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Franciscan Moments

Our Weekly Devotional from

Saint Miriam!

Franciscan Moments @ Saint Miriam: November 13, 2017

 

As I sink deeper into fall, and turn my reluctant gaze on the approaching cold of winter, I find that I am also sinking deeper into fighting my depression. My days seem colder in many respects and I have an admitted, and noticeable, ‘less pep in my step’.  Yet, I also realize that somewhere deep within me, resides the gift of faith and hope that things will change and the ‘sun’, in all its varied forms, will shine again.

When I returned to the parish from the Poconos yesterday, after a very long day, I completed a few tasks in my office and made my way back toward the Friary. As I passed by the Sanctuary, I peered in briefly, noted the nuance of the light bouncing through the stained-glass windows, and how the Altar Cross was washed aglow in the light of the fading day. I rejected the thought to remain and turned to the doorway to go upstairs when something urged me to stay. I went back, sat with God for a little while, and my time was a brief conversation about how broken I feel and how out of sorts I am right now. No answer came, but my faith remained intact.

Faith is an interesting thing to me. Where does it come from? How do we receive it? Why do some hold tight to it, and other reject it so easily? Why does it seem it ebb and flow and sometimes, even leave for a time? Much has been written about faith and its resilience, sometimes defined as the capacity to handle chronic and acute stress with internal resources that have been built up on a foundation of meaning. When I read articles on resilience, I am reminded of what spiritual literature calls ‘joyful hope’. It is what I am trying to live within every day. It appears that resilience is the product of meaning (faith?) and learned optimism that is rooted in a worldview that is large enough to withstand setbacks, sadness, and failures (hope?). In Paul’s Epistle to the Romans, we read, “In hope we are saved.” Its ultimate and truest form is a hope that rests in God. I have learned firsthand, that in a storm, nothing is quite as reassuring as trust in God’s grace.
 
But, for hope to be robust enough to weather emotional hurricanes, as I am dealing with now, it must be developed and nourished like a muscle. We must work at it, and endure, even when we feel we no longer wish to endure. Perhaps that is why God beckoned yesterday evening for me to sit and to be still for a time. Silence and prayer protect fortitude and perseverance from calcification by making possible the necessary acceptance of change and loss and their accompanying emotion. These become beginnings, as well as endings. This is the spirit of living within the Resurrection life, that is the mark of our true hope. 
 
How will you find God today? How will you strengthen your ability to remain robust even in the midst of change? Where will faith and hope be found for you today? 
 


Franciscan Moments @ Saint Miriam: November 6, 2017

 
We live in a world of grays. Oh, I know, it would be so nice if the world was strictly black and white. But, it isn’t, and neither are we. And, now, into this already complicated world comes two dozen more people murdered at the hands of a gunman dressed in black, but this time – this time – in a church of God.  
 
Already there are those who are jumping to protect gun rights, and there are those on the other side jumping to limit them. A fight; another fight! But just as the abuse women suffered at the hands of Harvey Weinstein was not just about lust or sex, but rather about power and the abuse of being a good steward of such power. So, too, the massacres in Las Vegas, and now even within a small Baptist church in Texas, are not just about gun laws, but are also about the lack of accessible mental health care, about the lack of care for those who are different, and about the ostracizing of those who are not in the majority. We live in a country that perpetually claims itself to be the most powerful country in the world; if that moniker fits, we must care for the least of our own in all ways, including treating mental health without stigma, welcoming the minority as a blessed part of the majority, and adjusting not just our gun laws, but also our moral laws, to ensure that all persons feel a sense of safety and welcome. 
 
St. Francis once said, “No one is be called an enemy, all are your benefactors, and no one does you harm. You have no enemy except yourselves.” Our world seems to label everyone as an enemy. The gun slinger, the North Koreans, the mentally ill, the Army deserter, the Transgender, the ‘other’ denomination members, and so many others. It seems our list of enemies is endless, but our ability to pray, to open ourselves, to engage and grow, to become a better people, and to love is limited and damaged. 
 
In the Book of Zechariah, we read this haunting line, “In those days ten people from all languages and nations will take firm hold of one Jew by the hem of his robe and say, ‘Let us go with you, because we have heard that God is with you.’” 
 
Who would follow you and grab your hem, as a person who so obviously loves God?
 


