On Martyrs: Fr. Mychal Judge

Fr. Mychal Judge is best known to most of us for his courageous actions as a New York City Fire Department Chaplain. On 9/11, he sacrificed his life as he administered the Last Rites.

There is a famous picture of Father Mychal being carried away from the site of his death. But I selected the above picture because, as significant as was his death, his life was more than that last act of heroism. Much more.

Fr. Mychal was a Wounded Healer. He drew upon his own struggles to reach out to many long before 9/11.

First of all, he was a recovering alcoholic some 23 years clean and sober at the time of his death. He remained active in Alcoholics Anonymous and, through his own recovery, helped others find their way to sobriety.

Fr. Mychal was also gay, a Franciscan priest in a religious organization not known for its welcoming attitude toward gays. While he did not advertise his sexual identity, he worked tirelessly on behalf of gay rights. When gays were turned away by the Catholic Church, he continued to minister to members of Dignity, a support program for Catholic gays and lesbians. Even moreso, he tended to the spiritual needs of many New Yorkers suffering and dying from AIDS. He reached out to them in the days when people still believed AIDS was contagious.

For me Fr. Mychal has come to represent several themes. First of all, he is a brother in recovery, one more person whose example has helped me find my own way. Second, he stands as an example of what is best about the Catholic Church. He has helped me see that there are really two Catholic Churches out here. One is authoritarian and repressive. But there is a second Church that welcomes all gays and lesbians, immigrants, persons of all race and color, veterans. That Church often comes under attack such that these times for that Church are especially hard in these days when gays and lesbians are still not welcome and persons are censured for speaking out. This second Church is invisible but I belong to it and am proud of that membership.

Fr. Mychal was rightly loved and revered by the New York City Fire Department. His heroism, however, was present long before in he died amidst the ashes.

Reflection: In what ways are you wounded? Can those wounds be of help to others?

Further Viewing: There is a very fine documentary about Fr. Mychal’s life titled Saint of 9/11. It is available through Netflix or through Amazon.com.

About richp45198

I am a clinical psychologist and have an abiding interest in matters spiritual.
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5 Responses to On Martyrs: Fr. Mychal Judge

  1. Rose says:

    Just yesterday I was reading something about looking to help others and stop focusing on oneself. Of course, we hear this all the time but I needed to hear it again. As I chose to become a counselor for many different reasons and the greatest one was to help others through my sufferings. As I have listened to people’s stories (mostly children lately), I know and believe them because of my own story. I will never forget one of my clients telling me that I was the only one who believed her. This gave her the strength to follow through with what she knew she had to do. In the end, her family came around and apologized for not believing her and in her.

    Yes, our wounds can help others. Our wounds must help others. This is how it all makes sense to me.


  2. Bill Hitzel says:

    Rich, I belong to that church too. Having attended St. Bonaventure Univ. I came to know and appreciate the spirituality of many Franciscan Friars. One of the significant reasons that I too recognize “that other church” .

  3. richp45198 says:

    Reblogged this on Psyche and Spirit/Richard B. Patterson PhD and commented:

    As we acknowledge the 15th anniversary of 9/11, I thought I would repost this to honor the memory of Fr. Judge

  4. Laura Stell says:

    Thank you for reblogging this very worthwhile post. The “invisible” church you referred to in 2012 is becoming more visible, as we dare to stand in solidarity with our wounded brothers and sisters of all faiths, races, nationalities, and gender identities around the world. In the northwest corner of the US, like-minded Catholics are beginning to call themselves, GUERRILLA Catholics. We are not invisible any longer, even here in the Southwest, where our “sleepy” border community has come out by the thousands to minister to the refugees, by the hundreds to stand in solidarity with people of color, gays, and undocumented immigrants “imprisoned” in our ICE detention centers, separated from their families.

    And yes, it is from our own woundedness that we serve others. It took my broken relationships to open my eyes to the suffering of others. It took my threatening depression to depend on others; then I understood that it was in focusing on others that my depression was lifted. I now also know that it is impossible to repay someone for saving me from myself. The only thing I can, and must, do is pay it forward.

  5. Linda Moran says:

    Thank you for teaching me about this inspirational hero…..now to find a biography on him. Any suggestions?

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