“It was now about noon, and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon, for the sun stopped shining. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two. Jesus called out with a loud voice, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” When he had said this, he breathed his last.” (Luke 23:44-46)
“On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord.
Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone’s sins, their sins are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.” (John 20:19-23)
This is going to be my small, humble attempt at starting a new devotion in the Catholic Church—a devotion to the Sacred Lungs of Jesus, as silly as that sounds! We already have devotions to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and Immaculate Heart of Mary, as well as lesser known ones to the Precious Blood, the Holy Face, and the Wounds of Jesus. Why not invoke his lungs?
After all, did Mary and Joseph not experience the full power of baby Jesus’ lungs as he cried and cried, like all babies do? Did Jesus not use his powerful lungs to preach to the masses and breathe the Holy Spirit on his Apostles? Did the lance that pierced his heart not also go through his lungs?
Some say that the phrase in Luke’s Gospel, “he breathed his last” was a foreshadowing of breathing the Holy Spirit on the Apostles or that this final exhalation was an outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the whole world. In a sense, every breath that Jesus took was pure “Holy Spirit breath” because they are of one substance, but I think it is fair to say that the world received the Spirit in a more profound way at his moment of death.
Obviously, I am keenly aware of the blessing of having a great pair of lungs, so this devotion will be easy for me to put into practice. Most people take breathing for granted. As always, if we want to be humbled and take things less for granted, we should look to what Jesus did for us on the Cross. This detailed description Jesus’ Crucifixion and slow asphyxiation comes from an article called How Jesus Died for You.
Within a few minutes of being placed on the Cross, Jesus’ shoulders were dislocated. Minutes later Jesus’ elbows and wrists became dislocated. The result of these upper limb dislocations is that His arms were 9 inches longer than normal, as clearly shown on the Shroud of Turin.
In addition, the prophecy was fulfilled in Psalm 22:14, “I am poured out like water, and all My bones are out of joint.”
After Jesus’ wrists, elbows, and shoulders were dislocated, the weight of His body on his upper limbs caused traction forces on the Pectoralis Major muscles of His chest wall.
These traction forces caused His rib cage to be pulled upwards and outwards, in a most unnatural state. His chest wall was permanently in a position of maximal respiratory inspiration. In order to exhale, Jesus was physiologically required to force His body.
In order to breathe out, Jesus had to push down on the nails in His feet to raise His body, and allow His rib cage to move downwards and inwards to expire air from His lungs.
His lungs were in a resting position of constant maximum inspiration. Crucifixion is a medical catastrophe.
The problem was that Jesus could not easily push down on the nails in His feet because the muscles of His legs, bent at 45 degrees, were extremely fatigued, in severe cramp, and in an anatomically compromised position.
Unlike all Hollywood movies about the Crucifixion, the victim was extremely active. The crucified victim was physiologically forced to move up and down the cross, a distance of about 12 inches, in order to breathe.
The process of respiration caused excruciating pain, mixed with the absolute terror of asphyxiation.
As the six hours of the Crucifixion wore on, Jesus was less and less able to bear His weight on His legs, as His thigh and calf muscles became increasingly exhausted. There was increasing dislocation of His wrists, elbows and shoulders, and further elevation of His chest wall, making His breathing more and more difficult. Within minutes of crucifixion Jesus became severely dyspnoeic (short of breath).
The movements became less frequent as Jesus became increasingly exhausted, but the terror of imminent death by asphyxiation forced Him to continue in His efforts to breathe.
Because Jesus could not maintain adequate ventilation of His lungs, He was now in a state of hypo-ventilation (inadequate ventilation).
His blood oxygen level began to fall, and He developed Hypoxia (low blood oxygen). In addition, because of His restricted respiratory movements, His blood carbon dioxide (CO2) level began to rise, a condition known as Hypercapnia.
This rising CO2 level stimulated His heart to beat faster in order to increase the delivery of oxygen, and the removal of CO2.
The Respiratory Center in Jesus’ brain sent urgent messages to his lungs to breathe faster, and Jesus began to pant.
