Monday 26 April 2021

What Christ Suffered A Doctor’s Journey Through the Passion - Thomas W. McGovern

What Christ Suffered: A Doctor’s Journey Through the Passion
Thomas W. McGovern
ISBN 9781681925769
eISBN 9781681925776

Wow! I was expecting this to be an uncomfortable read. But I greatly underestimated to what extent. But also, what an incredible read. This book came highly recommended by two men I greatly respect, Mike Aquilina and Jeff Miller, aka the Curt Jester. This book took me a while to read. I had planned on reading it over holy week, but it was a little too intense. And ended up finishing it on Easter Sunday. It is an excellent book to read anytime, but very powerful to read during Lent and specifically Holy Week. This book might not be an easy or comfortable read but one I will likely return to again next Lent. 

The description of this volume is:

“What Christ suffered during his Passion — for you — is a powerful source of reflection and meditation.

While we know that Jesus was crucified in Jerusalem around A.D. 33, the details of his sufferings and death have been confused and obscured over the past two millennia. In What Christ Suffered: A Doctor’s Journey Through the Passion, Dr. Thomas W. McGovern provides the most accurate, up-to-date understanding of the physical sufferings of Jesus Christ, drawing on ancient Greek and Latin literature about crucifixion, discoveries of ancient images, archaeology, medical reenactment studies, and medical case reports. This volume corrects decades of myths and misunderstandings presented in books and articles and on websites — myths the author himself disseminated for years until he reanalyzed the data utilizing twenty-first-century advances in modern medicine and archaeological discoveries.

This medical investigation of the Passion allows readers to enter more fully than ever into the reality of what Jesus suffered for our redemption. Drawing on the teachings of Pope Saint John Paul II in Salvifici Doloris, this book invites the reader to a deeper understanding of the meaning and value of human suffering — and how to practically apply it in their lives. By his sacrificial death on the cross, Jesus has won salvation for the whole world, redeeming even our sufferings through his incredible act of love.”

And the chapters are:

What Is Suffering? 
The Setting for the Cosmic Sacrifice 
Bloody Sweat 
Sufferings in the Night 
Royal Treatment 
The Way of the Cross 
The Crucifixion of Jesus 
The Death of Jesus 
Post-Crucifixion Events 
Our Response to Suffering: Personal and Relational 
Appendix 1: What Ancient Literature Reveals about Crucifixion 
Appendix 2: What Archaeology, Graffiti, Epigraphy, and Art Reveal about Crucifixion 

The book received the:

Nihil Obstat 
Msgr. Michael Heintz, Ph.D. 
Censor Librorum 

Kevin C. Rhoades 
Bishop of Fort Wayne-South Bend 
September 1, 2020

In the forward Bishop Conley states:

“A few years after I converted to the Catholic Church during my undergraduate years, someone gave me a copy of the slim little paperback work entitled A Doctor at Calvary, by Pierre Barbet, MD. Dr. Barbet, a surgeon who served on the battlefields of World War I, had access to photographic negatives from 1898 of the Holy Shroud of Turin, upon which he based a forensic analysis of the sufferings of Jesus Christ. 

That groundbreaking book opened my eyes to the sufferings of the Lord. Dr. Barbet wrote his book in 1950. 

Given the advances in science over the past seventy years, I have long hoped an updated study might be written. Dr. Thomas McGovern has done just that. His scientifically up-to-date analysis of the Lord’s Passion and death has also incorporated the Christian anthropology of Saint John Paul II as it is articulated in his 1984 apostolic exhortation on suffering, Salvifici Doloris.”

A few people who have mentioned this book, prior to my picking it up had mentioned that previous volume. One stating they read it every year during lent. Further along Conley states:

“Dr. McGovern does not stop with the physical sufferings of the Lord. He also reflects upon the mental and emotional sufferings of the Lord. He describes how the Lord experienced fear, sorrow, anxiety, and mental distress. Because the Lord is true God and true man, he willingly chose, in his Passion and death, to suffer the human sufferings that we all experience.”

There is much to be learned and gleamed from this volume. Even with taking my time and reading it over a week. I know that I missed things in my first read through. There is so much information. This book is incredibly well researched. It is written in a way that often presents numerous sides to specific points and is charitable to each of them. McGovern clearly presents the information and his conclusions. He also is clear on points where a definitive conclusion is not possible. The research into the medical issues would be daunting enough. But McGovern delves into the historical, social and emotional aspects of the events as well. 

Last year during Lent I read Praying the Crucifix Reflections on the Cross by Julien Chilcott-Monk. And it was deeply moving. I plan to go back and reread it now, based on the knowledge gained from this book and it will be a very different experience. I am certain I will never look at a crucifix in the same way again. This book has touched my heart deeply. And that impact will last my lifetime. 

The descriptions at times are visceral, gruesome, and gory. You cannot help but see them in your minds eye. That is both a strength and weakness of this work. It is not for all readers. But those who do tackle it will be changed, and be blessed. 

Note: This book is part of a series of reviews: 2021 Catholic Reading Plan!

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