Blunt force facts smack us in the face,
proclaim this martyrdom,
raise up this simple priest—
68-year-old Franciscan, Father Mychal Judge,
at an age when he should be easing into retirement,
maybe visiting hospitals twice a week
saying a couple masses on Sundays
taking long vacations to Killarney and Lago di Como . . .
rushes from St. Francis of Assisi Church
in the shadow of Madison Square Garden,
across the street from Engine Co. 1/ Ladder 24,
to the World Trade Center Towers and Armageddon:
Fr. Mike removes his helmet to whisper prayers,
anoints a dying brother fireman with the oils of the Last Rites,
the final comfort . . .
whacked by flying debris, bodies,
steel, glass, paper,
breath punched out, life snuffed.
When his brothers in the Department
see the lifeless body, recognize Fr. Mike,
Five of them lift him up on their shoulders,
carry him to a nearby church,
place him at the altar.
They cover him with a white cloth and his stole,
lay his helmet and FDNY chaplain’s badge
on his chest
kneel down and
Thank God for Fr. Mike’s life.
Then they hurry back to the Pile, the rubble, the Disaster,
the End of the World.
* * *
Life and love will overcome
the furious hatred and darkness
Fr. Mike will not be forgotten:
“His light shines in the darkness,
and the darkness will not overcome it.”
Robert M. Coughlin
September 25, 2001