Let the Pilgrimage Begin

Back in January of this year, I was led to take interest in Father Mychal Judge. For those who don’t recognize that name, Father Mychal Judge is probably most known for being “Victim #1” on September 11, 2001. His body was the first identified after the South Tower collapse at Ground Zero. Father Mychal Judge was a chaplain of the New York City Fire Department and had been one of the first to arrive at the World Trade Center on that fateful day. Over the years since then, I have heard about him via different television news outlets and documentaries, but it wasn’t until this past January that I became completely captivated by learning as much as I possible could about the man that he was.

Presented with the task of “picking” a saint to study during a Jan-term class in seminary, I was intent on learning more about some long-ago, God-fearing person whose life I would never be able to emulate. What happened instead was my re-discovery of Father Mychal Judge. Having served in life as a Franciscan friar and Catholic priest, as well as chaplain of the New York City Fire Department, Mychal was canonized by the Orthodox-Catholic Church of America on July 27, 2002. While I have come to learn that he lived a Christ-led life, what attracted me to study more about him had nothing to do with anything other than the smile that appeared on his face in an icon created by the artist, Robert Lentz, as part of a book entitled, Christ in the Margins. I was drawn to the lightness of the image, and the peace I felt radiating off the page from his friendly blue eyes. Not only did I study his life to write a paper about him for that class, but I have also continued to read everything I can find that was written about him in biographies, news articles, and the few pieces of his own writing that were left behind.

What is most interesting to me about everything I have read about Mychal is how much I have in common with him. Little things here and there have made me smile with understanding or grin with an identification that can only settle in for me when I am spiritually fit and feeling completely connected with God. One of those identification moments came earlier this summer as I finished the first of two biographies written about him after his death. In the last pages of that biography, the author mentions Mychal’s sober anniversary – September 15th – which just happens to be my sober/abstinent anniversary. That is when I believe this pilgrimage truly began (even though I didn’t really know it yet).

The pilgrimage I am referring to is a walk through New York City to visit the spots where Mychal most often traveled. This is not something I have ever thought of doing before; and yet the original fear I had in traveling to New York City and walking on the streets alone has dissipated. From the signs that have been popping up all over the place before me in the last several weeks, I am certain I am being guided to do this. I am excited and overwhelmed. I am grateful and serene. And, knowing myself as well as I do, I am worried that my own human expectations for the day may overtake what God truly wants me to experience. So, today, I ask you – those of you who practice prayer – to offer up a word or two to your Higher Power on my behalf. As a thank you for your prayers, I plan to write something about Mychal each day this week to continue sharing with you the wonderfully human man who graced this earth for a too-short 68 years.

I pray today, God, that You will release me from my expectations and bless me with the calm of faithfulness in Your plan.




  1. Jessica, you are truly an inspiration to me in my own spiritual journey.I have gained so much insight reading your blogs. I look forward to reading more this week.
    Do you know that one of Alvernia’s residence halls is named after him?

    Liked by 1 person

    • I did know that about Alvernia’s residence hall. Thank you for your feedback Deb! I have a very special place in my heart for you each morning as I read the Wonens Devotional Bible you have me! I miss seeing you around Reading!


  2. Wonderful beginning of this story. I am so excited to be part of it in prayer and look forward to your continued sharing of this man and your journey with him!

    Liked by 1 person

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