Franciscan Moments @ Saint Miriam: October 30, 2017

 

Author Stephen Schmidt, wrote in his article entitled, “Please, Stop Inviting Your Friends to Church”, recently the following words,“So, when I drove by this sign stuck lazily in the ground by the side of the road, insisting I “invite someone to church this month,” all I could do was shake my head in wonder and dismay. That lawn sign for me, with its tone of religious obligation, was an all-too-accurate metaphor of American churchianity. Stuck in the ground so half-heartedly that the person couldn’t even bother to push it in all the way.”

Last week, the pastor down the street at another local Catholic parish decided to attack us and say we are not worthy of the title ‘Catholic’. Then, Father John received a Facebook message that said he should stop calling himself a ‘real Catholic priest’ because he isn’t any longer. Both attack us with no valid reason. We, as parish, are proud to be Old Catholic and to allow everyone to walk through our doors and find Jesus – in one another, at our Altar, and through the Sacraments. Father John, who served Christ well and even suffered by living on the street as homeless, found his way back to the church by the voice of God working in and through him and he serves well. Neither deserve to be reviled, but the naysayers love to cause trouble because they are so unhappy that we are, well, happy!
 
Stop for a moment today and visit your Facebook page and you will see what I call “Social Menia”. Every mean thing that can be said, shared, posted, and turned into a ‘meme’ can be found on 15 inches of computer screen! Yes, ‘keyboard courage’ is alive and well, especially in God’s Christendom.
 
The current mass exodus from being Catholic isn’t just because people aren’t showing up for Mass on Sunday and it’s not because some of us don’t invite our friends and family. It is because there is no relevance to the way they see the world; a world already filled with enough division. In other words, it’s because we are showing up, and not giving the visitor what they need: a real connection with this guy we have romanticized away into an almost coloring book version of Him, and who is certainly no longer present on Facebook, His name is Jesus, and He is who we follow at Saint Miriam. But, sadly we are more and more alone. 
 
Folks in the world are scared. They see your social ‘mean-ness and the insensitive and divisive stuff that you share on your various social media pages and then, when you invite them to come to your ‘wonderful church’ they are afraid; afraid of you, afraid of what they might be hit with, and mostly afraid by what the newest church goers are: walking away just as empty as when they walked in, or worse, being re-hated or having their own self-doubt re-tweeted within themselves. 
 
The world is harsh enough. We do not need to add to it by making it worse by being our worst. 
 
St. Francis once said when you are proclaiming peace with your lips, be sure to have it within your heart first. 
 
Are you a good representative of this parish we call home? If I visited your Facebook page, would I find Jesus in your words and memes? How can you become a better ambassador to the One we worship and adore?
 


Franciscan Moments @ Saint Miriam: October 23, 2017

 

Life is hard. I know. You know. Deep down, it is our greatest fear, absent dying. We fear being penniless, poor, without a home of our own, money to pay our bills and take vacations, and most importantly, the control to control it all. We fear being poor.

This past week was hard on me. I had to deal with my own ‘stuff’, my healing continues from my leg injury, a family in grief needed me to help them through their own loss, and memories came flooding back for me and my dad. Then, the normal scheduled plans came to bear on my already tired body, too! Three weddings, a wedding rehearsal, and a funeral, plus Sunday Mass, the Youth Mass, and our Secular Franciscans once again joined the Laudato Si Small Group. Yes, life is hard. I was tired, but I endured and finished the race, as St. Paul once said, for the better of others; for the glory of God. Sometimes you must give when there’s nothing left. Sometimes you must act even when afraid.
 
As a Franciscan, in an age of unbridled materialism and consumerism, I actually live without. I do not own my own home, lease my car, and have few material possessions to speak of. Franciscans live their vow of poverty, even as the world tries to amass more and more material gains. Our ancient medieval habit stands as a stark reminder against the backdrop of all that is new, that we are called to live – and to be – different.  
 
Poverty is usually defined as lacking money or material possessions and has a negative connotation. So why do the Friars vow it and have it as one of their major ideals? I can state with all clarity that poverty to a Franciscan Friar is not about simply saying no to  things, but rather eliminating all worldly things that are not Christ-like. We try to live lives more simply so that we can relate to the lowest people who are not as privileged as even the average citizen. It takes a lot of courage to choose to give up all you have and live a simple life serving the Lord. But, as Franciscans, we choose to have a life of poverty to focus on putting not things, but people and the needs of others, especially the poor, before everything. Our form of poverty includes both material and spiritual poverty. Our collective vow to poverty calls people to look at life changed.
 

