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May 10, 2019 Our Catholic Faith No Comments

Editor’s Note: In a recent column, a reader from Cleveland said that the norm in his diocese since 2003 has been to stand after the “Lamb of God” during Mass. Now P.F. writes from Cleveland to say that in most of the churches he attends regularly, “all the people kneel after the Agnus Dei and throughout the reception of Communion until the remaining Eucharist is placed inside the tabernacle and the doors are closed.”
He says that when the norm to remain standing was first announced in 2003, “I went to one church where the pastor noticed that virtually everyone was still kneeling, so he polled the congregation as to preferences, and everyone indicated that they would rather kneel. So he announced that kneeling would remain the norm. We have been kneeling during Communion ever since.”
P.F. sent along a new directive, dated March 15, 2019, from the Most Rev. Nelson J. Perez, bishop of Cleveland. The directive says that, beginning on Divine Mercy Sunday, the people will stand “after the Great Amen, and remain standing after the Lamb of God and through the celebrant’s reception of Holy Communion. The faithful remain standing during the distribution and reception of Holy Communion for the singing of the Communion Hymn.”
The directive says that the people will sit or kneel “during the period of sacred silence…after the distribution of Holy Communion. This period of sacred silence should begin as soon as the distribution of Holy Communion has been completed. At this point the faithful may sit or kneel. The faithful are not required to stand during the purification of vessels, or until the reposition of the Blessed Sacrament.”
According to the General Instruction of the Roman Missal, “The faithful kneel after the Agnus Dei (Lamb of God) unless the Diocesan Bishop determines otherwise” (n. 43). Bishop Perez has determined otherwise “after consultation with the Presbyteral Council and the Diocesan Liturgical Commission.” A footnote to his letter quotes the following from Francis Cardinal Arinze, then prefect of the Vatican’s Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments:
“The prescription of the [GIRM], n. 43, is intended, on the one hand, to ensure within broad limits a certain uniformity of posture within the congregation for the various parts of the celebration of Holy Mass, and on the other, to not regulate posture rigidly in such a way that those who wish to kneel or sit would no longer be free.”

Q. In the Gospel of Luke, it says that Jesus told two of His disciples to go to a nearby village and obtain a donkey for Him to ride into Jerusalem. He told them that they would “find a colt tethered on which no one has ever sat” (Luke 19:39). Why an animal that no one had ever ridden before? — J.S., Massachusetts.
A. Probably because of the unique Person who would be riding the colt. The same reason applies to the burial of Jesus in a tomb “in which no one had yet been buried” (Luke 23:53). And you could extend this reasoning to the conception of Jesus in a virginal womb in which no one else had ever been conceived. Jesus was the one and only Savior of the world, and there were certain circumstances in His life that were unique to His mission.

Q. Regarding the inquiry in a recent column about the placement of the nails into the hands of Christ, the best and most recent research shows that the nail went into the hands at the “Spot of Destot,” the base of the palm, and being driven at an angle into the wood in such a way that the weight of the body would be supported, thus emerging on the backside of the wrist. Hence, it is correct to say that Christ was nailed in both the hands and the wrist. — B.B., via e-mail.
A. Dr. Pierre Barbet, whose book A Doctor at Calvary we have referenced many times on this issue, agrees with you. He said that “the nails in the hands were driven into a natural space, generally known as Destot’s space, which is situated between the two rows of the bones of the wrist. Now, anatomists of every age and land regard the wrist as an integral part of the hand, which consists of the wrist, the metacarpus, and the fingers” (p. 119).
During experiments on amputated arms, Barbet discovered that no matter where he placed the nail, it found “an anatomical passage, already formed, a natural road along which the nail passes along easily and where it is held solidly in position by the bones of the wrist” (p. 118). He also found that when the nail wounded the median nerve, it caused the thumb to bend inward against the palm. “And that is why, on the shroud, the two hands when seen from behind only show four fingers, and why the two thumbs are hidden in the palms” (p. 119).
Meditating on this particular wound in the final chapter of his book, Dr. Barbet said that when the nail touched the median nerve in the palm/wrist of Christ, “an inexpressible pain darts like lightning through His fingers and then like a trail of fire right up His shoulder, and bursts in His brain. The most terrible pain that a man can experience is caused by wounding the main nervous centers. It nearly always causes a fainting fit, and it is fortunate that it does. Jesus has not willed that He should lose consciousness.”
Barbet said that “the raw place on the nervous center remains in contact with the nail; and later on, when the body sags, it will be stretched against this like a violin string against the bridge, and it will vibrate with each shaking or movement, reviving the horrible pain. This goes on for three hours” (pp. 198-199).

Q. I have read Dr. Barbet’s book about the Crucifixion of Our Lord Jesus Christ and, although I agree with him that a normal man could not have been hanged on a cross by being nailed in the hands, we are not dealing with a normal Man, but with the Second Person of the Holy Trinity. Barbet argues that it is impossible for a man to be fixed to a cross with nails through the palms, but wouldn’t Barbet also argue that the conception of Jesus by the power of the Holy Spirit was impossible? What about all the saints who were blessed with the stigmata? Are you telling us that God made a mistake giving the saints a stigmata with the nail marks in the hands instead of the wrists? Jesus was nailed to the cross through the hands! — G.B., via e-mail.
A. First of all, see the previous reply. Second, Jesus was a normal Man in His human nature, just like you and me in everything except sin, and He suffered the same pain and agony that any normal human would experience while being crucified. That was His desire.
Recall that in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus at first prayed to His Father to spare Him the suffering that was coming, but then, in an act of perfect obedience, He said, “not my will but yours be done” (Luke 22:42). And while on the cross, Jesus refused “wine drugged with myrrh” (Mark 15:23) because He wanted to experience His Passion and death to the fullest.
Third, Dr. Barbet has explained that the nail marks in the hands of those bearing the stigmata do not mean that God made a mistake, nor do they disprove his contention that Jesus was nailed through the place where the palm meets the wrist. He said that “the exact localization of these stigmata is not always the same, but it varies throughout the whole extent of the metacarpal zone, as far as being very near to the wrists. We should come to the conclusion that the stigmatists can give us no information either as to the position or the form of the wounds of the crucifixion” (p. 105).
Barbet quoted one stigmatist, Theresa Neumann, as saying to a friend: “Do not think that Our Savior was nailed in the hands, where I have my stigmata. These marks have only a mystical meaning. Jesus must have been fixed more firmly on the cross” (ibid.).
In conclusion, said Dr. Barbet, “it is permissible to believe that the impression was usually made at the spot where the stigmatists believed that Our Savior received His wounds. This would appear to be necessary and providential, so that the stigmatist should not be bewildered at these manifestations and so that they should retain their mystical meaning for his soul. And let us also own that we understand nothing about this mystery. If, for example, such an ordeal was imposed on me, I think that the stigma would be perhaps . . . not in the wrists, but in the palms of the hands, just in order to teach me humility” (pp. 105-106).
While this discussion is interesting, the main thing to remember is that Jesus suffered horribly for our sins on the cross, and we ought to thank Him profusely every time we gaze or meditate on a crucifix.

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Our Catholic Faith (Section B of print edition)

Catholic Replies

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Catholic Replies

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