My friend Father Pio Hoffman of the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal introduced me to the “Seven Decade” Franciscan Crown Rosary. It’s a beautiful tradition and today (Aug 26) is the devotion’s “feast day” – originally authorized by Pope Saint Pius X (himself a Third Order Franciscan).
What is the “Seven Decade” Franciscan Crown Rosary?
The Blessed Virgin herself pointed out that the Franciscan Crown, like the Dominican Rosary (the version we all know), is a devotion pleasing to her. In 1442 a young man – known now as “James of the Rosary” – entered the order had been a fervent client of our Blessed Lady and had decorated her statue daily with a “crown” of flowers. Since he was not permitted to continue this practice in the novitiate, he thought of leaving the order. But first he knelt before the statue of Our Lady to say a prayer.
There 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.”
The Blessed Mother instructed Friar John to pray seven decades in honor of her seven Joys and that this would serve as a daily crown for her head.
Description of the Seven Decade Franciscan Crown Rosary
The Seven Decade “Franciscan Crown” Rosary consists of seventy-two Hail Mary’s in honor of the seventy-two years which Our Lady spent on earth (according to tradition). The tradition seems to have already existed in first half of the fifteenth century, for St. Bernardin and St. John Capistran both promoted the devotion through their preaching.
The Franciscan Crown commemorates seven joys of Mary on seven decades (i.e. ten Hail Mary’s spaced by one Our Father). They are:
- Annunciation of Gabriel to Mary
- Visitation of Mary to Elizabeth
- Nativity of Christ
- Adoration of the Magi
- Finding of Jesus in the Temple
- Resurrection of Our Lord
- Assumption & Coronation of Our Lady
At the end, two Hail Mary’s are added (to bring the number to 72), and the usual prayers for the Holy Father are made (Our Father and Hail Mary).
The devotion of the Seven Decade Franciscan Rosary is recommended for Saturdays – it might serve as a nice varietal in your commitment to praying the “normal” (i.e. Dominican) five decade Rosary. You can pray the Franciscan Crown Rosary on a five decade Rosary – just loop around and pick up two extra decades. Close with the final two Hail Mary’s. And if you like, you can make or buy a special Seven Decade Rosary for this purpose.