The Franciscan Crown Rosary

 

By Nick Kovacs

 

One of the most powerful devotions we have as Catholics is the rosary, which sadly seems to have become a forgotten prayer. Mary, our teacher, leads us to Christ through the rosary, teaching us everything about her Son. There are many different types of rosaries.  The Franciscan Crown is a favorite among Franciscans, and the Dominican Rosary is another popular one that most people usually use.  

As we look deep into the rosary and study the mysteries, we can actually see that the rosary is Eucharistic centered. St. Pope John Paul II in Paragraph 4 of ROSARIUM VIRGINIS MARIAE, sees the rosary being Eucharistic centered, when he writes:

There are some who think that the centrality of the Liturgy, rightly stressed by the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, necessarily entails giving lesser importance to the Rosary. Yet, as Pope Paul VI made clear, not only does this prayer not conflict with the Liturgy, it sustains it, since it serves as an excellent introduction and a faithful echo of the Liturgy, enabling people to participate fully and interiorly in it and to reap its fruits in their daily lives.

Even though the Pope's Eucharistic emphasis in ROSARIUM VIRGINIS MARIAE is mainly discussing the Dominican Rosary, I see that St. John Paul II's insight can be connected to the Franciscan Crown Rosary too. To  see the Franciscan Crown Rosary as being Eucharistic centered, I have prepared reflections for each of the 7 mysteries of the Franciscan Crown Rosary. Before providing the reflections, it is important to first discuss how to pray the Franciscan Crown. Read: "How to pray the Franciscan Crown Rosary" for more info. Now with this information, we can discuss the reflections. The 7 mysteries of the Franciscan Crown are as follows:

 

The Annunciation

In Luke 1:26-35 we see the first mystery of the Franciscan Crown Rosary, the Annunciation. Here St. Gabriel tells Mary that she has been chosen by God to conceive the Messiah. Mary is confused about how this will be possible, because according to tradition, she had already been presented to the temple to take vows of virginity. Mary, being an obedient servant, accepted God's message and will. 

How does this first mystery connect to the Eucharist? What we see in the first mystery of the rosary is an obedient servant offering herself to God, allowing herself to be used as His instrument. When the Holy Spirit overshadowed her and Jesus was conceived, she basically received a special Holy Communion. Mary received the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus in a special way. It is of course important to remember that the genetic material for Christ's body came 100 percent from Mary. Without Mary, we would not have Jesus' humanity, nor the gift of the Eucharist. Mary is the milk, which made our Heavenly Bread.

When we meditate on the first mystery of the rosary, we must first meditate on the reality that God has become man and turns bread and wine into Himself. When we meditate on the first mystery, we should focus on the reality that Jesus, who is truly God and man, transforms bread and wine into Himself. In this way, we almost have "two incarnations", the first being Christ's coming to us as a man, and the second being Christ's coming to us in the appearance of bread and wine.

This first mystery also teaches us to be obedient to God's will, and to be submissive, just like the Blessed Mother. Mary completely trusted God even though she did not fully comprehend what God was asking of her. Through her deep faith and trust in God, Mary completely surrendered herself to His will, telling God that she is His servant and would do whatever He asked of her. As servants of God, we must become like Mary, and completely submit ourselves to God's will in our lives.

This call to obedience is even connected to receiving the Eucharist. When a Catholic says Amen to the statement, "The body of Christ", he/she is saying that he/she believes in the real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist, that he/she wants to submit himself/herself to the authority of Jesus Christ through the Catholic Church, that he/she wants unity with Jesus and fellow Catholics, and that he/she believes all of the doctrines of the Church.

So to conclude, we must be like Mary, and submit ourselves to the Eucharistic Jesus. When we do this, God enters into our souls, touching our hearts in the same way He touched Mary's at the Annunciation. Christ can only enter into our hearts if we let Him in. If we let God into our hearts and are submissive to His will, great things will happen in our lives.

The Visitation

Upon receiving Holy Communion through the Incarnation of Christ, what did Mary do next? She did not go around bragging to the world that she just conceived the Second Person of the Trinity. What did Mary do? She immediately went out to spread the Gospel to her cousin Elizabeth (Luke 1:39-57). Mary's inspiration came to her through the graces from her union with Jesus in her womb. Mary could have resisted the spiritual prompting to visit her cousin, but she did not. In this way, Mary's act of evangelization is Eucharistic-centered (CCC-1324). 

