196. Shouldering a Hidden Wound

20 After mocking him, they stripped him of the purple cloak and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him out to crucify him. 21 They compelled a passer-by, who was coming in from the country, to carry his cross; it was Simon of Cyrene, the father of Alexander and Rufus. [Mark 15:20-21, NRSV]

  Jesus falling under the weight of the cross

In Christian tradition, the five wounds in Jesus’ hands, feet and side, known as the Five Holy Wounds or Five Sacred Wounds are the five piercing wounds Jesus suffered during the Crucifixion. These wounds have been the subject of popular devotions ever since the time of Saint Bernard of Clairvaux and Saint Francis of Assisi in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries.

In a recent coffee-corner conversation, we found it somewhat surprising that Christians are quite unfamiliar with the “hidden sixth wound” of Jesus. This post attempts to fill that gap a little.

[1] According to the Saints

According to Saint Bernard of Clairvaux, who is one of a few sources on this hidden wound, he had in a vision asked Jesus which was his greatest unrecorded suffering and the wound that inflicted the most pain on him at Calvary and Jesus answered:

  • “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.”

The nearest biblical reference we have, and an oblique one at that, is the quotation above on Simon of Cyrene being compelled to carry the cross for Jesus. Tradition also has it that Jesus fell three times under the weight of the cross on the way to Calvary.

Anne Emmerich in the The Dolorous Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ written from her visions said:

  • “There was a frightful wound on the shoulder which had borne the weight of the Cross, and all the upper part of the body was covered with bruises and deeply marked with the blows of the scourges.”

It has also been reported that around 1947 or 1948, shortly after World War II was over, the young Polish priest who was studying in Rome, Fr. Karol Wojtyla (the future Saint Pope John Paul II), visited Padre Pio (the future Saint Pio) in San Giovanni Rotondo. During their conversation, Fr. Wojtyla asked Padre Pio which of his wounds caused the greatest suffering. Fr. Wojtyla expected Padre Pio to say 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.”

The significance of this revelation has been repeatedly enunciated in the past on two counts. First, this reveals the hidden wound borne by Saint Pio. Second, the future pope is perhaps the only one to whom Padre Pio ever revealed the existence of this secret wound.

[2] According to Science

Without direct biblical testimony, how can we tell that this is true? Scientifically, this sixth wound can be very well accounted for.

Our first case is a common shoulder injury case.

  • A lady had an injury to her right shoulder. She testified that the pain was so “intense, severe, and blinding” that “it was right up there with the late stages of labor (childbirth)”. The searing pain was so excruciating that it “literally caused me to see stars, to cry out dramatically,” and to nauseate. The X-ray technician told her that there is no pain like shoulder pain. In her testimony, she said instead of going in for the surgery which she needed but her life situation at that juncture simply could not permit her to do, she prayed to Saint Joseph and was completely healed.

The second case pertains to scientific evidence of another kind, related to the Turin Shroud. One article reported as follows:

  • Four university professors have published an article in “Injury” magazine revealing that the crucified man that was wrapped in the Turin Shroud suffered a dislocation of the humerus, the paralysis of one arm and a violent trauma to the neck and chest.
  • The person whose figure is imprinted on the Shroud is believed to have collapsed under the weight of the cross, or the “patibulum” as it is referred to in the study, the horizontal part of the cross. The Man of the Shroud the academics explain, fell “forwards” and suffered a “violent knock” “while falling to the ground.” “Neck and shoulder muscle paralysis” were “caused by a heavy object hitting the back between the neck and shoulder and causing displacement of the head from the side opposite to the shoulder depression.

On the basis of this report, we may draw the connection with the biblical passage on Simon of Cyrene, as the bearer of the cross would not be able to continue to carry the cross, at any rate not without help.

[3] Prayer to the Shoulder Wound of Jesus

  • “’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.”

[4] Hidden Wounds

The hidden sixth wound of the Lord, and the same hidden stigmata of Saint Pio, remind us of the secret wounds of suffering people in modern society. These wounds of modern living are not confined to physical wounds alone; interior sufferings are often very deep wounds of suffering humanity as well. Somehow, by the very nature of their hiddenness and secrecy, hidden wounds are private and confidential. On those counts, they are more painful to the sufferers who often have no choice but to remain reticent about those wounds, suffering in private and in silence. In the midst of all that human population, noise and busy activities characteristic of modern living, hidden wounds can be downright unbearable. Might we not add a prayer for all who suffer hidden wounds of all kinds?

  • Father of goodness and love, hear our prayers for the sick members of our community and for all who suffer hidden wounds of all kinds. Amid mental and physical suffering may they find consolation in your healing presence. Show your mercy as you close wounds, cure illness, make broken bodies whole and free downcast spirits. May these special people find lasting health and deliverance, and so join us in thanking you for all your gifts. We ask this through the Lord Jesus who healed those who believed. Amen.

Copyright © Dr. Jeffrey & Angie Goh, March 2018. All rights reserved.

You are most welcome to respond to this post. Email your comments to jeffangiegoh@gmail.com. You can also be dialogue partners in this Ephphatha Coffee-Corner Ministry by sending us questions for discussion.