St. Francis grew up living a luxurious life style, the son of a wealthy merchant, but this all changed when he became very sick. Francis prayed for his health and survived, but soon after, he gave up all his possessions and became a beggar. He was mocked and ridiculed by his friends and by his family, too, but he was content with his decision. After this experience, Francis never looked back and now – with hindsight of history – we see what he has become; look at how he changed my world, and can change your world, too. Are you ready?

St. Francis used to say that the only thing he owned were sins and vices, everything else was a good gift from God. I know that to be true myself. I am not a good man, but I try to become better every day so that one day, I may be worthy of the habit I wear.

How about you? Is money or wealth or things more important to you than God? When was the last time you freely gave to the needs of the church? When was the last time you took from your limited resources and said to God, “Today, Lord, I give from what I do not have and trust You to make me whole beyond my wildest dreams.”
 


Franciscan Moments @ Saint Miriam: October 16, 2017

 

I took a walk yesterday afternoon. Yup, I took time to go for a simple walk, all alone. I walked around our campus here at Saint Miriam and I was struck by all that we have done here in such a short amount of time. From the new parking lots to the fence, from the Friary that juts up into God’s sky, to the refurbished Bell Tower, from the manicured St Francis Section and Angels of Assisi Garden, to outdoor Stations of the Cross. Even the maintenance garage is now stunning! It all reminded me of how so often we take things for granted, especially when they are right under our proverbial noses. Together, we have created beauty.

So yes, our campus is beautiful, and the interior of our parish is simply stunning, and the best part is that those who come here find it to be a place of welcome and hope. We are growing, enduring, and loving. We have much to be grateful for, even when the world is not perfect.

Sometimes it’s easier to think of all the bad things that grab the bulk of the headlines: terrorism, kidnappings, bombings, murders, mass shootings, illness, and misfortune. There are so many bad things that dominate the news that our hearts are attuned more to the bad in world than the good things. But, we must realize that there are good things, even in difficult times, for which we can – and should – pause to give thanks.

Anne Frank, the young Jewish girl whose diary put an actual face on the Holocaust, demonstrated her ability to give thanks for the simplest of things when she wrote, “I do not think of all the misery, but of the glory that remains. Go outside into the fields, nature and the sun, go out and seek happiness in yourself and in God. Think of the beauty that again and again discharges itself within and without you and be happy.”  It is worth noting that she penned those words from her hideaway while Nazis literally exterminated people below. Even in the worst of circumstances, she found a way to give thanks and I cannot help but think it was people like Anne that brought that horrible chapter of human history to a close.

Yesterday, as we baptized three new Catholic Christians, and so many gathered to worship our loving God, I was struck by the beginnings of a cornucopia growing before our altar! The lovely display was made up of pumpkins, squash, leaves, and burlap. Individually, the items not all that unique or all that wonderful, but together they are the beginnings of something to remind us of all that God has given us through His generosity. And, to remind us that, even in the midst of troubles of the earth, we have so much to be thankful for.

In this coming season of thanksgiving, how will you pause to observe the good things of life? How will you remind yourself to take a moment and be grateful? 
 


Franciscan Moments @ Saint Miriam: October 9, 2017

 
Our name is a powerful thing. A name has importance. A name distinguishes us, one from another. A name has power. A name is unique. The first gift that we are ever given is our name. That is why next Sunday we will begin our Baptismal Liturgy with that one question of immense import, “What name do you give to this child?”  It is also why we read every single name of the 58 names of those murdered in Las Vegas yesterday at the Morning Mass. A name has importance, and God knows us each by name.
 
Take the famous scriptural reference, by way of direction from the Book of Jeremiah, “And the Word came to Jeremiah saying, ‘…before I formed you in the womb, I knew you…’”  Yes, God knows and values each of us. Even the name “Jesus” was given to God’s only child to be a sign of salvation, and the means by which we might know – and always remember – God’s loving kindness and mercy. A name is a sign of a person. It represents that person to us. A person’s life and character is symbolized by a name. A name brings with it a history, as others have borne that name. We receive a name, our name – our own name – in the presence of our Creator at our birth and baptism, and in doing so, God, and all the world, will remember our coming among us no matter the length of our days. Yes, a name is a powerful thing. 
 