As faithful Catholics, we must strive to be like Mary, by allowing the graces from the Blessed Sacrament to prompt us to spread the Gospel:

"Through the eucharistic prayer, the bread and wine are transformed into Christ, then we are transformed (and) called to transform the world. The Eucharist is not a passive happening. It calls us to be transformed and changed."  (A quotation from Msgr. Michael Reed-Fmr. Rector of The Cathedral of The Sacred Heart-Pensacola, FL-"The Florida Catholic", 10/28/2005)

So when we live the Gospel every moment of our lives, no matter the situation, and are willing to become God's instruments, so that through us, God can transform the world into a Culture of Life, we are Eucharistic-centered. To help us increase our willingness to evangelize, we need to spend some time in adoration with the Eucharistic Jesus. To help us see the importance of Eucharistic Adoration in this mystery, let us examine the Gospel of Luke in greater detail.

The Church has taught that the New Testament is hidden in the Old Testament and that the New Testament fulfills the Old Testament.

The Church, as early as apostolic times, and then constantly in her Tradition, has illuminated the unity of the divine plan in the two Testaments through typology, which discerns in God's works of the Old Covenant prefigurations of what he accomplished in the fullness of time in the person of his incarnate Son. (CCC-128)
 

By using typology, consider the fulfillment of the Old Testament in the words of St. Elizabeth upon seeing Mary. 

In 2 Samuel 6, the Ark of the Covenant is brought back from being captured. God kills Uzzah for touching the Ark of the Covenant, which is about to fall off the cart that is transporting it. God kills Uzzah because in that time it was a serious liturgical offense to use a cart to carry the Ark instead of the traditional poll. It was also a great offense to even touch the Ark. Out of fear and respect for the Ark, especially after seeing what happened to Uzzah, King David says in verse 9 of Samuel, "How can the ark of the LORD come to me?" In Luke 1:43, St. Elizabeth says to Mary, "And how does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?" Do you see a connection? Using typology, we can see that the Old Testament incident of the Ark being brought to David is fulfilled in the New Testament with Mary as the New Ark coming to Elizabeth. 

To understand the importance of the Ark in the Old Testament, it is important to review what it contained. The Old Testament Ark contained the 10 Commandments, Aaron's priestly rod, and some Manna. Tradition teaches us that the Ark of the Covenant is fulfilled in the New Testament through Mary. Mary is the new Ark of the Covenant; containing Jesus in her womb. Jesus is the fulfillment of what the contents in the Ark represented. The 10 Commandments represented the Covenant and the Mosaic Law, Aaron's rod represented the Old Testament Jewish priesthood, and the Manna represented God feeding His people. Jesus Christ fulfills what the contents represent; the Law incarnated, the Eternal High Priest, and the Bread of Life (Eucharist) that has come down from Heaven.

See the typology? The Holy Spirit helps St. Elizabeth see that Mary is the New Ark of the Covenant, and is bringing God to her. We can see that Elizabeth is greatly touched in a very reverent and respectful manner of Mary's gesture, just like King David.

Through using typology, we can see how the 2nd mystery of the rosary emphasizes the importance of Eucharistic Adoration. We should go often to Eucharistic Adoration and spend time with Christ. By spending this time with Him (Eucharistic Adoration), we become more holy, for Christ is showering us with graces, making us become Eucharistic-centered like Mary and Elizabeth.  Let us go to Eucharistic Adoration and spend some time with Jesus.

 

The Nativity

The third mystery of the rosary is the Nativity (Luke 2:1-20). This mystery is interesting, for it clearly gives concrete proof that The Eternal Word; who is the Second Person of the Trinity, has become flesh. We can actually touch God with our human senses in the mystery of the incarnation, for God is now one of us. The concept of the incarnation; which is God becoming man, is expanded upon through the understanding of the Eucharist, where we can also physically touch God with our senses.

