Palm Sunday and Syncope


No scripture today, you’ll get enough of that at church today. Instead, a piece of practical advice. The city in which I live is overwhelmingly Catholic. On Palm Sunday in the Catholic Church the Passion is read. This takes a long time, and some churches have parishioners stand for the reading. Combine a church bursting at the seams, people dressed warmly because Spring isn’t here yet no matter what the calendar says, and many elderly people without ideal circulation and you have what’s known around here as “Palm Sunday Syncope”.

I’ve been a cardiology nurse for over two decades, and I always hated working Palm Sunday because there’d be so many admissions for people who had passed out in church. If I’d had my way, I’d ask each of them “Were you standing for the reading of The Passion when it happened?” and if that was the case I’d send them home and tell them to come back if it ever happened again. And to not lock their knees when standing.

But routinely these people get admitted and spend two days in the hospital having a battery of expensive and annoying tests, none of which show any abnormality. Many years ago I was scheduled to be a lector on Palm Sunday and I approached the priest before Mass, explained “Palm Sunday Syncope” to him, and asked if it would be inappropriate to encourage the congregation to sit. To my knowledge every Palm Sunday service at that particular parish still involves sitting during the reading of The Passion. So when you go to church today, bend your priest’s ear a bit if you can. If not, don’t lock your knees, and sit down if you start to feel dizzy, sweaty, or nauseated. That’s my public service message for today 😉

Have a blessed Holy Week.

Saints and Scripture Sunday

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