St. Francis was born in 1181 Giovanni di Bernardone, in honor of St. John the Baptist, in France to a French mother and Italian father who was a wealthy merchant. He was so happy with his business successes in France, and his French wife, that he kept calling this son Francesco, who was one of seven children. Francesco, or Francis, led a dissipated life for a while but after an encounter with a beggar began to think of deeper things. After serving in the military, he finally renounced his patrimony and lived like a beggar helping the sick and poor around Assisi. He also restored several churches in the area in particular the San Damiano church. After hearing a sermon on poverty, and the simple life of Jesus, he devoted himself to poverty. He never became a priest and lived as ‘lesser brothers’ to the clergy but his order was recognized by the Pope. His rosary beads were rustic wood on rough cord and this has come to be called the Franciscan rosary.
Today the Franciscan rosary comes in many styles but they all have wooden beads with cord connections. There are St. Francis medals and Miraculous Medals attached but the crucifix is usually wood. There is one available that is brown fossil beads with the image of Mary in the center. The crucifix is the same design as in San Damiano where St. Francis had a vision to rebuild the Church. This rosary also has a 3rd class relic attached, which means a tiny piece of cloth that has been purposefully touched to a first class relic of the saint.
Another Franciscan rosary called the Franciscan Crown Rosary started in 1422 when a novice to the Franciscan order was asked to stop weaving flower garlands for the statue of Mary when he entered the order. He was sad about that and was going to quit the order but he got a vision of Mary telling him that his prayers were like flowers that stayed fresh and gave him a particular prayer which he started praying immediately. The novice master saw an angel weaving flower garlands above him and putting them on his head. When the reason was told, all the Franciscan monks started reciting the prayer. The Franciscan Crown rosary is for counting this particular prayer and is still made today.
From Rome you can get a Franciscan rosary made from olive wood. It has Our Lady of Guadalupe centerpiece with Sacred Heart, Our Lady of Grace, St. Jude and St. Benedict images on the Our Father beads. This is a real treasure from Italy. There are also rosaries that simulate wood but are brown stones such as cat’s eyes with sterling sliver connections and St. Francis center piece. It gives a humble impression but is not the usual wooden beads.
The rosary is not only beads but also prayer. It is a devotion of the Catholic Church and there is one called a Rosary of St. Francis. This Franciscan rosary is a prayer that brings all creatures together under God. St. Francis is the patron saint of animals and the environment, Mother Earth, and in this role is very popular today in these times of environmental uncertainty.
This article was published on Monday 08 February, 2010.