FATHER MYCHAL JUDGE: An Authentic American Hero

Michael Ford, Author
Michael Ford, Author . Paulist $19.95 (176p) ISBN 978-0-8091-0552-6
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Father Mychal Judge became an instant American hero when he died while administering the "last rites" to a victim of the September 11 World Trade Center attacks, but even before that grim day, there was much about the Franciscan priest to commend to posterity. Through interviews with fellow friars, close friends and others, Ford, a BBC journalist specializing in religious affairs and author of a 1999 biography of the late Henri Nouwen (Wounded Prophet), tells why the New York City fire chaplain was beloved by many, while infuriating others. A recovering alcoholic and an acknowledged homosexual who struggled with living a chaste, celibate life, Father Judge was known to those he served as a passionate advocate of the downtrodden and suffering. Although he had a penchant for attracting and even seeking the limelight, friends recall him as a humble man in touch with his own humanity. Ford boldly compares him to the founder of the Franciscans, St. Francis of Assisi, who was said to bear the stigmata, or wounds of Christ's crucifixion. Ford even seems to suggest that Father Judge's homosexuality was comparable to the stigmata, a simile that, while poetic, may be a bit of a stretch for some readers. Ford has done his best to paint a complete picture of the man, though many of the recollections he includes are rather repetitive. Despite that, this is an intriguing biography that should hold appeal for a wide readership. (Sept.)

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