Names are words that identify us, and they are ‘worn’ on everything from our personalities, to passports and licenses, to neatly filed documents in a doctor’s office. Our names often appeal to our ear, may be a living memory of a loved one now gone, or a tribute to the ancestor we share our home. Some of us love our names from the get-go, and others need to grow into a name. Some of us like the way our name rolls off the tongue, and some just get used to the sound in time. There are a few, too, who decide that they just don’t fit, and change their name, or allow the invention of a nick-name or moniker. Whatever we are called, ‘we are who we are’, and that is good, and blessed, and God knows us, and calls us by name, and will never let us go. 
 
My mother used to only use my full name when I was in trouble. I would hear, “James Michael St. George…” and I knew I was in trouble! But, as I have now grown older, and perhaps a little wiser, I recognize that my name is used by God to call me to places I may not always want to go. God calls me now to wade into ever deeper water, to help God in creation, to be a co-creator with Him in reminding the world of God’s love and His remembering us, no matter where we may be, will never change. God always loves. Sometimes we are called by name to play in joyful times, and to share in God’s beautiful creation, but sometimes we are called by name to toil for ‘such a time as this’, but whenever we are called, we are named, and our name is a powerful thing. 
 
In our Eucharistic Liturgy, we hear these words almost every Sunday, “Remember, Lord, your Church, spread throughout the world, and bring her to the fullness of charity…” Our Lord at the Last Supper prays that through our unity, the world would believe that He had been sent by the Father. Our Lord prayed, too, for a unity characterized by charity and love, as we now follow Jesus. The Church spread throughout the world is a testament to the love of God and of love for all humanity. We not only to share communion with God, but with each other. We spread throughout the world, then, to share the gift of the love of God. That love has proven much stronger than evil, no matter how hard the evil times are. And all of that begins with a name. 
 
How will you use you today? You, who have been given a powerful name known by God daily – to change the world, to honor others with names, to remember the lost by name, and to ensure that harmful names never spill into the lives of others?
 
A name is a powerful thing…
 
 


Franciscan Moments @ Saint Miriam: October 2, 2017

 

I wake today to another mass shooting. This time, in Las Vegas and described as ‘the deadliest in US history’. The irony…this is the third time that phrase has been used to label such a shooting in this country, the deadliest in US history. The world is angrier, people are seemingly more depraved, and safety cannot be guaranteed, even at a fun outdoor country music concert.

So, yes, today I wake to find 200+ more of my fellow citizens hurt by gunfire, over 50 more dead, and the world rocked into a dull sense of sadness mixed with anger and loss. For me, it is hard to get past the deep sense of bewilderment as to why and how. I cannot yet find the anger. I cannot find the sadness. At least, not yet. 
 
Perhaps the saddest part of all of this for me is how commonplace these shootings around the world are becoming. Oh sure, we will all stop and pause to gain our footing today, we will stare at television screens, and listen to words from the President and others. We are grateful, in some sort of macabre way, the ‘shooter is down’ and will want to learn more about him and the purported reasons

why he did what he did, but in the end our day will go on, our life, too. Our world will remain largely unchanged, but no, not for them, not for the dead, the injured, the harmed. Today changed them forever.

Yesterday, we gathered at Saint Miriam for an interfaith program entitled, ‘Love Thy Neighbor’. We spoke of forgiveness and hospitability and the common threads that bind us. We were Jew, Catholic, Lutheran, and Islamic; we were parishioners, visitors, and friends. The gathered were Black, White, Asian, rich, struggling, young, and older, and we all sat together and listened and prayed and loved. We were what we are intended to be by God. Not today, not this. 
 
In his letter to the Corinthians, St. Paul called Christians to not use the “weapons of this world” to resolve conflict. In Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus said, “Put your sword away. Everyone who uses a sword will die by a sword”. The call of our Christ is to be peacemakers, not killer-makers or war-makers. We are called to “transform deadly weapons into farming equipment, and swords into kitchen utensils. The Prophet Isaiah says the goal best, “Nations shall not attack other nations with military force, and all the countries of this world must cease from training their citizens to become killers”. The common message of all true religion is to bring peace to the world. It should be our common goal, too. 
 
If you have not, it is time. It is time to find and join a peace-promoting, inclusive parish or congregation. It is time to stand up against divisiveness and hate mongering. It is time to stop calling out others for their differences and bind ourselves together as humans. It is time to bring your children to church every week so they learn to love and the value of God and good people around them. It is time. Now. Today.
 
