Twenty years ago this spring I traveled to Rome for Holy Week and Easter. I was studying abroad that year and before I left I told all my friends at the Newman Center that I was going to see the Pope for Easter and I’d love if anyone would like to join me.
One friend did take me up on the offer, but I had a few days before he arrived to explore on my own. Neither of us had ever been to Italy before, so I didn’t want to see all the “big stuff” without him. Therefore I tried to find more out of the way places he wouldn’t mind missing.
When I discovered that Assisi was just a (relatively) short train ride away, I jumped at the chance to head out there to explore. I didn’t have a guidebook and didn’t really know what to expect, so it was truly an adventure led by the Holy Spirit. While in one of the basilicas, I felt a nudge to buy one of the handmade wooden rosaries. That was odd, because I’d already purchased some at the Vatican. I didn’t want to ignore the Lord, so I got it anyway, figuring He had someone in mind.
As it turns out, St. Francis was my friend’s patron saint and he’d always wanted to go to Assisi. Unfortunately, I had chosen the wrong place to visit without him! But I did find out who the rosary was meant for, and my friend was grateful to receive it!
After Easter, when we’d both flown back to our respective schools, I got a message from him that he tried to pray the rosary I had given him while listening to a recording. He told me he got to the end of the spoken rosary and still had 2 decades of beads left, so I must not have noticed I gave him a defective rosary! It had looked normal to me at the time. I was just as surprised as he was to find out it was unusual.
I learned later that it wasn’t defective – nobody got overzealous while stringing beads and forgot to count. Instead, it was for a special devotion especially dear to the Franciscan order. The Franciscan Crown is a seven-decade rosary dedicated to either the Seven Joys or Seven Sorrows of Mary. As September is traditionally dedicated to the Seven Sorrows of Mary, now is a fitting time to learn about and pray this devotion, especially on the feast of Our Lady of Sorrows on September 15.
The Franciscan Crown is prayed much like a regular rosary except each decade recalls either a joy or sorrow of our Blessed Mother. These joys or sorrows are meditated upon while praying the Hail Marys.
The Seven Joys:
- The Annunciation
- The Visitation
- The Birth of Jesus
- The adoration of the Magi
- The finding of Jesus in the Temple
- The Resurrection
- The Assumption
The Seven Sorrows:
- Prophecy of Simeon
- Flight into Egypt
- Jesus is lost in the Temple
- Mary meets Jesus as He carries His cross
- Crucifixion of Jesus
- Mary receives Jesus’ body
- Mary watches the burial of Jesus
As with the standard rosary, the Franciscan Crown invites us to stand with Mary at significant points in our salvation history. We can use the opportunity to ask her to draw us closer to her Son.
So, if you are gifted a rosary and discover it has too many decades, don’t worry that it came from the “damaged goods” section of your local Catholic bookstore. Rather, know it is part of a beautiful Franciscan tradition in which all are invited to partake!