Jesus took the flesh of Mary and used it to become a man, making God fully present with His people. Just like how the Eternal Word (Jesus) gave the commands such as, "let there be light" at the time of creation, the Eternal Word who spoke these words to bring forth existence, uses the Ministerial Priesthood as His instrument to transform bread and wine into Himself, by speaking the commanding words; "this is My Body", "this is My Blood".

By denying Jesus in the Eucharist, one denies the concept of God becoming man; for the two concepts are interwoven together and can not be separated. It is important to mention that the name Bethlehem, and the image of the manger, actually has Eucharistic symbolism.  Bethlehem means House of Bread, and the manger in the stable where Mary and Joseph placed Jesus, was actually used previously by the animals to eat food out of. This is not a coincidence at all, with the name of Bethlehem and the manger showing symbolisms of food. These interesting little facts were something the Eternal Father planned out from the beginning, so that the framework for the Eucharist would start at the beginning of Christ's human existence, and penetrate throughout it.

What we must take from this element of having the framework for the Eucharist starting at the beginning of Christ's birth (The Nativity), and penetrating throughout His entire life, is that we are called to become holy like Christ. This means that to be holy and Eucharistic like Jesus, we must offer ourselves as a living sacrifice (Romans 12:1) to Jesus, and be obedient to the 10 Commandments.

So to conclude, love the Eucharistic Lord, and allow Him to enter your life. When Jesus is allowed to touch a person's soul, great things happen to that person.

 

The Three Kings Adore Jesus

The fourth mystery is the Three Kings; a.k.a. Wise Men or Magi, adoring the Divine Baby (Matthew 2:1-12). During Christmas, three kings from different parts of the world, follow the Bethlehem Star and arrive in Bethlehem to pay homage to the Divine Child. Imagine, mighty kings publicly admitted through their adoration of Jesus, that they are not the true rulers of the world, Jesus is. The Eucharistic connection in this mystery, is that because the Eucharist is the real presence of Jesus, when we go to Mass, we are to pay homage to the Eucharistic Christ, and admit that we are not God, only Jesus is. So to conclude, if we want to be disciples of Christ, we must adore His real presence in the Eucharist.

 

The Finding of Jesus in the Temple

The fifth mystery is the Finding of Christ in the Temple (Luke 2:41-52). This scene is where Jesus has been lost in the temple in Jerusalem for three days, and Mary and Joseph, who have been frantically searching for Jesus, finally find Him preaching in the temple. We see a great removal of the anxiety and fear in Mary and Joseph when Jesus was finally found.  Sometimes when we experience anxiety or fear, we feel that Christ has run away from us, and we can't find Him.  However, we forget that He has never left us, and that He is in the Tabernacle, located in His Father's House; the Church.  When we go to Mass or spend time with Jesus in adoration, our sufferings disappear, and we are filled with the same type of joy that Mary and Joseph experienced. This mystery teaches us that whenever Christ feels distant from us in our times of suffering, we must remember that He is always at His Father's House; veiled in the Eucharist, and we should actively seek Him out in order to find our spiritual rest. We sadly live in a time, where people; instead of seeking Christ in His Catholic Church, seek a counterfeit version of the Gospel, embracing falsehood. If we wish to find the truth in our life, it can only be found in Jesus Christ! Go seek the Eucharistic Jesus, who is truth incarnated!

 

Mary Sees the Resurrected Jesus

The sixth mystery deals with Mary seeing her Son risen from the dead (General Audience - 21 May 1997 by St. Pope John Paul II). The Eucharistic connection to this mystery, is that the Eucharist preparers us for our resurrection. Just like a newborn baby needs to be conditioned to eat solid foods; so do we need to be conditioned to enter Eternal Life. Through the Eucharist, Jesus transforms us to be more like Him, conditioning us for Eternal Life.

 

The Assumption and Coronation of Mary

In this final mystery, Mary is rewarded by Jesus for her faithfulness to Him. She is assumed into Heaven, body and soul; and is crowned by Jesus, Queen of the Universe and Heaven (Revelation 12:1). The Eucharistic connection to this mystery, is the resurrection, and eternal life. The Eucharistic Jesus promises us, that if we remain faithful to Him; at our resurrection, like Mary, we too will be rewarded for our faithfulness.