In his presence

March 21, 2009

I don’t really like to read or see pieces about Sept. 11. Not only because it’s such a horrific event in our history, but because so many –from country singers to politicians –have used it for political propaganda. It’s the worst sort of co-opting and everything I abhor about politics today.

Still, this morning I saw a moving documentary about the FDNY chaplain, Franciscan Mychal Judge, who died in one of the Towers. He was, in fact, Victim 001, because his was the first body recovered.

I’d read a little about Father Mychal after he died. My cynicism, born of the over-use of the term hero, led me to think that his story was probably just more hype. So many people were in the wrong place at the wrong time. That did not make them heroes. It made them victims.

The film had what I considered a ridiculous title — Saint of 9/11. But after seeing this inspirational film, I think Father Mychal truly was a contemporary saint. And a hero. Both.

If, like me, you don’t know anything about him, this film should be your introduction. He was a complex man. A good man. A man only about love and peace. A true Christian. An inspirational guy.

The filmmaker interviewed so many of his friends and colleagues. But perhaps the most moving interview was with the young, NYPD cop, who found his body, and, a Catholic, had to give Father Mychal last rites because no priest could be found.

See the film, if you can–it’s available via Netflix.

As the FDNY chaplain, Father Mychal gave a eulogy at a service for the families of TWA Flight 800 back in 1996. His comforting prayer was used toward the end of the film as almost a eulogy for Sept. 11 victims. It’s beautiful. Here it is:

God is present
having received our loved ones
They are in His presence
Illumed by His smile and warmed by His love
His kingdom is enriched this day
so enriched
by so many beautiful souls
So much beauty
Our world is so empty without them
Our hearts are broken

Our sadness immense
Our tears abundant
We live our sorrow together

As a nation, we don’t often live much together, but at least briefly, we lived our sorrow together over the deaths of so many on Sept. 11. And more’s the pity that we can’t come together as a nation in other and more ways.
Here’s the trailer for the film.

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