At our church service this morning, the story of Father Mychal Judge was shared.
On September 10, 2001, the city of New York rededicated a firehouse in the Bronx. The Fire Department’s chaplain, Father Mychal, said these words in what was to be his last homily:
That’s the way it is. Good days. And bad days. Up days. Down days. Sad days. Happy days. But never a boring day on this job. You do what God has called you to do. You show up. You put one foot in front of another. You get on the rig and you go out and you do the job – which is a mystery. And a surprise. You have no idea when you get on that rig. No matter how big the call. No matter how small. You have no idea what God is calling you to. But he needs you. He needs me. He needs all of us.
The retirees – He needs your prayers. He needs your stopping by occasionally to give strength and support and to tell the stories of the old days. We need the house and to those of you that are working now, keep going. Keep supporting each other. Be kind to each other. Love each other. Work together and do what you did the other night and the weeks and the months and the years before and from this house, God’s blessings go forth in this community. It’s fantastic!
What great people. We love the job. We all do. What a blessing that is. A difficult, difficult job and God calls you to it. And then He gives you a love for it so that a difficult job will be well done. Isn’t He a wonderful God? Isn’t He good to you? To each one of you? And to me! Turn to Him each day. Put your faith and your trust and your hope and your life in His hands, and He’ll take care of you and you’ll have a good life.
And this house will be a great, great blessing to this neighborhood and to this city.
The next day, upon learning that the World Trader Center had been hit by the first of two jetliners, Father Mychal rushed to the site. He prayed over some of the bodies on the streets, then entered the North Tower, offered aid and prayers for the rescuers. When the South Tower collapsed, a piece of debris hit Father Mychal and killed him. His was the first body recovered from the towers.
Mychal Judge died that day, doing the job he was called to do, the job he loved doing.
At the funeral mass, his friend Father Michael Duffy gave the homily. He ended it with these words:
And so, this morning we come to bury Myke Judge’s body, but not his spirit. We come to bury his voice, but not his message. We come to bury his hands, but not his good works. We come to bury his heart, but not his love. Never his love.
So much has been said and written about 9/11; it’s easy to become immune to it. But when I hear stories like this one I can’t help but feel inspired, as well as humbled.
May we all live with such courage, hope and love, both in our work and in our lives.
Here is Father Mychal’s last homily, in its entirety: