In His Passion, Jesus Christ suffered greatly for the sins of man. He wore the crown of thorns, was scourged at the pillar, and had the Five Holy Wounds inflicted upon Him. While most Catholics know of these, few are familiar with the shoulder wound of Jesus, and the miraculous story behind its devotion.
Tradition says as Jesus walked the three miles from Pontius Pilate’s courtyard to His Crucifixion at Calvary, the Cross dug through His shoulder ripping flesh from bone. According to a pious legend, Saint Bernard of Clairvaux prayed and asked of Christ what was his greatest unknown suffering, and what wound suffered in His Passion was most painful. Christ replied to him:
“I had on My Shoulder while I bore My Cross on the Way of Sorrows, a grievous Wound which was more painful than the others, and which is not recorded by men.”
Christ asked that Saint Bernard and other members of the Faithful keep a devotion to his shoulder wound, and that those who do will receive God’s grace.
“Honor this Wound with thy devotion, and I will grant thee whatsoever thou dost ask through its virtue and merit. And in regard to all those who shall venerate this Wound, I will remit to them all their venial sins, and will no longer remember their mortal sins.”
Saint Bernard heeded Christ’s call, composing a beautiful devotional prayer to honor the shoulder wound of Our Savior:
“O Loving Jesus, Meek Lamb of God, I, a miserable sinner, salute and worship the most Sacred Wound of Thy Shoulder on which Thou didst bear Thy heavy Cross, which so tore Thy Flesh and laid bare Thy Bones as to inflict on Thee an anguish greater than any other wound of Thy Most Blessed Body. I adore Thee, O Jesus most sorrowful; I praise and glorify Thee and give Thee thanks for this most sacred and painful Wound, beseeching Thee by that exceeding pain and by the crushing burden of Thy heavy Cross, to be merciful to me, a sinner, to forgive me all my mortal and venial sins and to lead me on towards Heaven along the Way of Thy Cross. Amen.”
While Saint Bernard was the first to venerate the shoulder wound, he was not the last. Saint Padre Pio kept a devotion and also suffered the same wound himself as a stigmata. When Pope Saint John Paul II was still a priest he visited Padre Pio and asked him which wound was his most painful. Father Wojtyła expected that it was his chest wound, but the saint replied:
“It is my shoulder wound, which no one knows about and has never been cured or treated.”
Prior to his death, Padre Pio confided to Brother Modestino Fucci at his friary in San Giovanni Rotondo that his greatest pains happened when took off his shirt. At the time, Fucci believed it to be his chest wounds much like John Paul II. When he was later assigned the task of inventorying all the items inside the cell of the late Padre Pio, he noticed his undershirts had blood stains on the right shoulder.
That night, Brother Fucci prayed asking Padre Pio for a sign if he truly bore the shoulder wound of Christ. At 1 A.M., he awoke with an excruciating pain in his right shoulder and the room was filled the aroma of flowers, the sign Padre Pio’s spiritual presence, and he heard a voice call out: “This is what I had to suffer!”