When Our Savior was scourged at the pillar He was lashed all over His Sacred Body, front and back. These marks from the Roman scourge can be seen on the Holy Shroud. One wound that cannot be seen on the Shroud but which was opened by the bone-studded whips was on the shoulder.
As Jesus walked the three miles from Pilate’s courtyard to Calvary, the Cross dug into His torn shoulder, ripping of the flesh to the bone. We know this from private revelations not from the Gospels.
The first saint to venerate the shoulder wound of Christ was Bernard of Clairvaux who died in 1153. He received this reply when he asked Jesus which was His most painful wound:
“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. 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.”
Is this not an astounding promise, so generous, so merciful?
Saint Bernard composed this beautiful prayer to honor the shoulder wound of Our Savior:
“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.”
Another saint who not only venerated the shoulder wound of Christ but suffered it along with his stigmata was Padre Pio. According to Stefano Campanella, author of Il Papa e il Frate (The Pope and the Friar), Pope John Paul II visited Padre Pio while he was a priest and he asked Padre Pio the same question as to which was his most painful wound. Fr. Wojtyla expected that the stigmatist would say that it was his pierced side. But the saint replied: “It is my shoulder wound, which no one knows about and has never been cured or treated.” Padre Pio died on September 23, in 1968.
Forty years later, Frank Rega wrote a book about Saint Padre Pio. Here are a couple of relevant paragraphs:
“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 1:00 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!” (Patheos, Seasons of Grace)