What do medieval mystic St. Bernard of Clairvaux and modern monk St. Padre Pio have in common?
Wel, they’re both saints, sharing in the eternal reward that God has prepared for them. But beyond
that, both had a sincere devotion to the Shoulder Wound of Christ.
SAINT BERNARD OF CLAIRVAUX, the French abbott and mystic who helped renew the Cistercian Order in the 12th century, related in the annals of Clairvaux a conversation he’d had with our Lord. He prayed, asking Jesus which was his greatest unrecorded suffering; and the Lord answered him:
“I had on My Shoulder while I bore My Cross on the Way of Sorrows, a grievous Wound that was more painful than the others, and which is not recorded by men. 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.”
ST. PIO OF PIETRELCINA, Capuchin friar, priest and mystic, died in 1968. Padre Pio was known as a confessor and a holy man who for more than 50 years bore the wounds of Christ (the stigmata) on his hands and feet.
In a book published in the Italian language by St. Pio’s friary, titled Il Papa e Il Frate, author Stefano Campanella reported that the future St. Pio had once had a very interesting conversation with Karol Wojtyla, the future Pope St. John Paul II.
According to Campanella, Fr. Wojtyla asked Padre Pio which of his wounds caused the most pain. Fr. Wojtyla expected Padre Pio to say that it was his chest wound; but instead Padre Pio replied, “It is my shoulder wound, which no one knows about and has never been cured or treated.”
In 2008, 40 years after Padre Pio’s death, author Frank Rega wrote about Padre Pio:
At one time Padra [sic] had confided to Brother Modestino Fucci, now the doorkeeper at Padre Pio’s friary in San Giovanni Rotondo, Italy, that his greatest pains occurred when he changed his undershirt. Brother Modestino, like Father Wojtyla, thought that Padre Pio was referring to pains from the chest wound. Then, on February 4, 1971, Brother Modestino was assigned the task of taking an inventory of all the items in the deceased Padre’s cell in the friary, and also his belongings in the archives. That day he discovered that one of Padre Pio’s undershirts bore a circle of bloodstains in the area of the right shoulder.
On that very evening, Brother Modestino asked Padre Pio in prayer to enlighten him about the meaning of the bloodstained undershirt. He asked Padre to give him a sign if he truly bore Christ’s shoulder wound. Then he went to sleep, awakening at 1 a.m. with a terrible, excruciating pain in his shoulder, as if he had been sliced with a knife up to the shoulder bone. He felt that he would die from the pain if it continued, but it lasted only a short time. Then the room became filled with the aroma of a heavenly perfume of flowers — the sign of Padre Pio’s spiritual presence — and he heard a voice saying, “This is what I had to suffer!”
St. Bernard of Clairvaux, after receiving the message from Christ regarding the pain he experienced in his shoulder, sought to foster devotion to the Shoulder Wound of Christ, and penned this prayer:
Prayer to the Shoulder Wound of Christ
Most 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.
(Imprimatur: +Thomas D. Beven, Bishop of Springfield.)
Kathy Schiffer is a freelance writer and speaker, and writes about faith and culture at her blog, Seasons of Grace.