January 11, 1998
Brother John Raymond

Franciscan Crown (Or Seraphic Rosary)

In 1973 the National Conference of Catholic Bishops issued a pastoral letter on the Blessed Virgin Mary called "Behold Your Mother, Woman of Faith." In this letter the bishops discuss the rich variety of extra-liturgical Marian devotions. In particular they mention the Dominican rosary of 15 decades. Most of us are, I hope, familiar with the 15 mystery of the Rosary. The bishops go on from the traditional Rosary to say, "Besides the precise Rosary pattern long known to Catholics, we can freely experiment. New sets of mysteries are possible." They mention how the traditional Rosary bypasses the whole public life of Our Lord. Could the Baptism of Our Lord be a new mystery? Why not!

New mysteries or rosary derivations are nothing new. For hundreds of years the Franciscans have prayed the Franciscan Crown, Seraphic Rosary or the Rosary of the Seven Joys of Our Lady as it has sometimes been called. What is it? I talked to a Franciscan and learned that the Rosary consists of seven decades in commemoration of the seven joys of the Blessed Virgin (1. The Annunciation 2. Visitation 3. Birth of Our Lord 4. Adoration of the Magi 5. Finding of the Child Jesus in the Temple 6. Mary meeting Our Risen Lord 7. The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin and her Coronation in heaven).

How did it originate? In the annals of the Franciscan Order one can find the following account. A youth named James was received into the Order of Friars Minor at Assisi in 1422. Previous to joining he had the pious practice of daily placing a wreath of flowers around a statue of Our Lady. In the novitiate he was not able to continue this practice. For this reason he thought of leaving the order. Kneeling at Mary's altar, he told his heavenly Mother what he planned to do and why. Then the Blessed Virgin appeared to him and said: "Remain here, and do not grieve because you can no longer weave a crown of flowers for me. I will teach you how you can daily weave a crown of roses that will not wither, and will be more pleasing to me and more meritorious for yourself." She taught him to pray the seven-decade Rosary with two additional Hail Marys in honor of the seventy-two years she lived upon this earth. From that time the practice of reciting the crown of the seven joys became widespread among the Franciscans.

The Franciscan Rosary with a set of seven-decade beads is made up of the following: The Apostles' Creed, Our Father and three Hail Marys normally prayed at the beginning of the Rosary. Then the mystery to be meditated upon is introduced for each decade. At the end of the seventh decade two Hail Marys are added to complete the number of years (72) that the Blessed Virgin is said to have lived on earth.

There are other ways of reciting the Franciscan Rosary but the one given here seems to be in more general use.

Perhaps you might want to pray the Franciscan Rosary or think of new mysteries to meditate on while praying the Rosary. The Baptism of Our Lord could be a good new mystery to start with.