The Feast of the Five Holy Wounds – 17 March – Celebrated on Friday after the Third Sunday in Lent
The revival of religious life and the zealous activity of St. Bernard and St. Francis in the Twelfth and Thirteenth Centuries, together with the enthusiasm of the Crusaders returning from the Holy Land, gave a wonderful impulse to devotion to the Passion of Jesus Christ and, particularly, to practices in honour of the Wounds in His Sacred Hands, Feet and Side. The reason for this devotion was well expressed at a later period in the memorial of the Polish Bishops to Pope Clement XIII:
“Moreover, the Five Wounds of Christ are honoured by a Mass and an Office and, on account of these Wounds, we venerate also the Feet, Hands and Side of the most loving Redeemer, these parts of Our Lord’s Most Holy Body being held more worthy of a special cult than the others, precisely because they suffered special pains for our salvation and because they are decorated with these wounds as with an illustrious mark of love. Therefore, with living faith they cannot be looked upon, without a special feeling of religion and devotion.” (Nilles, “De rat. fest. SS. Cord. Jesu et Mariae” I 126).
Many beautiful medieval prayers in honour of the Sacred Wounds, including some attributed to St Clare of Assisi (Indulgenced on 21 November 1885), have been preserved. St Mechtilde and St Gertrude the Great of Helfta, were devoted to the Holy Wounds, the latter Saint reciting daily, a prayer in honour of the 5466 Wounds, which, according to tradition, were inflicted on Jesus during His Passion. In the Fourteenth Century, it was customary in southern Germany, to recite fifteen Pater Nosters each day (which thus amounted to 5475 in the course of a year) in memory of the Sacred Wounds.
In his 1761 book, The Passion and Death of Jesus Christ, St Alphonsus Maria de Liguori, Founder of the Redemptorist Fathers, listed, among various pious exercises, the Little Chaplet of the Five Wounds of Jesus Crucified. St Alphonsus wrote the devotional as a Meditation on the Five Piercing Wounds that Christ suffered during His Crucifixion.
The earliest evidence of a Feast in honour of the Wounds of Christ comes from the Monastery of Fritzlar, Thuringia, where in the Fourteenth Century, a Feast was kept on the Friday after the Octave of Corpus Christi.
In the Fifteenth Century it had spread to different countries, to Salisbury (England), Huesca and Jaca (Spain), Vienna, and Tours and was included in the Breviaries of the Carmelites, Franciscans, Dominicans and other orders
The Feast of the Five Wounds, celebrated since the Middle Ages at Evora and elsewhere in Portugal on 6 February (at Lisbon on the Friday after Ash-Wednesday) is of historical interest. It commemorates the founding of the Portuguese kingdom in 1139, when, before the battle on the plains of Ourique, Christ appeared to Alfonso Henriquez, promising victory over the Moors and commanding him to insert into the coat of arms of the new kingdom the emblem of the Five Wounds. This feast is celebrated today in all Portuguese-speaking countries. In parts of France the Feast is celebrated on for the Friday after Ash Wednesday, on which day it is still kept in many dioceses
Since 1831, when the Feasts in honour of the Passion were adopted at Rome by the Passionists and the City, this Feast was assigned to the Friday after the Third Sunday in Lent. The Office is one of those bequeathed to us by the Middle Ages. As this Feast is not celebrated in the entire Church, the Office and Mass are placed in the appendix of the Breviary and the Missal.
O God, Who by the Passion of Thine Only Son
and by the pouring out of the Blood of His Five Wounds,
hast restored human nature lost by sin,
grant unto us, we beseech Thee
that by venerating the protective Wounds on earth,
we may, thereby, merit the fruits
of the same Precious Blood in Heaven.
Through the same Lord Jesus Christ,
Who liveth and reigneth with Thee
in the unity of the Holy Ghost,
One God, world without end.