Let’s get moving. Let us stop thinking it someone else’s responsibility. St. Francis once said, “We have been called to heal wounds, to unite what has fallen apart, and to bring home those who have lost their way.” 
 
Peace is possible. Today, pause and pray for the dead and the injured, and then get to work.
 
How will you use what happened today to change your life, the lives of those around you,  your children, and the world? 
 


Franciscan Moments @ Saint Miriam: September 25, 2017

 
I have felt dirty lately. I am not clean in spirit, practice, or purpose. I thought that by now, both as a priest and friar, that some magic would’ve happened and I would be made clean and the ‘words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart’ would finally become godlier. Instead, I wake every morning, and go to bed every night, thinking about the sinful ways I ‘missed the mark’ yet again. I toss and turn over my errors and my sins. “Why can’t I be better, Lord?” I cry out. “Why cannot I find my way to holiness?”
 
I suppose that being ‘a good person’, or even the idea of trying to be good or kind, especially in our modern world, conjures up all sorts of negative associations such as overt piety, solemnity, living apart as a hermit, or sexual renunciation of natural inclinations. And yet, it may just be that “the project” – the continual work of becoming better – learning from mistakes, forging ahead after a moral trip or fall –  of learning how to be good as an opposite to the ‘badness’ that we often are or do, is just as vital, or even more vital, in the eternal effort of becoming healthy. Yet, while we have no problem with going to the gym to get fitter, it sounds deeply weird, even creepy, to suggest that one might ‘work out’ at being better, or nicer, or morally conscious. 
 
Today, for the first time in almost a month, I will return to the CrossFit box and try to regain strength lost, stamina once held, and technique once forged. I will work at it slowly and gain my ability to compete again. It will not happen all at once. It doesn’t happen that way, and perhaps God never meant it to. We are called to work at it, before we become it. 
 
You see, goodness must be worked at. Life is more and more an ‘ethical gym’ where we are regularly put through our paces to gain strength and holiness. There is no scientific answer on how to do it. Aristotle once thought that being good meant practicing twelve key virtues, Christianity argued for seven! We all want better lives, but too few of us have shown much interest in becoming better people. So, rather than dwell on the negative aspects of ourselves, or the sins we committed;  the moral failures we lose sleep over, why not instead do a few bench presses for God this week and become just slightly better than the week past? 
 
So, for those who are like me and feel you are always a failure. For those who focus on their moral failings, rather than the ways they have helped build the Kingdom of God in small ways. For those like me who find it terribly difficult to let go of self-inflected wounds, but allow other off the hook so easily, we have hope. We know that however powerful the evil may seem in our lives, however triumphant it may appear in the greater world, it does not – and will not – have the final word. 
We sing, even from the depths of our grave we sing alleluia! We sing with great joy even in the darkness of our lives, in our sinfulness and brokenness, too, because we know the end of the story, even if we have not yet skipped to the back page! We have hope because Jesus came to free us from sin, and he will come again to defeat evil once and for all. Jesus came to lead us out of the darkness, not to condemn us, as His created ones.
 
No, it will not happen all at once for most of us, but it will come. No, we will not always act cleanly or be moral, but that day will happen. And until it does, we dust ourselves off and become a little less dirty every day and God smiles and allows us to ‘move and have our being.’ 
 
How will you let go of something you’ve done, recognizing that we all fail? This week, let yourself off the hook for one thing and allow someone else the same blessing.
 


Franciscan Moments @ Saint Miriam: September 18, 2017

 

I have always loved the passage from Luke’s Gospel that we identify as the story of “The walk to Emmaus”. For me, and so many others, this pericope is jam-packed with lessons to help us better live our lives as Catholic Christians. Through these words, if we listen carefully, we learn about humility, spiritual awareness, and hope.

In this story, the author tells of two men whom are disciples of Jesus, as they walk from Jerusalem to the home of at least one of them in the town of Emmaus. During their walk together, which takes place toward the end of the Sunday that Jesus was resurrected, they were feeling lost, alone, sad, and hopeless. After all, the person, who they thought would be their Messiah, the man they thought would liberate them from the oppressive occupation of the Romans, the king they believed would reunite the Kingdom of Israel, ended up suffering humiliation, torture, and death. Their lives were a failure. Their beliefs were shattered.

