On May 6, 2006, I broke my right kneecap in three places and was confined to the house except for the periodic visits to the orthopedic surgeon. After six weeks, the doctor gave me two choices: be driven to the physical therapist’s office two or three times a week or do the physical therapy on my own.
My looming reality involved three dilemmas. I had to drive more than four hundred miles all together to take my doctoral comprehensive exams mid-August. Steven had advisory council responsibilities that couldn’t be dismissed or handed off to someone else. And I wasn’t coping well with being a backseat passenger: motion sickness is the pits.
The way I saw it, I had no choice. I had to drive myself to comps, so I had to become my own taskmaster.
Change of pace
Until the doctor’s visit that day, my right leg had been in an immobilizer, not a cast. I’d had to be very careful not to bend my knee at all. The pain had been so unbearable that I hadn’t been able to sit at the computer, even with my leg propped up.
Accustomed to always doing, moving, problem solving, I’d had a tough time accepting that I had a legitimate excuse for not working on dissertation or preparing for comps. I couldn’t slow down mentally, though eventually I began to enjoy the little things I’d said I’d do “one day soon,” namely observing the black-bellied whistling ducks from the back porch, learning to identify the birds at Steven’s feeders, and reading the stockpile of magazines I’d salvaged from the recycling bin for more than a year. Yet the moment the doctor said “start” I was raring to go.
My daily regimen on the beach began the next morning. I managed only a mile and a half unaccompanied. The rest of the time through mid-July, I walked about three miles daily with the best company ever.
My rosary kept me focused, smiling, and upbeat, although I dreaded Tuesdays and Fridays. I told God that the sorrowful mysteries made me very sad.
Isn’t there a way you could fix it so I don’t have to say them? Isn’t there another way to pray the rosary?
Still, I continued with the rosary in the traditional manner.
The pain and the swelling were constant. But the sand and the water under my bare feet, the sunshine, and all else out there in the real world made me see what I’d been missing while chained to my desk.
After my walks I usually plopped onto Steven’s Olongapo chair, put my legs up on the ottoman, and read.
The Infant Jesus of Prague (Nemec, 1978, 1986) and Saint Anthony of Padua (Miles & Gianopoulos, 1991) beckoned to me from the bookshelf. I’d bought them at the
St. Jude Shrine gift shop in Chicago two and a half years earlier but hadn’t had time to read them.
Mostly, though, I reflected on my situation.
I didn’t take meds for the pain, and I didn’t complain. I was glad to be out and about. I was grateful for every step I took because I could shower without being afraid to hurt myself, dress quickly, walk up and down stoops, be a front-seat passenger, attend Mass at church, and receive Communion. I thanked God for allowing me a break from my studies and for having a weird sense of humor about getting me alone time with him. And then it happened!
I got to page sixty-eight in St. Anthony’s book.
I couldn’t believe my eyes! I reread the page several times. The Franciscan Crown was the answer to my prayers!
Thank you, dear God! Thank you, St. Anthony!
I was ecstatic beyond words. The answer had been under my nose since January 2004, but I’d first needed to ask the question.
The following day I began praying the Franciscan Crown using my traditional five-decade rosary.
Two and a half Franciscan Crowns equal one mile, I told God. It’s tough remembering which decade I’m on, so now I need a rosary with seven decades.
The Knights of Columbus at St. Paul’s had their monthly breakfast the following Sunday. It was Steven’s first time to attend, so we had no idea that family members were also invited.
We quickly befriended two lovely couples— Olivia and George, a devoted rosary maker, and Mary and Jack, leader of the Legion of Mary— who listened with stifled amusement to the story of how I’d had to break my kneecap to discover the Franciscan Crown.
“I’ve never heard of the Franciscan Crown,” George told me. “If you want a rosary with seven decades, I’ll make you one!”
Six days later at Saturday evening Mass, Olivia came up to hug me hello. “George has a surprise for you!”
George’s baby-blue Franciscan Crown filled me with both joy and gratitude.
God had responded through George! George had believed without seeing the page in St. Anthony’s book!
My Franciscan Crown
I continued to use George’s rosary on my walks that summer, but I envisioned a different design. The Franciscan Crown celebrates Mary’s motherhood so I associate it not with a crucifix, but with the miraculous medal of Mary.
Steven gave me the three medals that had belonged to his mom until she died in 1998. He also took me to Walmart to buy assorted beads.
I used Steven’s medals on the first three Franciscan Crowns I beaded. The first rosary was a prototype, so it was for me. I did better on the second one, which Steven wanted. The third one, intended for mom, was beautiful. I placed the big beads close to each other so her arthritic hands wouldn’t struggle.
I knew Mom would pooh-pooh on the idea of this strange new way of praying the rosary, but I saved the rosary for her anyway. We gave it to her during one of our trips down to Brownsville.
When Mom finally tried the Franciscan Crown, she liked it so much that it’s the only rosary she prays now. She was thrilled to get the second one (right), which she keeps at her bedside for nighttime meditation. She even asked for extras to give to her visitors.