Jesus’ physiological reflexes demanded that He took deeper breaths, and He involuntarily moved up and down the Cross much faster, despite the excruciating pain. The agonizing movements spontaneously started several times a minute, to the delight of the crowd who jeered Him, the Roman soldiers, and the Sanhedrin.
However, due to the nailing of Jesus to the Cross and His increasing exhaustion, He was unable to provide more oxygen to His oxygen starved body.
The twin forces of Hypoxia (too little oxygen) and Hypercapnia (too much CO2) caused His heart to beat faster and faster, and Jesus developed Tachycardia (abnormally fast heart rate).
Jesus’ heart beat faster and faster, and His pulse rate was probably about 220 beats/ minute, the maximum normally sustainable.
Jesus’ lungs probably began to fill up with Pulmonary Oedema (excessive fluid).
This only served to exacerbate His breathing, which was already severely compromised.
Jesus was in Heart Failure and Respiratory Failure.
I remember not too fondly having experienced many of these respiratory symptoms first hand in the ER and ICU after collapsed lungs, pleurisy, and pneumonia. Let me tell you, it is extremely scary. It’s some of the worst pain that a human can experience, because every breath is agonizingly painful. It envelops your whole body and you can’t ignore it even for a second.
Think about how ridiculously hard it was for Jesus to speak from the Cross in that state, much less speak words of forgiveness and love. To his last breath he used his lungs to console and teach others. His example should make us watch what we say, especially when we are cranky or don’t feel particularly good.
A devotion to the Sacred Lungs could be used in a lot of different circumstances. If you had to make an important speech, preach to a congregation, be a lector at Mass, or have a major role in a play or musical, invoking the Sacred Lungs would be a perfect way to ensure that everything you said was guided by the Holy Spirit. Also, while playing any kind of sport, having clear, strong lungs is crucial for oxygenating your muscles and keeping a clear head. Perhaps praying to the Sacred Lungs could ensure that your breathing while you play sports remains calm and unhindered!
The devotion could also be a great source of comfort for those who have very bad lung capacity as I did (it is amazing to type DID and not DO). Anyone with severe COPD, emphysema, cystic fibrosis, pulmonary hypertension, asthma, etc. could look to his fluid-filled, barely working lungs on the Cross and see a familiar agony.
Perhaps this devotion will take off and become widespread, perhaps not, but either way, I know I will be using it!
Sacred Lungs of Jesus, may we have recourse to you!
Howdy everyone! I’m still doing fantastic and enjoying life very much now that I can breathe. I did a six-minute walk test at my first pulmonary rehab today and I shattered their previous record of 2200 feet. I did 2800 feet and jogged the last minute and a half. The physical therapist was in tears and said, “This is why I became a therapist.” Praise God!
I wanted to take this blog post to reflect on something that has been bouncing around in my head ever since I got my brand new breathers, and that is the simple fact that the risen body of Jesus still had its scars from the Crucifixion. It is a beautiful and perplexing fact. Why would Jesus allow himself to keep the permanent reminders of his torture and death? It’s an important question, because after all, this is the same body that we receive in the Eucharist—the risen, mystical body. St. Thomas Aquinas reflects on the same thing in his Summa Theologica, question 54, The quality of Christ rising again:
Article 4. Whether Christ’s body ought to have risen with its scars?
Objection 1. It would seem that Christ’s body ought not to have risen with its scars. For it is written (1 Corinthians 15:52): “The dead shall rise incorrupt.” But scars and wounds imply corruption and defect. Therefore it was not fitting for Christ, the author of the resurrection, to rise again with scars.
Objection 2. Further, Christ’s body rose entire, as stated above (Article 3). But open scars are opposed to bodily integrity, since they interfere with the continuity of the tissue. It does not therefore seem fitting for the open wounds to remain in Christ’s body; although the traces of the wounds might remain, which would satisfy the beholder; thus it was that Thomas believed, to whom it was said: “Because thou hast seen Me, Thomas, thou hast believed” (John 20:29).
