• Sarah Raad


The everlasting God has in His wisdom foreseen from eternity the cross that He now presents to you as a gift from His inmost heart. (Saint Francis de Sales).

Saint Bernard, Christ's Shoulder Wound, and Saint Padre Pio

Saint Bernard of Clairvaux was a French saint and Doctor of the Church who was born in the late 11th century and became a monk in the early 12th century.

At the age of 23, Saint Bernard convinced two uncles, his five brothers, and about thirty young noblemen to enter the Cistercian monastery of Clteaux. He that particular monastery for its humbleness because he said, “I was conscious that my weak character needed a strong medicine.”

Saint Bernard was not only influential among his family and friends, he was influential in the Church – not only through in the election of Pope Innocent II, and through his recruitment efforts for the (failed) Second Crusade – but also through his beautiful spiritual writings…

According to legend, Saint Bernard asked Christ which of His wounds caused Him the greatest pain, and Christ told him, that there was a wound on His right shoulder, which was caused by the carrying of His Cross. That shoulder wound of Christ caused three bones in His right shoulder to become exposed and it was this wound, which is a hidden wound – because it was not documented in the Gospels – which caused Christ the most suffering.

We are promised great Grace if we venerate the Shoulder Wound of Christ and Saint Bernard composed a beautiful prayer to adore the Shoulder Wound of Christ…

“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.”

The other day, one of my sisters told me that Saint Padre Pio venerated the Shoulder Wound of Christ. I love Saint Padre Pio, and have come to learn many things about this great Saint over the last year or so.

Saint Padre Pio bore the stigmata in his flesh, which means he bore some of Christ’s wounds from the Cross. However, what is less known about the Saint was that he also bore this hidden shoulder wound of Christ on his right shoulder and it was hidden from sight.

Pope Saint John Paul II – who knew Saint Padre Pio when the Pope was a young priest, when he was still called Father Wojtyla – asked Saint Padre Pio which of his ailments caused him the greatest pain. Saint Pio explained that it was not the pain in his chest or his hands that caused the greatest pain, but “It is my shoulder wound, which no one knows about and has never been cured or treated...”, which most troubled him.

After Saint Pio’s death, his friend, Friar Modestino found blood stains on the right shoulder of the Saint’s undershirt and suspecting that this was part of the Saint’s stigmata, he asked Saint Pio for a sign that the blood that he had found had come from a wound that was the shoulder wound suffered by Christ. That night, waking unexpectedly, Friar Modestino experienced terrible pain in his right shoulder and he heard a voice that said, “This is how I suffered.” While this happened, Friar Modestino smelled a beautiful perfume, which is a sign of the presence of the Saint.

I have been reflecting on this hidden wound. For not many of us are as holy as Saint Padre Pio to deserve such terrible suffering of the Stigmata to serve for our sanctification. For someone as weak as me, such a gift would be more than I could ever bear…

And yet, despite all my weakness, I take heart from the words of Saint Francis de Sales, who assures us that none of us is denied our Cross – for it is the Cross that is our means of sanctification, and though I begrudge my Cross, without it I would be bereft…

“The everlasting God has in His wisdom foreseen from eternity the cross that He now presents to you as a gift from His inmost heart. This cross He now sends you He has considered with His all-knowing eyes, understood with His divine mind, tested with His wise justice, warmed with loving arms and weighed with His own hands to see that it be not one inch too large and not one ounce too heavy for you. He has blessed it with His holy Name, anointed it with His consolation, taken one last glance at you and your courage, and then sent it to you from heaven, a special greeting from God to you, an alms of the all-merciful love of God.” (Saint Francis de Sales).

For though my Cross is only small – for my soul is weak and I could not bear the pain or the favour of the stigmata, I – like all of us – bear a hidden shoulder wound that nobody other than my Beloved can see.

And it is comforting to know that God chose that wound to be a hidden Cross for me. That He chose to allow me the honour of having some hidden splinter of His suffering.

For there is nothing I would not give to have the strength to bear with Grace, just one small splinter from that Holy Cross!

There is nothing I would not give!

For with prayer, I stand on Holy Ground where everything is clear. Here. At the Foot of the Cross.

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