The Chaplet of the Five Wounds was first approved by a Decree of Pope Pius VII, dated January 22, 1822. According to this earliest form, the beads consisted of five sections, and each section consisted of five beads, on each of which was said an Our Father, Hail Mary and Glory be (to the Father). Between each of the five sections, one Hail Mary was said in honor of Our Lady of Sorrows.
In this form the Chaplet of the Five Wounds was found too long. To render its use somewhat easier, the Father General of the Congregation asked Pope Leo XII, viva voce, that, without losing the indulgences, it might henceforth suffice to say only a Glory be to the Father on each bead, with a Hail Mary between the sections. Witness to this concession exists in the Platea of Saints John and Paul. “After the election of Cardinal Delia Genga, the Cardinal Vicar, to the Pontificate under the name of Leo XII, the Most Reverend Father General, together with his Consultor, Father Luke, went to call upon him. His Holiness received them with evident affection. Later, when the Holy Father came to San Gregorio, during the Octave of All Souls, the whole religious community went to kiss his feet in the Monks’ sacristy. Again the Pope expressed the affectionate esteem he had for the Congregation. Then, in the hope of facilitating (the use of the Five Wound Beads) and thus promoting more widely the devotion to the Passion of Our Lord, the General besought and obtained his wish that, it be sufficient to recite five Glory be to the Fathers and one Hail Mary on each section of the Beads in order to gain the indulgences attached to their recitation.”
This concession of Pope Leo XII, rendering the recitation of the Five Wound Beads much easier and shorter, was later expressed in the Decree of approval of the same Pontiff. It is dated December 20, 1823 and contains a quasi-definition of the Chaplet, in these words: “This Chaplet is a formula of prayer containing five sections of five beads each. On each bead one Glory be to the Father is said, and between the sections one Hail Mary in honor of the Sorrowful Virgin. During each of the sections the Wounds of Our Lord Jesus Christ are piously meditated upon.”
This manner of saying the Five Wound Beads, approved by Leo XII in 1823, has not changed up to the present time. The later Decree of Pope Pius IX concerns only the Indulgences, leaving the Beads themselves untouched.
During the recitation of the Five Wound Beads, it is required that one meditate on the Wounds of Our Lord. This meditation is necessary in order to gain the indulgences, as we draw from the Decree of Pope Leo XII. It was in order to render this meditation easier for the faithful that the General, Paul Aloysius of the Virgin Mary, printed short prayers in honor of the Five Wounds, though it is evident from the Decree that such prayers were not specified in order to gain the indulgences.
While on the subject of the meditation necessary while reciting the Beads, it is well to mention that the documents make no mention of any definite order in which the Wounds of Our Lord are to be recalled. Ordinarily we find that the medals are so arranged that we meditate first on the Wounds in the Left Foot of Our Blessed Savior, then on that in His Right Foot. Third and fourth place are given to the Wounds in the Left and Right Hand Respectively. The Fifth Wound is the Wound in the Sacred Side. Obviously, however, this order is not prescribed that the indulgences be gained.
What these indulgences are we draw from two Pontifical Decrees, both of which have been mentioned above: that of Pope Leo XII, of 20 December 1823, and that of Pope Pius IX of 11 August 1851. These two Decrees list the following indulgences
I. A Plenary Indulgence, once a day, be gained:
a) On one Friday during the month of March, by those who have recited the Beads at least ten times during the same month.
b) On the Feasts of the Finding and Exaltation of the Holy Cross (September 14), the Nativity of Our Lord (December 25), the Epiphany (January 6/Celebration January 3, 2016),the Most Holy Name of Jesus (January 3), the Resurrection,Ascension (May 4, 2016), Corpus Christi (May 26, 2016) and the Transfiguration of Our Lord Jesus Christ (August 6) or during their Octaves, by those who have recited the Beads devoutly at least ten times during each month.
c) On the day on which they fulfill their Easter Duty, by those who recite the Beads during the time from Passion Sunday to Holy Saturday inclusively.
All the above indulgences require, furthermore, the general conditions of Confession, Holy Communion, visit to some Church or public oratory and prayer for the intention of the Pope.
II. A Partial Indulgence of:
a) Seven years and seven quarantines, each day from Passion Sunday to Holy Saturday inclusively, under the usual conditions, by those who recite the Beads devoutly.
b) One year, once a day, during all the rest of the year, by those who have recited the Beads devoutly, and with sorrow of heart. All the indulgences attached to the recitation of the Five Wound Beads may be gained for oneself, or applied to the Suffering Souls in Purgatory.
In order that the Beads may be blessed, or that one gain the indulgences attached to the recitation of the Five Wound Beads, it is required that:
a) The Beads be blessed by the General of the Congregation, or by some other priest of the same Congregation delegated by him. This delegation is today given to all the Fathers, as is evident from the Passionist Collectio Facultatum et Indulgentiarum, n. 26.
b) The Beads be made in the form prescribed by the Church, i.e., that they be arranged in five sections of five beads each, and that the beads be made of some solid material, such as iron, wood, ebony, coral, etc . . . connected by a solid cord or wire. Those likewise may be blessed which are made of solid glass, but not those (glass) which are hollow.
c) If the connection is broken, whether deliberately, so that the beads can again be connected by chain, or indeliberately and accidentally, the Beads do not lose their blessing or indulgences, since they maintain their same moral form.
d) The condition on the part of the person gaining the indulgences, that he meditate on the Wounds of Our Crucified Savior, has already been mentioned.
Rite of Blessing
The Rite of Blessing the Five Wound Beads is a very short one, but there is no obligation to make use of it. A single sign of the Cross suffices, both for the blessing and the application of the indulgences.
The beads are then sprinkled with holy water.
New Beads Condemned
It is well to note here that the recent (1939) decree of the Holy Office condemning a certain “Rosary of the Holy Wounds,” does not refer to our Passionist Five Wound Beads. This is evident from the fact that the Cardinals of the Holy Office, in their decree forbidding the new Rosary, were following out an earlier decree, of May 26, 1937, “de novis cultus seu devotionis formulis non introducendis, deque inolitis in re abusibus tollendis.” On the other hand, our Five Wound Beads has been approved by special documents by the Holy See, and is found in the Collection of Prayers and Pious Works, n. 96, which the Sacred Congregation of Indulgences declared genuine and authentic by its decree of June 23, 1898. In the latest authentic collection, edited by the Sacred Penitentiary on December 31, 1937, there is no mention of the Five Wound Beads, because this collection excludes indulgences “the gaining of which require the blessing of some priest, whether regular or secular, imparted to the object of piety.”
The decree of the Holy Office; therefore, seems to refer to a certain new form of devotion, called the Rosary of the Holy Wounds or the Rosary of Mercy. This new Chaplet, consisting of ejaculatory prayers only, and claiming many magnificent promises from God, was achieving much publicity during the period shortly before the decree.
From all that has been said, it is evident that the Five Wound Beads is a very practical means of pursuing the purpose for which it was instituted — promoting devotion to the Passion of Our Divine Lord. The time required to recite the Beads is very short, and the meditation required is very simple, because of the very specific nature of its object — the Five Wounds. Moreover, the indulgences attached to the recitation of the Beads are not unattractive. Nevertheless, it seems that, in this country at least, this Passionist devotion is at a comparatively low ebb. Undoubtedly this is due in part to the ever increasing interest in the Rosary of Our Blessed Lady, with which the Five Wound Beads was never meant to compete. It may be due also to a lack of interest in the Beads, or even to ignorance on the part of many of us. Whatever the cause, a little zeal will show us what an excellent means we have to spread devotion to the Passion and Sufferings of Christ.