Objection 3. Further, Damascene says (De Fide Orth. iv) that “some things are truly said of Christ after the Resurrection, which He did not have from nature but from special dispensation, such as the scars, in order to make it sure that it was the body which had suffered that rose again.” Now when the cause ceases, the effect ceases. Therefore it seems that when the disciples were assured of the Resurrection, He bore the scars no longer. But it ill became the unchangeableness of His glory that He should assume anything which was not to remain in Him for ever. Consequently, it seems that He ought not at His Resurrection to have resumed a body with scars.
I answer that, it was fitting for Christ’s soul at His Resurrection to resume the body with its scars. In the first place, for Christ’s own glory. For Bede says in Luke 24:40 that He kept His scars not from inability to heal them, “but to wear them as an everlasting trophy of His victory.” Hence Augustine says (De Civ. Dei xxii): “Perhaps in that kingdom we shall see on the bodies of the Martyrs the traces of the wounds which they bore for Christ’s name: because it will not be a deformity, but a dignity in them; and a certain kind of beauty will shine in them, in the body, though not of the body.” Secondly, to confirm the hearts of the disciples as to “the faith in His Resurrection” (Bede, on Luke 24:40). Thirdly, “that when He pleads for us with the Father, He may always show the manner of death He endured for us” (Bede, on Luke 24:40). Fourthly, “that He may convince those redeemed in His blood, how mercifully they have been helped, as He exposes before them the traces of the same death” (Bede, on Luke 24:40). Lastly, “that in the Judgment-day He may upbraid them with their just condemnation” (Bede, on Luke 24:40). Hence, as Augustine says (De Symb. ii): “Christ knew why He kept the scars in His body. For, as He showed them to Thomas who would not believe except he handled and saw them, so will He show His wounds to His enemies, so that He who is the Truth may convict them, saying: ‘Behold the man whom you crucified; see the wounds you inflicted; recognize the side you pierced, since it was opened by you and for you, yet you would not enter.'”
Leave it to Thomas Aquinas to give 5 compelling reasons for Christ keeping his scars. He clarifies further but I didn’t want to post the entire argument.
My scars have become my badges of honor and glory, thanks to Jesus. Not many people get to experience what I have in the past few months, and maybe that’s a good thing. It all happened so fast and it’s such a unique experience. I’m certain that this transplant is a privilege that I get to experience, instead of an ordeal that I have to go through. As Galatians 2:20 says, “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” It is a privilege for everyone to be able to live by faith in the Son of God, but the line that is really sticking with me is “the life I now live in the flesh.” In the Eucharist, we receive the flesh and blood of the risen Jesus, a flesh and blood that was in a glorified state and not bound by the laws of nature. While the Eucharist keeps my soul alive, another human being’s mortal flesh keeps my body alive. My body is, in a sense, glorified from what it was just a few months ago—scars and all. I haven’t felt this good in mind, body, and soul in probably 10 years. All I can say is thank you, Jesus!
Then he said to me, “Fear not, Daniel, for from the first day that you set your heart to understand and humbled yourself before your God, your words have been heard, and I have come because of your words.”
“How can my lord’s servant talk with my lord? For now no strength remains in me, and no breath is left in me.” Again one having the appearance of a man touched me and strengthened me. And he said, “O man greatly loved, fear not, peace be with you; be strong and of good courage.” And as he spoke to me, I was strengthened and said, “Let my lord speak, for you have strengthened me.” (Daniel 10:12, 17-19)
Today marks one month post-operation! I walked 2.4 miles this morning to downtown Grapevine and back and my lungs are sitting in the 90% range. Praise God! Here is a look at my old lungs vs my new ones.
