“Father Mychal Judge” by Brother Robert Lentz, trinitystores.com
Two gay men died heroically helping others in the Sept. 11 terrorist attack in 2001: a priest and a rugby champion.
Father Mychal Judge (1933-2001), chaplain to New York City firefighters, was killed while praying and administering sacraments at the World Trade Center. He is considered a saint by many.
Mark Bingham (1970-2001) lost his life while fighting back against hijackers on Flight 93. He and others stormed the cockpit after they realized that the terrorists planned to use the plane as a weapon in a suicide mission. They tried to stop the terrorists from reaching their Washington, DC target and killing hundreds or thousands more victims. The plane crashed in rural Pennsylvania. If not a saint, Bingham is certainly a hero and a martyr whose death helped save others. Lesbian rock singer Melissa Etheridge pays tribute to him in her song “Tuesday Morning.” It includes these lyrics:
Even though he could not marry
Or teach our children in your schools
Because who he wants to love
Is breaking your God's rules
He stood up on a Tuesday morning
In the terror he was brave
And he made his choice, and without a doubt
A hundred lives he must have saved
In addition to playing rugby, Bingham founded his own public relations firm. He was survived by his companion of eight years, Paul Holm.
Father Mychal Judge also responded quickly when extremists flew hijacked planes into the twin towers. He rushed with firefighters into the north tower right after the first plane hit. Refusing to be evacuated, he prayed and administered sacraments as debris crashed outside. He saw dozens of bodies hit the plaza outside as people jumped to their deaths. His final prayer, repeated over and over, was “Jesus, please end this right now! God, please end this!”
While he was praying, Father Mychal was struck and killed in a storm of flying steel and concrete that exploded when the south tower collapsed. He was the first officially recorded fatality of the 9/11 attack. Father Mychal was designated as Victim 0001 because his was the first body recovered at the scene. More than 2,500 people from many nationalities and walks of life were killed. Thousands more escaped the buildings safely.
After Father Mychal’s death, some of his friends revealed that he considered himself a gay man. He had a homosexual orientation, but by all accounts he remained faithful to his vow of celibacy as a Roman Catholic priest of the Franciscan order.
The charismatic, elderly priest was a long-term member of Dignity, the oldest and largest national lay movement of LGBT Catholics and their allies. Father Mychal voiced disagreement with the Vatican’s condemnation of homosexuality, and found ways to welcome Dignity’s AIDS ministry despite a ban by church leaders. He defied a church boycott of the first gay-inclusive St. Patrick’s Day parade in Queens, showing up in his habit and granting news media interviews.
Many people, both inside and outside the GLBT community, call Father Mychal a saint. He has not been canonized by his own Roman Catholic Church, but some feel that he has already become a saint by popular acclamation, and the Orthodox-Catholic Church of America did declare officially declare him a saint. For more info on Father Mychal, visit his Wikipedia entry or the Saint Mychal Judge Blog.
|“Holy Passion Bearer Mychal Judge and St. Francis of Assisi”|
By Father William Hart McNichols
The above icon by Father William Hart McNichols shows Father Mychal with St. Francis of Assisi as the World Trade Center burns behind them. They hold out a veil to gather and help people who cry out in times of violence and terror. In the text accompanying the icon, Father McNichols describes Father Mychal as a Passion Bearer who “takes on the on-coming violence rather than returning it… choosing solidarity with the unprotected.” The icon is featured in “You will be My Witnesses: Saints, Prophets and Martyrs” by William Hart McNichols and Daniel Berrigan.
Father McNichols is a renowned iconographer and Roman Catholic priest based in New Mexico. He has a deep connection to New York City because he worked at an AIDS hospice there in the 1980s. After earning a Master of Fine Arts from the Pratt Institute in New York, McNichols studied icon painting with the Russian-American master Robert Lentz, whose icon of Mychal Judge also appears here.
Lentz is a Franciscan friar known for his innovative icons. He is stationed at St. Bonaventure University, in Olean, New York, where he hopes to establish a school of Franciscan iconography. His Mychal Judge icon is one of the queer images included in “Christ in the Margins” by Robert Lentz.
Both McNichols and Lentz have faced controversy for painting gay-positive icons. They are two of the 11 artists whose life and work are featured in “Art That Dares: Gay Jesus, Woman Christ, and More” by Kittredge Cherry.
Mark Bingham: Gay hero of 9/11 died fighting hijackers
Saint Mychal Judge Blog (very complete and up-to-date!)
Mychal Judge is the first recorded victim of 9/11 -- and also the first saint in the GLBT Saints series by Kittredge Cherry at the Jesus in Love Blog. The series began on Sept. 11, 2009, and has grown to include more than 40 saints, martyrs, mystics, heroes, holy people, deities and religious figures of special interest to gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (GLBT) and queer people and our allies. They are covered on appropriate dates throughout the year.