‘Saint of 9/11’ plays in Connelly Center

Daria Gredysa

The Rev. Mychal Judge was no ordinary Franciscan. Although he wore the customary brown robe and sandals, many would describe his work as “below the radar screen.” The documentary “Saint of 9/11,” which was played on April 26 in the Connelly Center Cinema, depicted the life of this spiritual leader and friend to the ostracized of society.

Judge was born on May 11, 1933, in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he was brought up the son of two poor, Irish immigrants. At the age of 15, he entered the Franciscan Order of Friars Minor and became a priest of the Roman Catholic Church. Judge later becaome the chaplain of the Fire Department of New York and give his life in the Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center.

What made Judge special was his passion for service, love and giving. As a recovering alcoholic and gay man, he knew what it was to not be yourself and worked with the poor, homeless and those suffering with HIV to carry his message of love. His life was a series of small actions, all connected to his direct line with God. Coats were a big thing for Judge, who would literally take the one off his back to someone on the street.

He was a unique priest, “drumming to a different beat” than most Franciscan Friars. As a recovering alcoholic, Judge attended AA meetings daily, using them as a place to regenerate and to give support to others struggling to stay sober. As a confessed gay man, Judge served at masses for other gay men, going against the Vatican’s attempt to stop such services. He would abandon no one in need. This “listening priest” was a common man’s priest and understood that love was the most precious gift anyone could give.

Judge often said, “Put your needs second. Be your best.” He preached that people should become the best they could be – to become the best mother, best daughter, best friend, best lover. What Judge was best at was accepting people for who they were and embracing them for it. He was committed to his work and passionate about life, and his commitment continues to reach out to the communities he served even after his death. Judge was named St. Mychal the Martyr by the Orthodox-Catholic Church and has become a powerful example of what true sainthood entails. His miracles of love and service were more than extraordinary, they were unorthodox and selfless. Judge was a testament to what the Church of the future should learn to promote and accept.