First things first: I would like to extend a heartfelt THANK YOU to all of my prayer warriors. The wild success of my transplant belongs to YOU as much as it does to me. I am healing extraordinarily well. All of the nurses at my weekly clinic visits are flabbergasted at how good I look for being one month post-operation. God is so good. If there is anything I want people to learn from watching my transplant journey, it is that consistent prayer can accomplish wonders, and to trust in God’s mercy. Having a child-like faith and trust in God’s mercy is not only essential to being at peace, but it is what the Gospel is all about. There’s a reason that “Be not afraid” and “Fear not” are two of Jesus’ most used phrases. God is all-good and has had a grand plan for every single person’s life since the beginning of time. He works ALL things for good and by ALL I mean everything from stubbing a toe to losing a loved one to having a double lung transplant. If we would but submit to his holy will in everything, good and bad, he will perform things in us and through us that we can’t even fathom (like having another human being’s lungs successfully transplanted into your chest!) As the Gospel for today says,
“At that time Jesus exclaimed, ‘I give praise to you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, for although you have hidden these things from the wise and the learned you have revealed them to the childlike. Yes, Father, such has been your gracious will. All things have been handed over to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son wishes to reveal him.”‘ (Matthew 11:25-27)
God has been preparing me for transplant ever since I wrote my first blog post. I had a feeling, a premonition if you will, that my lungs were not going to make it to my 25th birthday and I would need a transplant before then. It was not just a hunch, but something that I gathered from my time in adoration and Mass and reflective prayer. The year leading up to my transplant I also became close friends with many saints—Therese, Bernadette, John Paul II, Fulton Sheen—whom I still rely on for consolation and guidance.
Perhaps the most providential aspect to all of this was the date of my 2nd lung collapse. May 7th was the day that the “spontaneous” pneumothorax happened but I don’t know that it was random. The Lourdes trip that I was supposed to go on ended on May 6th, and it was unfortunate that I couldn’t go, but God had a better plan in mind–getting some NEW LUNGS. God was going to bring new life and healing, which I am sure was being prayed for fervently by everyone at Lourdes, but not before a great deal of suffering and pain. I had to undergo my own mini Passion in the form of 48 days in the hospital, countless pills and IV infusions, nine chest tubes, blood sugar pricks, bronchoscopies, catheters, stomach pain, nerve pain, joint pain, leg swelling, blood clots, and oh yeah, waking up with a 16 inch scar across my chest and feeling like I was hit by 2 semi trucks. He certainly works in mysterious but wonderful ways! So, other than the necessary pain, let me go over just how smoothly this entire transplant process has gone. It has been truly miraculous. You ready?
1. I was only on the transplant list for TEN DAYS. That is one of the shortest durations ever at UT Southwestern and is unheard of in transplant communities.
2. My surgeon was one of the best in the country. He is a devout Christian and his name is Dr. Michael Alton Wait (strangely similar to my name, Daniel Alton Pruit). He has performed or watched over 400 transplants and said, and I quote, “The lungs could not have been a more perfect match.” They could easily last me a decade if I do my best to prevent rejection and infection.
3. I had no false alarms, meaning that I received the first pair of lungs that were offered. This is very uncommon. I met a guy at my weekly clinic the other day who had SEVENTEEN false alarms before finally getting the 18th pair of lungs that were offered.
4. I did not lose much blood during surgery. They didn’t have to give me a blood transfusion until the day after, which means the surgery was much less complicated than it could have been.
5. I was out of the ICU in 2 days and out of the hospital in 9. That’s insanely fast.
6. One month post-operation, I am already hovering in the 90-95% lung function range. Again, that’s supernaturally fast.
7. My other organs are holding up just fine. Sometimes with CF patients it is necessary to do a lung and liver transplant because of the insane toll that the antibiotics and other drugs take on one’s liver, but I have had no liver, kidney, or heart problems. Fingers crossed!
8. The fact that I am walking over 2 miles every morning is amazing as well. The doctors call me a rockstar for this and hey, who knows, soon I could be jogging over 2 miles!
9. Throughout it all, I was able to remain positive and hopefully give other people a richer perspective on life. If I can open people’s eyes to eternal realities and make them strive to love God and heavenly things more, then I will have been doing my job. And that all starts with making my sickness and weakness a prayer. I’m not capable of much physically, but what I can do is offer up my weakness as a prayer of sacrifice for others.
In the great wheel of fortune that is life, with its ups and downs, staying close to God in prayer is essential. In fact, we should make our entire lives one long prayer. A great song to remind me of that is a song that I have not stopped listening to since transplant: Shout to the Lord. This line in particular will be one that I strive to live and love by:
“Let every breath, all that I am
Never cease to worship You.”
That’s all! God Bless all of my prayer warriors, and praise God that I came through all of this happy and healthy!