Pray the Rosary, Franciscan style
A crown of prayers for Mary
There’s more than one way to pray the Rosary. If you have a special devotion to St. Francis of Assisi, whose feast we celebrate on Oct. 4, or if you’d simply like to explore a different angle on a familiar form of prayer, the Franciscan Crown Rosary may be for you.
The Franciscan Crown celebrates the Seven Joys of Mary:
- The Annunciation
- The Visitation
- The Birth of Our Lord Jesus Christ
- The Adoration of the Magi
- The Finding of Jesus in the Temple
- The Resurrection
- The Assumption of Mary
To pray the Franciscan Crown, you begin on the Our Father bead just before the medal, announcing the first joy, then praying the Our Father, 10 Hail Marys, and one Glory Be. Continue in the same way through the other six joys until you reach the medal. Then skip the Our Father bead closest to the medal (you’ve already prayed that one) and pray two more Hail Marys, to bring the total to 72 Hail Marys. According to legend, Mary lived 72 years on earth, so this practice honors that legend. Finish the Franciscan Crown Rosary by praying one Our Father, one Hail Mary, and one Glory Be for the intentions of the Holy Father.
There are several customs for prayers on the cross at the end of the Franciscan Crown. Often a simple Sign of the Cross is made to finish out the prayers. St. Francis of Assisi’s Prayer Before the Cross can also be used here:
We adore you, Most Holy Lord Jesus Christ, here and in all your churches throughout the world, and we bless you, because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world.
Why meditate on Mary’s joys?
“I think the Franciscan Crown can invite us to a particularly affective kind of meditation,” Fr. Charles Sammons, OFM Cap., explained. “We can meditate on the Seven Joys of Mary as mysteries of the faith, certainly, but we can also meditate on Our Lady’s joy itself. What was the particular joy in her heart during the Visitation or at the birth of Jesus? Such a meditation can assist us in deepening our own Marian vocation, which is after all the vocation of all Christians, called to do spiritually what Mary did historically — to receive the Word of God, nourish it within, bear the presence of God out into the world, mourn to see it disregarded and suffering, and rejoice in its power to bring new life out of death.”
Fr. Charles continued, “The Franciscan Crown offers us a chance to meditate on certain mysteries that we do not find in the Dominican Rosary [traditional Rosary], such as the Adoration of the Magi.”
“I do pray the traditional Rosary occasionally, but I pray the Crown more,” Sr. Catherine Mary Raymond, a Franciscan Sister of Peace, told Catholic Digest. “I like that the Franciscan Crown is not just a Marian devotion, but a Franciscan Marian devotion. It combines and focuses me on two important people in my life: Mary and Francis. I try to pray it daily. I know the traditional Rosary is a Marian devotion, but the Crown seems to be even more so since the joys all center around Mary.”
I like that the Franciscan Crown is not just a Marian devotion, but a Franciscan Marian devotion.
“Although she began her teenage years with fear and turmoil, Mary also had seven joys. I like to concentrate on her joys,” said Sr. Christina Schoen, FSP. While the Franciscan Crown centers on Mary’s seven joys, most of those events did not come without difficulty.
Sr. Catherine Mary noted that the seven joys show “how Mary found joy in ordinary experiences of life — and even in some experiences that don’t seem at first glance to be joyous at all. Some of the events they commemorate must have brought mixed feelings. The Annunciation bestowed a great honor and blessing on Mary, but it also put her in a difficult position in her family and her society — yet to her, it was a joy. The Visitation was a long, hard trek for her; the birth of Jesus was probably downright grueling; the Adoration of the Magi soon necessitated the flight into Egypt.” The Finding of Jesus in the Temple followed an agonizing three days of searching for him, and this foreshadowed the agony of observing firsthand Jesus’ passion and crucifixion.
Why is it called a ‘Crown’?
Franciscan lore includes the story of a 15th-century novice who had a deep devotion to the Blessed Mother. He would regularly look for flowers to weave into a crown and place on a statue in her honor, but he was told that his responsibilities as a friar would not allow time for him to make these crowns. This led him to despair, and he considered abandoning his vocation.
According to the story told by Franciscan historian Luke Wadding (1588–1657), the Virgin Mary appeared to the young man and told him that he could honor her by weaving a crown of prayers instead of flowers. She then instructed him to meditate on her Seven Joys. As he prayed, his novice master watched an angel weaving a crown of roses, with a golden lily after every 10th rose. The angel finished by placing the crown on the young man’s head. (Learn more by visiting CDmag.net/2LeMTel.)
Who prays the Franciscan Crown?
Fr. Charles observed that, among Franciscan friars, the Crown seems to be more often prayed by the Conventual Franciscans than the Friars Minor (OFMs) and Capuchins. Franciscan sisters, who are part of the Franciscan Third Order Regular, often pray the Crown as part of their regular prayer routine.
Secular Franciscans are not required to pray this specific Rosary, though it is a beloved prayer tradition in the order. As they follow the example of St. Francis, Secular Franciscans are called to honor the Blessed Mother in their rule of life:
The Virgin Mary, humble servant of the Lord, was open to his every word and call. She was embraced by Francis with indescribable love and declared the protectress and advocate of his family. The Secular Franciscans should express their ardent love for her by imitating her complete self-giving and by praying earnestly and confidently. (Rule of the Secular Franciscan Order, 9)
“Aside from focusing me on Mary, praying the Franciscan Crown also focuses me on Francis since it’s a particularly Franciscan prayer form,” Sr. Catherine Mary explained. “As Franciscans we are to follow in Francis’ footsteps, to imitate his life. That’s a tall order for the best of us. But to imitate him in his well-known devotion to Mary through praying the Crown is one small, concrete thing we all can do, whatever our life circumstances are.”
You don’t need to be a Franciscan, though, to pray this Rosary. Anyone can benefit from meditating on Mary’s joys. “Go ahead and try it, maybe on what would otherwise be one of your joyful mysteries days (Mondays, Saturdays, and during the Advent and Christmas seasons),” Fr. Charles advised. “You don’t need a special, seven-decade rosary; a single- or five-decade one works just fine.”
HOW TO PRAY THE FRANCISCAN CROWN:
What does a Franciscan Crown rosary look like?
A Franciscan Crown rosary differs from a traditional Dominican rosary in two ways.
First, it includes seven decades rather than five.
Second, the tail of the rosary is configured a bit differently. Beginning at the medal, it is made up of one large bead for the Our Father, two small beads for the Hail Marys, one Our Father, one Hail Mary, then the cross.
“If you do find you appreciate the Franciscan Crown and look for one for yourself, be sure it’s built correctly,” Fr. Charles Sammons, OFM Cap., said. It’s not a matter of simply adding two more decades to a regular rosary, he explained. “I’ve seen many that have the beads between the center piece and the crucifix in the one-three-one configuration of the Dominican rosary, which is incorrect for the Franciscan Crown.”
Where can I get a Franciscan Crown rosary?
Many crafters who create rosaries will accept custom orders for Franciscan Crown rosaries. One such artisan is Barbara Stein, of the Mary Devotions shop on Etsy at CDmag.net/2LePntb.
Franciscan Crown rosaries are also available in these online Catholic gift shops:
You may also find Franciscan Crown rosaries at local Catholic stores.