Summer 2006, my knee still swollen and achy every day, I resolved to get back to normal. I dialogued with God as I prayed. The more I enjoyed my Franciscan Crown, the more I wished others would pray with me.
Thinking how ridiculous my idea must’ve sounded, I thought, They don’t have to be here walking on the beach with me. They can be wherever they are. I just want to share this rosary so that others can experience the joy that comes from praying it.
I told God, I want for us to be called the Society of the Franciscan Crown.
It’s a bit much to ask, I know. This is why, until now, I’d only shared my thoughts with our Why Catholic? church family. Still, one never knows unless one plants the seed.
When I returned to the doctor’s office for my scheduled appointment, July thirteenth, I knew it’d be my last visit. I was so excited that I contained myself by reviewing for comps in the waiting room. The doctor hadn’t seen me in weeks and was quite impressed to see me walk as if I’d never broken my kneecap at all.
I thanked him.
“No,” he shook his head as he lowered his humbled gaze and raised his hand upward.
“You’re right,” I said knowingly. “God gave me the power to heal myself.”
We both knew he’d done nothing more than check my x-rays and talk with me briefly during our visits.
May through July had been Robert Frost’s The Road Not Taken. I’d fallen and seriously broken a bone for the first time. I’d been forced into molasses mode, but my recovery had been quite a learning experience; my self-imposed walks on the beach, a journey in faith.
Dialoguing with God and praying my Franciscan Crown had gotten me through the ordeal. I’d recovered beyond the doctor’s expectations despite the scary, frustrating moments in his office.
God’s listening ear
During the healing process I beaded many crowns for friends, friends of friends, several family members, some folks at St. Paul’s, and even some strangers. With each one I gifted my wish to have others pray with me came true. Yet the best part of the experience was God’s listening ear; the most amazing part, the miracles.
I delighted in documenting those wishes come true!
Of course, I’ve learned more about the Franciscan Crown since then. Known as the seven joys of the Blessed Virgin, this rosary dates back to 1422, is celebrated August 27
(St. Monica’s feast day), and is part of a beautiful story.
Although the devotion varies slightly depending on the source, its seven decades exclude prayers recited before, between, and after those of the traditional rosary. But what I especially love is that each joy (decade) in the life of the Blessed Virgin is reminiscent not only of Mary’s love as mother of Jesus, but also of one’s sweet recollections as parent.
Finally, because the Franciscan Crown is synonymous with tranquility, embarking on a faith journey with Mary is such an extraordinary experience that I’m compelled to share it with others!
June 26, 2014
Put your heart aside. Duty comes first; but, when fulfilling your duty, put your heart into it. Be gentle (St. Josemaría Escrivá).
September 12, 2014
In doubts, in difficulties, call upon Mary. Don’t let her name depart from your lips; never allow it to leave your heart. And, that you may more surely obtain the assistance of her prayer, don’t neglect to walk in her footsteps
(St. Bernard of Clairvaux).
October 7, 2014
“The holy rosary is the storehouse of countless blessings” (Blessed Alan de la Roche).
October 16, 2014
The essence of the rosary is a steady incitement to holy sympathy. If a person becomes very important to us, we are happy to meet someone who is attached to him. We see his image mirrored in another life and we see it anew. Our eyes meet two eyes that also love and see. Those eyes add their range of vision to ours, and our gaze may now go beyond the narrowness of our own ego and embrace the beloved being, previously seen only from one side. The joys that the other person experienced, and also the pains he suffered, become so many strings whose vibrations draw from our heart new notes, new understanding, and new responses (Fr. Romano Guardini, 1885-1968).
May 6, 2015
Do not be afraid. Do not be satisfied with mediocrity. Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch (St. John Paul II).
May 13, 2015
“Mary is our great helper; she it is who presents to her divine Son all our prayers, our tears, and our sighs; she it is who obtains the graces for us which we need for our sanctification” (St. John Vianney).
May 19, 2015
“To speak heart to heart with God, you must love to be with him alone” (St. Peter Celestine).
Pdf file… MMM novena prayers (printable) from CAMM’s virtual novena…
Links of interest… Franciscan: Article V / blogs / crown (Aug 27 – more) / resources / rosary… How I pray the rosary with my friends (the saints)… Mary: God’s spiritual masterpiece… National Shrine of St. Francis… Our Lady of Corpus Christi (OLCC): adoration chapel / bookstore & café / deep prayer / retreats / video / website… Road not taken (Frost, 1916)… Rosary: The spiritual sword of Mary… St. Paul the Apostle Church: facebook / parishes online / website… What Robert Frost taught me about feeling alone…
WP posts… Budding relationships… Faces of Mary… Lady of sorrows… Lourdes novenas… Marian devotions… Mary’s miraculous medal… Mary’s seven joys… May flowers… Our Lady… Powerful intercessor… Prayers and blessings… Repeated prayers… Saintly connections… St. Monica… St. Peregrine relic… Stella Maris
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