Over the centuries there grew a powerful devotion among Christians commemorating the five principal wounds that Christ suffered during his Passion and death. Many saints practiced this devotion and it is a favorite of Pope Francis.
One of the main sources of this devotion is a passage from the first letter of St. Peter, “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed” (1 Peter 2:24).
A more specific devotion to the the wounds of Christ arose in the 12th and 13th centuries when Christians began to rediscover the Holy Land and were interested in meditating on the Passion of Jesus. St. Bernard of Clairvaux gave a homily that highlighted the wounds of Christ, which became a principal text in support of this devotion.
Where can the weak find a place of firm security and peace, except in the wounds of the Savior? Indeed, the more secure is my place there the more he can do to help me.
The wounds of Christ were further narrowed down to the “Five Holy Wounds,” which includes the wounds on Jesus’ right hand, left hand, right foot, left foot and side. These were commemorated in the liturgy during the Easter Vigil when the priest placed five grains of incense in the Paschal Candle in honor of the five wounds. Even the Dominican Rosary has traces of this devotion, in the five Our Fathers interspersed among the other prayers.
St. Gertrude is another saint who promoted this devotion and, after meditating on Jesus’ wounds, saw Jesus in a vision. He told her, “Behold in what glory I now appear to you. I will appear in the same manner to you at your death, and will cover all the stains of your sins, and of those also who salute My Wounds with the same devotion.”
Pope Francis at the Angelus address of March 18 gave this reflection:
Do not forget this: look at the crucifix, but to look within it. There is this beautiful devotion to pray an Our Father for each one of the five wounds: when we pray that Our Father, we seek to enter through Jesus’ wounds inside, inside, right to His heart. And there we will learn the great wisdom of Christ’s mystery, the great wisdom of the cross.
It is a beautiful devotion, one that recognizes the great pain that Jesus suffered for each one of us and invokes his mercy to wash away our sins.