Then, in an instant, the risen Christ joins them in their walk, but they fail to recognize Jesus. The text goes on to explain how much of the scriptures foretold what happened to Jesus, and how His death was necessary. They later recount how when Jesus explained the Scriptures their hearts

‘felt as if on fire.’

Once safely back in Emmaus, they invited Jesus to dinner. Though not the host, Jesus still broke the bread and blessed it. This single act helped them recognize Jesus then, Jesus simply vanished in front of their eyes. They ran back to Jerusalem to tell the other apostles what they had witnessed and that they met the resurrected Jesus!
 
Wow, huh? The story reminded me how one single action, or inaction, can change the entire life of another. How one thing, one simple thing, could ensure that someone lives or dies; gives into their depression and oppressive circumstances, or thrives to grow again in the rich soil of hope, light, and love. Yes, Jesus did one thing that allowed others to recognize Him, even in their misery and doubt-filled lives, and in that simple act, life came again. 
 
Last week, after a harrowing week filled with timelines that needed to be met, and infighting with our contactor, I was ready to give up. Then, the contractor, and his crew at his direction, we assume, decided to write vicious lies about me on social media. I was a terrible priest, scamming my parish, living off their stupidity, and how I never paid them for their work, despite their walking away with over $220,000, and of course, how I cursed out delivery drivers and made their lives miserable. 
 
Now, I knew that none of this was true, in fact, I bought the entire crew lunch at my expense many times during their time with us. I never yelled at them, but did get upset and emotional on many occasions. Who wouldn’t? I tried to work them throughout, despite their flooding three levels of our parish building not once, but three times. I believed they would make us whole in the end. They failed to do so completely as promised, and to make matters worse, they now turned their sights on me in a very public manner. 
 
I was sad, bewildered, and ready to give up. I was terribly hurt. Then, a package arrived with a small wooden piece of reclaimed barn wood, engraved with the words, “Walk Humbly”, and a lovely letter from a parishioner who regaled me with how I restored her hope, gave her new life in a church she never thought she would return to, and how, despite her being a very new member, I had already spent hours with her and her husband to help with a family issue. She said I was the epitome of a good priest. She sent a simple message, it arrived – like Jesus on my own road to Emmaus – when I needed it most. She brought God to me when I needed God the most and was ready to give up in my own brokenness. 
 
St. Francis once said, “A single sunbeam is enough to drive away many shadows.”
 
How might you do one simple thing today, that might just save a life and cast away the darkness for someone?
 


Franciscan Moments @ Saint Miriam: September 11, 2017

 
Everybody wants to be “Number One”! Our culture doesn’t much like being anything less. We don’t honor middle or last place, we despise backseat drivers, we abhor anything that isn’t deemed ‘a winner’! Yes, we all want to be  Numero Uno! 
 
On Tuesday, September 11, 2001, upon learning that the World Trade Center had been hit by the first of two jetliners, Father Mychal Judge, a brother Franciscan Friar and a Chaplain with the NYFD, without any hesitation, rushed to the site. Father Mychal administered the Sacrament of the Sick, “The Last Rites”, to the bodies of those victims who fell to their deaths from the tower above him. He then proceeded inside of South Tower where he continued offering aid and prayers for the rescuers, the injured, and the dead. At 9:58am, when that tower collapsed, it unleashed a barrage of debris that killed many inside, including Mychal. He was struck in the head while heard praying aloud by a firefighter, “Jesus, please end this right now; God, please end this now.” Father Mychal’s body was found by a NYPD Lieutenant and he, two firefighters, and an EMT, with the aid of two civilian bystanders, carried his body out of the Tower. That iconic photograph was captured and printed in almost every daily newspaper in the nation.  His body was laid before the altar at St Peter’s before being taken to the Medical Examiner’s Office that day. It is still considered the American Pieta. Mychal Judge was designated as “Victim 0001”, and thereby recognized as the first official victim of the September 11, 2001 attacks. Friar Mychal was Number One.
 
Today is the sixteenth anniversary of 9/11. Sean and I were actually living in Washington, DC: I was in seminary and in formation to become a priest and a Friar. I still recall, as if it were only yesterday, how the Today Show was preempted as reporters tried to make sense out of that day. In the end, some 2,996 innocent persons and 19 terrorists – in New York City, Washington, DC, and Shanksville, PA – lost their lives that day and some 6,000 more were wounded.
 
