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Friar’s E-Spirations: Remembering Mychal Judge, OFM

[This E-spiration marks the 11th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.]

Many of us are familiar with Father Mychal Judge, OFM, a member of the Holy Name Province based in New York City. Father Mychal worked with homeless people and AIDS patients. A recovering alcoholic, he also devoted much time to recovering addicts. The role for which he is best remembered is chaplain to the New York City Fire Department.

On September 11, 2001, Father Mychal rushed from his friary at St. Francis of Assisi Church on 31st Street to the scene of the World Trade Center attacks. He was just doing his job.

Death of Father Mychal

After anointing a firefighter, Father Mychal was hit by falling debris and killed. He was 68 years old. He became the first officially recorded fatality following the attack. Many of us have likely seen the iconic photo of him being carried away from the rubble by several fire fighters and others. (There’s a Waterford Crystal sculpture of this image mounted outside the firehouse were he worked across from his friary on 31st Street.)

This hardworking, larger-than-life friar has inspired a large following. Some have even promoted his cause to become a blessed or saint in the Church. There’s a movie about Mychal that came out in 2006 entitled Saint of 9/11.

Mychal’s Prayer

Members of his province have distributed a prayer attributed to Mychal which apparently he prayed every day. His brothers say that the prayer characterized his approach to all he did. The words of the prayer are “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.” On 9/11, God took Father Mychal exactly where he wanted him (to the Twin Towers), and that was his doorstep to heaven.

Mychal’s prayer is a good prayer for all of us, especially in terms of his key bit of advice: “Lord, keep us out of your way.” Surely, we do well to reflect on that part of his prayer. For isn’t it God’s will and not our wishes that merits the most attention?

Words of the Prophet Micah

In Micah 6:8, we read the words: “You have been told, O mortal, what is good, and what the Lord requires of you: Only to do justice and to love goodness, and to walk humbly with your God.”

Father Mychal Judge walked in this spirit.

With special thanks to Fred Link, OFM.

Dear Friar Jim: I had a bracelet as a child that contained a mustard seed. I used to sit in Catholic school classes and ponder Jesus’ story of the mustard seed. Now I am nearing the end of my life, and sometimes I feel the way that you described even though I have led a faithful Christian life. Thank you for sharing the beautiful message that God will use whatever we have done for his glory. I needed to hear that today. Jo

Dear Friar Jim: Thank you for your beautiful E-spiration, “Little Things Mean A Lot.” I always think that I could not contribute anything that could make anyone jump with joy and laughter. I am no better than anyone. I became a widow, with three little boys, at 31. I am a member of Legion of Mary and a warden at our local church. I wish I could do more. What a pleasing article! Christina

A: Dear Jo, Christina, and so many more who were helped by this little reflection: The wonderful thing is all that I said was true! It is not necessary that we know how God uses us. In fact, better we trust God to use us in mysterious ways. The next time you think that you are about as useful as a plastic butter knife, remember that God can do brain surgery using that butter knife. Friar Jim