Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Father Mychal Judge: The Saint of 911

Richard Zampella
Father Mychal Judge
Several months before 9/11 I received a letter from Father Mychal Judge while working at The Plaza Hotel in New York City. He was one of the first victims of the World Trade Center attack, but the death of Father Mychal, the beloved New York Fire Department chaplain, was not as extraordinary as his ability to connect and bless everyone that he met.

The letter I received was simply addressed; RICHARD - THE OAK ROOM - THE PLAZA HOTEL - MANHATTAN. By the standards set by the U.S. Postal Service, it probably shouldn't have been delivered.

I had run into Father Mychal a few days earlier when he came to have dinner at The Plaza. I was new to the hotel only recently accepting the position as the manager of The Oak Room. It has been six years since I had seen him last. Our previous meeting was on the day Father Mychal had traveled to New Jersey to eulogize my father.

Our "chance" meeting in the hotel lobby was brief, not particularly detailed and the conservation was light and filled with laughter, but I remember a quiet attentiveness in his eyes as we spoke. We were both very happy indeed that our paths had crossed once again and this time on the opposite side of the Hudson River.

Richard-Zampella
Fr. Mychal served as pastor of St. Joseph Church in West Milford, N.J., from 1979-1985

In the letter Father Mychal pondered our meeting by writing;

"It was unbelievable that we should once again meet. The more I think of it, the more I think that your dad must have just willed our meeting by placing us together after all these years, for he was a great planner and idolized his boy!! And you know what I think? I can see change in you. I know it's hard on you and you are being challenged. See what God wants to do for you. He does have a plan for you. I know you are unsure of that plan, but you must believe this. It will be revealed to you in time. It was great seeing you. We should really have lunch together and catch up."

I've pondered Father Mychal's words many times over the years. The letter remains a significant possession for it's contents betrayed the casual nature of our meeting. Over the years, the words become more profound. I read it sometimes when times seem confusing.

In his funeral homily Father Michael Duffy said, "Everyone thought Mychal Judge was their friend," and with reason, since he carried around a large black satchel full of letters from people and he would always write to them, with a line or two remembering something of significance in their lives."

I am grateful to have been included on that list.

Fourteen years later is a time of reflection and remembrance for me for those lost so tragically on September 11, 2001.

On this anniversary, it gives me pause to reflect and wonder about my "chance" meeting in the lobby of hotel with Father Mychal. I would like to believe that it did not occur by happenstance, but rather predetermined by something I do not fully comprehend. Perhaps there was a greater significance that we saw one another.

Father Mychal's honest and sincere compassion has enriched the lives of countless people. I am sure my story is not unique. The man was truly blessed. Everyone that he touched will surely remember him as the personification of love. If his example persuades us to assume the role of loving others, his memory will has been given it's due. For those that knew him, even if life is no longer with him physically, he remains with us all spiritually. As long as he is remembered, it should gives us all pause to accept the task to try to follow his example.

-Richard Zampella
September 9, 2015
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7 comments:

  1. Michael is our true friend. We ,as you,are continued to be inspired by his friendship. For many years, Father Mike, was a frequent occupant to the Franciscan House on the Ocean block of Inwood Ave. Our connection.. Graduates of St. Bovaventure, we have the loving Franciscan link... Don and Ginny Kelly. Class of 1954.

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  2. Michael is our true friend. We ,as you,are continued to be inspired by his friendship. For many years, Father Mike, was a frequent occupant to the Franciscan House on the Ocean block of Inwood Ave. Our connection.. Graduates of St. Bovaventure, we have the loving Franciscan link... Don and Ginny Kelly. Class of 1954.

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  3. Michael Judge epitomized the reason why I had always wanted to be a Franciscan. He captured everything good and blessed about the Franciscan; spirit, joy, bravery, guts, risk-taking, love of life and creation, humor, love of God and humanity. When I think of 9/11 -- the picture of this great human being, and his loss on that eventful day, he will always be in my mind –Kevin Belton

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  4. What a beautiful story--father judge was indeed a very good man---i hate to use the word "saint" since it takes away from his imperfect humanity! Father judge LOVED being a priest, saying Mass and being among people—but he also loved nyc and its vibrancy--there is an excellent documentary on his life---an exqusite story of his life. – Gail Burroughs

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  5. Father Mychal Judge inspire us!

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