It began at 8:46 in the morning when Flight 11 struck the North Tower of the World Trade Center building. 102 minutes later, the North Tower collapsed. At 9:02 a.m., Flight 175 struck the South Tower. 56 minutes later, it, too, collapsed; the total length of time that these two massive towers took to fall was less than 12 seconds. By 10:03 am that same day, two more planes, at the hands of those terrorists crashed and took many more lives. In the end, some 3,051 children lost parents, 115 nations lost their nationals, and over 1,117 families, to this very day, have yet to receive any remains of their loved ones to bury and our nation was changed forever; the world was changed. 
 
I am not sure if I understand this event now any better than I did that very morning when it occurred; that beautiful, crisp Tuesday in September. I still remember how beautiful a day it was; how those white clouds seemed to loft in the sky above DC forever; how the temperature was so perfect, no humidity, just the most perfect day. I still remember how scared I was, and how Sean and I, and our families, could not get ahold of each other for almost a full day. I still can feel that fear. I remember how quickly the streets of our Nation’s Capital became militarized as Humvees and soldiers set out to protect our national interests and those in leadership. I remember how I stood with my fellow chaplains in a Level 1 Trauma Center for a ‘Mass Casualty Alert’ to receive the victims from the Pentagon, but few came; you see, most were already dead. Planes were diverted, The President was taken to a secret location, and Congressional leaders were entombed underground bunkers: our nation was attacked. I do not understand how several men could believe that killing people whom they don’t even know, people who certainly didn’t hate them, people who were simply going about their normal lives – thinking about their families, attending to the tasks of daily living and work, running into work a little early, or perhaps a little late, grabbing that quick cup of coffee before the day fully began – I do not know how they could kill these ‘others’
in the name of God. Perhaps that is why I follow St. Francis today and why I work so hard to be ‘poor’ in this life so others can taste the true God, too, at Saint Miriam? 
 
Father Mychal was said to be gregarious, mischievous, a luminous presence; he thrived on movement and kept a preposterous daily schedule, as if he’d found a wormhole beneath his friary on West 31st Street where he lived that allowed him to be in six places at once. On any given evening, he might be baptizing a fireman’s child, ministering to an AIDS patient, or sitting back listening to Black 47, a Celtic rock band that had a regular gig at his favorite spot, Connolly’s Pub on West 47th Street. Joe Hartnett, an electrician and father of five from New Jersey who knew Father Mychal recalled at his Funeral Mass simply that, “He was everybody’s priest.”
 
Father Mychal was buried in the friars’ plot at Holy Sepulcher Cemetery in New Jersey on October 11, 2001. There have been calls within the Church to make him a saint and his fire helmet was even presented to Pope John Paul II. And since his death, he has been awarded numerous accolades and merits, but if he were here today, he would want not of it; he was a friar first. 
 
Father Mychal Judge was not what one might call a conventional Catholic Priest. He was, arguably, a typical Franciscan though! – He was earthy, streetwise, thoroughly engaged with the characters and chaos of the city. If times required it, Judge would hold Mass in the most unlikely places, including firehouses and even Pennsylvania Station. This drove certain literalists in the clergy – including his bishop – absolutely crazy, but no matter — Mychal pressed on; he was a priest. He was a friar.

He was called to serve…first.

So, in the end, Father Judge became Number One. He was the first and most famous victim of the World Trade Center attack, but the death of Father Mychal, was not as extraordinary as his colorful and freethinking life. And this was precisely because of who Father Michael was: a devout, Franciscan, openly gay, recovering-alcoholic, fabled New York figure, Catholic priest who had a knack for telling great stories and who would burst into old Irish standards at the drop of a hat at the local pub. He was fully human. He was like many of us, and still served us – and his loving Father in Heaven – so well.  
 
Over the passing of years, I often romanize the bad things that have come to my life. I ‘soften’ them and allow myself to learn lessons, but let go of much of the pain. Not this event. Not this one. Not ever. “In this hell I found grace”said his friend, Fr. James Martin. Let us now continue to teach each other, and especially the  little ones, how to do the same so another attack like this never happens.
 
Rest well, my brother, rest well all those who died that day, and all the days since at the hands of such evil. For the Light is upon us and we are His hands and feet. 
 
There is much work for us to do until one day, we become Number One, too.