On the tenth anniversary of 9/11, I wanted to share the background which has forever hallowed the memory of one of the first responders to die on September 11, 2001, Fr. Mychal Judge. He lived a life of consecrated celibacy with great joy and fidelity. His example of chastity should be considered by those who now try to use him for their own revolutionary ends.His heroic sacrifice deserves to be honored by all.
Fr. Mychal Judge's body being carried out of the rubble of the Towers on 9/11/01
CHESAPEAKE, VA (Catholic Online) - On the tenth anniversary of September 11 we paused to remember the heroes whose lives were taken by evil men who claimed their god had told them to kill. They crashed two planes into the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York City, one into the Pentagon and tried to crash the fourth in the U.S. Capitol. Approximately 3000 innocent people lost their lives on that day. The evil face of Jihadi militancy and its revolutionary agenda was unmasked.
We mourn their loss and pray for their survivors. We continue to learn from their valor, ten years later. We are inspired by the courageous response which it elicited from so many of our fellow countrymen and women. We are drawn back to the core of who we are as a good and free people in a moment of National refection. We must resolve it will never happen again even as we hear of "credible but unconfirmed" possibilities that evil Islamic Jihadi revolutionaries want just that.
September 11, 2001 was a day which has changed the people of the United States of America. Every September 11 is now an existential moment for us, presenting us with a continuing invitation to reflect on we are and who we are becoming. The actions of those evil men, claiming that their god and their religion justified their barbarism, call us to have a national conversation about our past, our present and our future.
Throughout the media we are properly reminded of the heroes of Ground Zero. They are lights in an age of a growing darkness. Commemorative services are being held in New York City at the site where the memorial to their honor is, regrettably, not yet finished. The Mayor prohibited clergy from speaking and discouraged praying. This was an inexplicable act only made worse by efforts at after the fact justifications. Fortunately, no one can stop prayer. Maybe this wrongful act of the mayor will prompt even more; we certainly need it.
At the site of the crash of Flight 93 in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, the place where heroes like Todd Beamer and the other 39 passengers and crew sacrificed their lives to prevent the plane from crashing into the US Capitol, the memorial to their heroism in the face of evil will be dedicated. At the Pentagon, where American Airlines Flight 77 crashed and killed 184 people, a memorial will be held. Throughout the Nation and abroad houses of worship will honor the dead and pray for the living.
I have my own "Ground Zero Hero". I have held his heroic witness in my heart for years. It has become a continual source of inspiration. On this tenth anniversary of 9/11, I want to share the background which has forever hallowed the memory of one of the first responders to die on September 11, 2001, Fr. Mychal Judge. I met Fr. Mychal Judge at LaGuardia Airport in 1999. I was out of breath, sweating and irritated. He was at peace. It was an unusually hot day, and I was literally running to make the plane.
I almost missed the flight on Ireland's finest, Aer Lingus. Fr. Mike greeted me with that gregarious manner and those smiling Irish eyes that I would soon come to cherish because they revealed the essence of this wonderful priest of God. "Glad to finally meet you, I have heard much about you," he said. "Cool down, you have made it." With those few words he calmed my spirit and seemed to lower my body temperature at least twenty degrees. I felt immediately comfortable in his presence. It was those smiling eyes, reflecting the presence of the God whom he served so well. Joy and peace seemed to emanate from those eyes.
We began a trip together that changed my life and helped to inform my own sense of a call to promote reconciliation in the Body of Christ. I had been invited to be a part of a mission team to Northern Ireland called "Project Reconciliation" by Dennis Lynch, a friend and a true patriot. At the time I was serving the Presidential campaign of Steve Forbes. The mission (entirely funded by an anonymous gift from another great American whom I will now name-Steve Forbes) was a peace mission led by a contemporary hero, Detective Steven McDonald.
A police officer with a great career ahead of him, Steven had been on duty years ago as one of New York's finest. While interrupting a robbery already in progress, young Steven McDonald was shot at point blank range by a young assailant. He, his family, and many, many others would never be the same. Steven was rendered quadriplegic and left in a coma. During his extraordinary time of recovery, while he struggled with the understandable rage, anger and profound depression that often accompany such injury, the Lord visited with Steven and told him that forgiveness was the only path to peace.
Steven has since visited many nations and been given a citizenship in his beloved Ireland. When Steven speaks, you have to listen closely because he has a tracheotomy tube for breathing and has to speak in a whisper. But he doesn't really have to use words; he has eyes that radiate the peace that fills his weakened body.He began to learn the truth of the message of true peace when the Lord asked him to first forgive the young man who had shot him. He did so out of obedience at first, but he found a joy unspeakable-an enemy became a friend. Since that day, Steven has been a peacemaker and has experienced the blessing promised to those who accept the invitation.
