Feast of the Seven Joys of Mary

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Feast of the Seven Joys of Mary

From a relatively recent time, August 27 has been kept by the Franciscans as the Feast of the Seven Joys of the Virgin Mary. As an expression of the Seraphic Order’s devotional life, it corresponds to the Feast of the Holy Rosary, which began among the Dominicans, and the Feast on September 15th of the Seven Sorrows of the Mary, which was originally the Patronal Feast of the Servites. The principal contribution of the Franciscans to the Church’s cycle of Marian feasts is, of course, the Immaculate Conception, whereas the liturgical celebration of the Seven Joys came later. It was granted to them in 1906, and at first fixed to the Sunday after the Octave of the Assumption; when the reform of Pope St. Pius X abolished the practice of fixing feasts to Sundays, it was transferred to the octave day itself; and in 1942, when the Feast of the Immaculate Heart of Mary was assigned to that day, that of the Seven Joys was moved to August 27.

The devotion to the Seven Joys – the reason for this Feast, is much older. The Franciscan historian, Father Luke Wadding (1588-1657) dates the origin of the Franciscan Crown to the year 1422, when a young man named James, deeply devoted to Our Lady, took the habit of St Francis. Before joining the Order, he had, among other practices, been accustomed daily to make a chaplet of flowers, and with it to crown a statue of the Blessed Virgin. Having in his novitiate no longer an opportunity of making this crown for his Most Beloved Queen, he, in his simplicity, thought that She would withdraw Her affection from him; this temptation of the devil disturbed his vocation, and he resolved to abandon the cloister. But first he knelt before the statue of Our Lady to say a prayer. The merciful Mother appeared to him, and gently rebuking him, strengthened him in his vocation by telling him, “Remain here, and do not grieve because you can no longer weave a wreath 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.” She taught him to say a rosary or “crown” composed of seventy-two Ave Marias and a Pater after each decade of Ave Marias, and to meditate at each decade upon the seven joys She had experienced during the seventy-two years of Her exile upon the earth. The novice immediately commenced reciting the new crown or rosary, and derived therefrom many spiritual and temporal graces. One day the Director of Novices saw him praying the crown and an angel with him who was weaving a crown of roses, placing a lily of gold between each of the ten roses. When the novice had finished praying, the angel placed the crown upon him. The Director asked Friar James what this vision meant. After hearing the explanation, he told the other friars and soon this devotion spread throughout the Franciscan family. St. Bernardine of Siena used to say that it was by the Crown of the Seven Joys that he had obtained all the graces which Heaven had heaped upon him.

St. Konrad with Franciscan CrownThis rosary consists of seventy-two Hail Marys, and originally these were said in honor of the seventy-two years which Our Lady spent on earth according to the more probable opinion and tradition. Among the Friars Minor, the promotion of this earlier form of the devotion is attributed to St. Bonaventure, Bl. Cherubin of Spoleto, St. John Capistrano, Pelbart of Temesvár, and St. Bernadine of Siena to mention a few. St. Bernadine is also said to have had a vision of the Virgin Mary when he was meditating on Her Seven Joys.

The Seven Joys listed in the Franciscan Manual are the Annunciation, the Visitation, the Birth of Christ, the Adoration of the Magi, the Finding of the Christ Child in the Temple, the Resurrection of Jesus and the Assumption together with the Coronation of Our Lady. Two more Aves are added to make the number seventy-two, as mentioned above, and another Pater and Ave to gain the indulgences. The recitation concludes with a versicle and responsory, and with the Collect of the Immaculate Conception:

V. In Thy Conception, O Virgin, Thou wast immaculate.

R. Pray for us to the Father, Whose Son Thou didst bear.

Let us pray.

O God, Who by the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin, didst prepare a worthy dwelling place for Thy Son; we beseech Thee, that, as by the foreseen death of the same Thy Son, Thou didst preserve Her from every stain, so mayest Thou grant us also, through Her intercession, to come to Thee with pure hearts. Through the same Christ Our Lord. R. Amen.

Throughout the history of the Franciscan Order, blessed results have been so often achieved in various necessities by the devout recitation of the Crown, that at the request of the superiors of the Order the Popes have attached rich indulgences to its recitation. Franciscans could gain a plenary indulgence every time they recited the Crown. In 1905 Pope St. Pius X, in response to the petition of the Procurator General of the Friars Minor, enriched the Franciscan Crown with several new Indulgences that may be gained by all the faithful. Those who assist at a public recitation of the Franciscan Crown participate in all the Indulgences attached to the Seraphic Rosary that are gained by the members of the Franciscan Order. It is required, however, that beads be used and that they be blessed by a priest having the proper faculties.

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