“Victim 0001” of the Twin Towers attack 20 years ago – a New York fire department Catholic chaplain Mychal Judge, inset above – was praying in the North Tower lobby, repeatedly saying aloud “Jesus, please end this right now! God, please end this!”
He was then hit on the head by flying debris and died of his injuries.
Now, according to The Associated Press, some are arguing passionately that Judge, who was 68, should be considered for sainthood.
Though Judge’s religious order, the Franciscans, won’t support efforts his canonisation a Rome-based priest, Rev Luis Escalante who helps the Vatican investigate possible candidates for canonisation, is urging Judge’s supporters to keep pushing his sainthood.
And the Rev James Martin, above, a Jesuit priest who advocates for greater LGBTQ inclusion in the church, said:
Mychal Judge shows us that you can be gay and holy. Father Judge’s selflessness is a reminder of the sanctity that the church often overlooks in LGBTQ people. Heaven is filled with LGBTQ people. All the church has to do is start to recognize this.
The son of Irish immigrants, Judge grew up in Brooklyn and decided while still in his teens to join the Franciscan religious order. He was ordained as a priest in 1961, battled alcoholism with the help of Alcoholics Anonymous and developed a passion for ministering to marginalised communities.
After serving in localities across the Northeast, Judge became a pastor at St Francis of Assisi Church in New York City in 1986. At a peak in the AIDS crisis in 1989, he founded one of the first Catholic HIV/AIDS ministries, recruiting a handful of volunteers to visit hospitalised patients and their families.
In 1992, he became a chaplain with the city’s fire department, a post he held until his death.
According to AP, Only a few friends knew he was gay. It became more widely known after his death, when some in his inner circle wrote about it and passages from his diaries were disclosed. Yet according to friends and biographers, he honoured his vow of celibacy.
Many of Judge’s admirers took heart in 2017 when Pope Francis proclaimed a new pathway to sainthood, recognisng those who sacrifice their lives for others. After that announcement, Escalante began receiving testimonies supporting Judge’s canonisation.
These portrayed Judge as “the best icon” of humanity, Escalante told AP via email.
But there’s an obstacle: The Franciscans – who normally would be expected to lead a sainthood campaign on behalf of someone from the order – have declined to do so for Judge.
The Rev Kevin Mullen, leader of the Franciscans’ New York-based Holy Name Province told AP:
We are very proud of our brother’s legacy and we have shared his story with many people. We leave it to our brothers in the generations to come to inquire about sainthood.
Escalante hopes supporters don’t give up and instead form a viable organisation that could pursue sainthood in the coming years. They would need to make case that a miracle occurred through a prayer to Judge.
Francis DeBernardo, leader of the LGBTQ Catholic advocacy group New Ways Ministry, was among those who provided testimonies to Escalante from people attesting to Judge’s holiness.
DeBernardo told the AP he’ll soon be announcing plans to form an association promoting Judge’s sainthood, ideally with help from firefighters, LGBTQ people and other communities he ministered to.
It would be a testimony to Fr Judge’s legacy if these diverse sectors of society came together to work for the canonization of a man they already know is a saint.
A passionate appeal for canonisation came last year in an essay by professor Kathleen Sprows Cummings, director of the University of Notre Dame’s Cushwa Center for American Catholicism, who wrote:
Judge’s reputation for holiness had been established through his ministry to AIDS victims throughout the deadliest years of that plague. Putting him on a path to official sainthood now would inspire us to respond with compassion and courage to the current pandemic.
According to Wiki:
Judge was designated as ‘Victim 0001’ and thereby recognized as the first official victim of the attacks. Although others had been killed before him, including the crews, passengers, and hijackers of the first three planes, and occupants of the towers and the Pentagon, Judge was the first certified fatality because he was the first body to be recovered and taken to the medical examiner.
All this chatter about sainthood leaves me cold. The whole process is, at best, silly, and in the case of the cruel, fanatical fundamentalist Mother Teresa, who got herself fast-tracked to sainthood, grossly offensive.
Hat tip: Stephen Harvie