As dusk descends on 9/11, a saint deserving to be held is brought to my mind: Saint Mychal Judge, Saint of 9/11 and Chaplain of Engine Co/1 and Ladder Co/24.
Saint Mychal was not the first victim of the terrorist attacks on 9/11, but he was the first identified victim: “Victim 0001.” He served as New York City Fire Department’s chaplain. A Franciscan friar and priest, Saint Mychal was known for going above and beyond for the women and men he cared for. He often made hospital visits. He was at most every funeral.
And he went to fires, keeping his radio nearby, which is how he heard about the World Trade Center attacks.
While others fled the scene, Saint Mychal rushed toward it in his priestly garb, following the steps of his fellow fire fighters. He immediately started administering last rites to those who were critically wounded, and when he saw his company rush into the North Tower he ran toward it, too, despite the evacuation order.
Outside that North Tower he helped people escape and, while standing there praying, was killed by flying debris as the South Tower fell.
Saint Mychal was more than just NYFD’s chaplain, though, he was also a gay priest (out to his friends) who openly counseled those suffering from AIDs in the 1980’s, performed funerals for AIDs victims when other shunned them, who admitted quite honestly his struggles with alcohol, and who showed up to New York City’s first gay-inclusive Saint Patrick’s Day Parade in his friar’s garb, taking interviews for the media despite the Archbishop’s warning against it.
Saint Mychal is a reminder for me, and should be for the whole church, that the true work is to walk with the people, especially when their lives are on the line, even as the world falls down around them.
-historical bits taken from Illes’ Daily Magic
-icon written by Br. Robert Lentz and can be purchased at Trinityicons.com