gay activists declared him one of their own, a celibate yet homosexual priest whose life work had little to do with his sexuality other than aiding his ability to extend compassion to those abandoned by friends, family and even the Church they were born into.
In the months following the death of Mychal Judge, the story of his heroic last hours almost began to pale among stories of his life. And a prayer he wrote and passed on to those he met began to spread around the world:
Lord, take me where you want me to go;
Let me meet who you want me to meet;
Tell me what you want me to say
And keep me out of your way.
Thousands of people from very diverse groups were also able to declare Mychal as one of their own. Alcoholics, Irish emigrants, AIDS victims, the homeless, college students, newlyweds, suburban families, survivors of air crash victims, cops, firemen, journos and more told stories of their encounters with the wondrous man in the who’d walk across the Brooklyn Bridge in monk’s robe and sandals one day, and meet with the President the next.
In 2002, an investigation by the Tabloid Baby website led to the creation of Saintmychal.com was initially set up as a resource for documentary research, to gather information and testimony about Mychal’s life (while memories were fresh) and determine if possibly New Yorkers had their own, human, flawed, living saint walking among them.
Saintmychal.com grew beyond all expectations, with ordinary people from across America and around the world writing in to share their experiences with Mychal Judge. More than several claimed that he had performed actual miracles for them.
The evidence was there for the taking. The New York Times, USA Today and other organizations took our work and backed it up in front page stories. (Read some of the amazing articles here.)
The Roman Catholic Chuch, with hits hands full with paedophile priest payouts, ignored the obvious. As they rushed the canonization of Mother Teresa and a peasant named Juan Diego who may not have existed all, they wouldn’t touch Mychal with a ten-foot pole.
The five-year waiting period for consideration passes sometime Monday morning, so Mychal’s order is free to open the door to a canonization investigation.
Don’t count on it. But the Franciscans and their superiors in Rome should have second thoughts knowing members of their own flock say it doesn’t matter, that Mychal is already a “People’s Saint,” too good for the church that he dedicated and gave his life to.
Meanwhile, a new documentary movie about Mychal Judge is in some theatres this week. Saint of 9/11 follows the excellent British CTVC documentary, Victim 0001. It's made by some of those same gay activists and narrated by gay actor Ian McKellen. That’s fine. They, as many, claim him as their own. But don’t let the pedigree ghettoize Mychal or lead you to believe that a “people’s saint” is anything but second class.
Saint of 9/11 is bound to be a worthy documentary, the Basketball Man of hagiography. There are many more sides to Mychal Judge, and many more Mychal documentaries to come.
WTC photo by Shannon Stapleton; portraits by Michael Goldman