Using ancient and modern methods — the Internet side by side several reports that linked Judge to miraculous healings — a grassroots organization has gathered strength.
While some of Judge’s old friends admit that the Franciscan friar must be sitting somewhere in heaven and laughing at the efforts to have him canonized, for others it is a serious business.
Burt Kearns is the creator of a website that is campaigning to have Judge canonized.
“He’s like a modern day St Francis,” Kearns aid. “What a wonderful idea, the possibility that there was a saint walking among us who died in such a magnificent way.”
But other observers say that a Judge canonization is a remote possibility at this point, although the Irish-American priest now has something close to global recognition among Catholics.
Those who say they knew Judge best are themselves a diverse group, from gay activists to conservative Catholics, and some have begun to object to the canonization campaign.
One fellow Franciscan said simply: “give him a rest.” Others have expressed the grievance that many of the “St. Mychal Brigade” did not know Judge during his life, and only heard of him when events had already started shaping his life into things in death that they say he was not.
Paralyzed police officer Stephen McDonald was one individual whose life Judge touched in a magnificent way. He prayed with McDonald and the cop found his way to forgive the shooter who had so tragically transformed his life with a bullet.
Others whom Judge helped were gays, some of whom were dying of AIDS. Still others insist that Judge said that he lived discreetly but openly as a gay man, something that McDonald and others finds objectionable.
Fr. John Felice did not shed any light on Judge’s perceived gayness but he did say that “there is a rush to canonize Mychal these days and I think it is a mistake. He was a very human, flawed complex person just like the rest of us. His real legacy . . . is the stuff of greatness.”
Those who knew him said he was great, able to deflect ire with a dry Irish wit, yet a tower of strength to the bereaved families of TWA Flight 800.
Brendan Fay, the gay Irish activist, was so moved recently by memories of his friend Judge that on a trip to Lourdes he took 400 copies of photographs of the priest with him and distributed them all.
Fay is in two minds about the sainthood campaign, believing that it will put Judge “out of reach” of the common people of New York whom he loved.
Therein lies an irony, said Fay. “He was in his life, by the voice of the people, already a saint,” he said.