The whole McDonald family reached out to this young man and he became a friend of the family-until he himself was taken by a senseless act of street violence.So they continued their campaign for peace through forgiveness, traversing the globe with missionary zeal. They, like others who have trodden this path, have gathered friends around them. One of those friends was Fr. Mychal Judge, a Franciscan priest who was the Chaplain to the Fire and Police Departments. Then Cardinal O'Connor was so moved by Steven's mission, that he asked Fr. Mychal to provide ongoing priestly care to this modern day missionary.
Steven loved Fr. Mike. Theirs was a friendship unlike any I had experienced.Fr. Mike became a member of the McDonald family, playing with young Conner and affirming the extraordinary tough sanctity of Steven's beloved and beautiful wife Patti Ann. He also became a mentor to each of us on that missionary trip. He taught by both his actions and his words.The mission was a mission of peace to the North of Ireland. Our team consisted of Catholics, Protestants and members of the Bruederhoff community whose leaders had found solidarity with Steven's message of peace.
Little did I expect to see those bombed out buildings in New York on September 11, 2001. The scene immediately reminded me of Belfast - and of Fr. Mychal Judge. So, when I heard that a priest had died giving the last Sacrament to a firefighter, I was also not surprised to then hear it was Fr. Mike. He was ready. He died the way he lived, as a saint and an instrument of peace. We now know that he removed his hat as he pronounced the prayers of the Church over a fallen firefighter and joined him in the loving embrace of the Father of us all.
Throughout the week we spent in Ireland, "Fr. Mike" always had an insight, a spiritual message, a joke, or just an encouraging word. Like a trained servant of the Lord he was always there to make sure that Steven was cared for, fed, and not overly drained of the little energy he miraculously multiplies by faith. He watched out for Patti Ann and for Connor. He never complained of fatigue but served, pouring himself out like the One of whom Saint Paul wrote to the Christians at Philippi: "Who though He was in the form of God, did not count equality with God something to be grasped but emptied Himself becoming as a Servant." (Philippians 2) That "emptying out" is from the Greek word "kenosis," and it literally means being poured out. That describes Fr. Mike, always poured out for others.
He was real-not an ounce of pretense in Fr. Mychal Judge. When we visited the Lord Mayor of Belfast or when we had the privilege upon our travels to the South to meet with the President of the South, he was always the same, a priest and a pilgrim with no pretense, only the dignity of his priestly soul. And of course, those eyes were continually smiling for all to see. His loyalty and real, earthy, gutsy sanctity were like a sweet aroma in a country that has been besieged by the horrible stench of death and despair. He loved as the Sacred scriptures say "in both word and indeed "- and those who had the joy of meeting him were embraced by the moment.
When the news reports told of a Fire Department chaplain who responded with the kind of love expressed in the text of the Sacred Scripture, "Greater love has no man than this, that he lay down his life for his friends"- I was not surprised it was Fr. Mychal Judge. Then I saw those smiling eyes in my mind's eye and I wept. He died giving himself away in service, in imitation of the Lord whom he loved. He is my Ground Zero Hero and I will defend his heroic witness all the days of my life.
This brings me to the title of this article. Honor Ground Zero Heroes: Fr Mychal Judge Must Not Be Used for Cultural Revolution. Some within the homosexual equivalency movement are trying to use this Ground Zero Hero to foment a social and cultural revolution. They should be ashamed. Homosexual Equivalency activists insist that we all recognize a moral and legal equivalency between true marriages and cohabitating practicing homosexuals or face legal punitive consequences.
My friend Bill Donohue, President of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights hit the proverbial nail on the head concerning this matter in a Press Release: "It has been said that Fr. Mychal Judge, the first of the First Responders to die on 9/11, was gay. Not everyone agrees. No matter, even those who allege that Judge was gay say he kept his sexual orientation private, disclosing it to only a few friends. Fr. Brian Jordan, for instance, said of his fellow Franciscan in 2002 that "I knew him for 25 years and I didn't know that he was gay until after he died."
"It really shouldn't matter whether Judge was gay or straight, but unfortunately some in gay circles, as well as in liberal quarters generally, are turning this issue into a national spectacle. Worse, some are lying. In the August 19 edition of a dissident Catholic newspaper, the National Catholic Reporter, it says, "Judge was a Catholic priest who publicly acknowledged that he was a celibate gay man." After reading this, I asked Jeff Field, our communications director, to e-mail Tom Fox, editor of the newspaper, asking him for the evidence that Judge publicly declared that he was gay. That was yesterday, and Fox has not replied. It is a lie."
I share the experience mentioned by Fr Jordan. In the time I was with Fr Mychal he was very open in sharing that he was a recovering alcoholic. He was also very open in expressing his opinions on many other matters. This effort to now attempt to use him to advance the homosexual equivalency agenda is reprehensible and dishonors his heroic sacrifice.
Ironically, even if Fr Mychal Judge had suffered from same sex attraction, he would better be viewed as a living witness to the liberating truth of chastity proclaimed by the Church which he served with love and devotion. He lived a life of consecrated celibacy with great joy and fidelity. His example of chastity should be considered by those who now try to use him for their own revolutionary ends.His heroic sacrifice deserves to be honored by all and not used to promote a cultural revolution.
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