Sapienza, Salvatore. “Mychal’s Prayer: Praying with Father Mychal Judge”, illustrated by Donna Leonard, Tregatti Press, 2011.
“There Once Was Man”
All of us have heard of Father Mychal Judge who has come to be one of the heroes of 9/11. As a Catholic priest, he helped to establish the Saint Francis AIDS Ministry in New York City and he gave of himself to others even when it ultimately cost him his life. As he died, he was serving not only God but others and he responded to Mayor Rudy Giuliani when the mayor requested that he pray for the people of New York. He responded with “I always do!” and those were the last words anyone heard him speak. He was the only priest to enter the World Trade Center and he did so in order to give absolution, aid and prayers to those trapped inside. It was there that he met his own death. He refused to evacuate the building when told to do so; his “boys”, the firefighters were working hard at saving lives and he was there with them.
In honor and commemoration of the tenth anniversary of 9/11, Salvatore Sapienza gives us this beautiful little book of prayers for Father Mychal. Sapienza worked side by side with him when they created the Saint Francis AIDS Ministry and he felt that this was one way to honor his friend who died while trying to save the lives of others.
The book is about spirituality and it is composed of a series of prayers and meditations which are joined to events and actions that were part of Father Mychal’s life. Yes, it is religious to a degree but it can also be used for spiritual guidance and that is one of the wonderful things about it.
This is the third book of Sapienza’s that I have reviewed and I must say that with each book, for me, at least, the gap between my religion, Judaism, and his religion, Catholicism, narrows. It really is not about religion, it is about God and each of must find our own way to understand and deal with Him. I have total respect for Sapienza’s view and I know that he reciprocates that with me. The important thing is now how you believe or where you pray but that you believe and once we realize that the God of the Catholics and the God of the Jews and the God of the Episcopalians, Lutherans, Methodists, Baptists, etc is the same God we shall have more harmony. I work towards that as does Sapienza.
As I read his little book, I had one thought—these prayers are so Jewish. They, like Father Mychal share the “Universal Divine Wisdom” that all the religions of the world share. That was one the attributes that made Father Mychal so special—he shared that wisdom. Father Mychal was pastor to the marginalized, men and women like us who have had a hard time finding our place in organized religion and this might have been considered heretical by some. Father Mychal did what he felt he had to do and all of us are so much better because of it.
As I write this, I cannot help be reminded of the verses that the author uses from Isaiah 6:8
“Here I am Lord. It is I Lord.
I have heard you calling in the night.
I will go, Lord, where you lead me.
I will hold your people in my heart.”
This is a book of love and is a love tribute to a man who defined the word love. Let me add that the definition of Salvatore Sapienza is also love. I have never met Sal and I know him only through his writings, a few emails and some meager Facebook chat. Yet I know that he is the kind of friend that all of us dream of having. This book is proof of that. I love the little stories of Father Mychal’s life and how they explicate his faith and love. I do not know if Sal realizes it or not but as he put this book together, he also filled it with his love and as we read, we cannot help but feel it. For that, I say “Thank you” once again.
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