Many of us are familiar with the standard, five decade rosary, the centuries-old favorite devotion of Roman Catholics throughout the world. An ornate crucifix on a strand of rosary beads is an image that most associate with devout and faithful prayer. But sometimes confusion arises with other terms, such as “chaplet” or “Franciscan rosary.” Aren’t they all the same? Well, not quite. The term rosary is used for various sets of prayers counted on beads, but the prayers may vary from those used in the Dominican Rosary – the most widely known form of the rosary. Additionally, there are some rosaries that use the standard prayers, but serve a specific purpose, like the wedding rosary. Here is some clarification on some of those different rosary terms.
Five Decade Rosary
The five decade rosary is the one most people picture when they hear the word rosary. It consists of a crucifix, then a short set of 5 beads, for praying the Our Father, 3 Hail Marys, and a Glory Be, and then a rosary center, followed by a loop of 5 decades (sets of ten beads) to count the Hail Marys prayed as one meditates on the mysteries of the rosary, with a bead for praying the Our Father between each decade. This traditional rosary (both the physical strand of beads and the prayer) is also known as the Dominican Rosary, due to St. Dominic’s role in encouraging and spreading devotion to the holy rosary at the request of the Blessed Mother.
The Franciscan Rosary can refer to two different rosaries associated with the Franciscan order. One is the Franciscan Crown, sometimes called a seven decade rosary. As the name suggests, it consists of 7 decades, rather than 5, plus two additional Hail Mary beads, for a total of 72 Hail Mary beads. When praying the Franciscan Crown rosary, one is to meditate on the seven joys of Mary, one joy per each decade. The seven joys are the Annunciation, the Visitation of Mary to Elizabeth, the Nativity of Jesus, Epiphany, the presentation of Jesus in the temple, the Resurrection of Jesus, and the Assumption & coronation of Mary.
The Franciscan Rosary can also refer to a fifteen-decade rosary. Prior to 2002, when Pope John Paul II instituted the addition of the 5 luminous mysteries, the three sets of the mysteries of the rosary (glorious, sorrowful, and joyful) added up to a total of 15 mysteries. When one would pray a fifteen decade rosary, all fifteen mysteries were meditated upon. One could simply use a standard size rosary and continue around the loop to pray the full fifteen, or now twenty, decades, but a strand of rosary beads consisting of 15 decades of beads was common as well. Franciscan rosary is also a term that may be used to describe a standard five decade rosary with a Franciscan Tau cross in place of the crucifix many are accustomed to seeing.
The word chaplet simply comes from the French word for Rosary, which is chapelet, but the term has now come to be associated with specific sets of prayers, intended to ask the help of Mary, Jesus, or the saints. The standard five decade rosary is in fact a chaplet, but chaplets can vary in size, in pattern or grouping of beads, and in the prayers said on each bead. Typically, the basic prayers, such as the Hail Mary and Our Father are still recited, but chaplets commonly also include prayers to a specific image of Christ or Mary, a particular saint or angel, or a litany. Often, a chaplet is based on a certain intention, and so prayers to the patron saint of that intention or subject will be included.
One of the most common chaplets in recent years is the Chaplet of Divine Mercy, a chaplet Jesus instructed St. Maria Faustina to pray. It can be said anytime, especially for the dead or dying, but is also often said as part of the Divine Mercy novena which lasts from Good Friday to Divine Mercy Sunday. Another popular chaplet is the St. Joseph Chaplet, a set of prayers asking for the protection and intercession of St. Joseph.
Servite Chaplet or Rosary
Though it can be prayed by anyone, the Chaplet of the Seven Sorrows of Mary is especially connected to the Servite Order (also called Servants of Mary) and so this unique chaplet is commonly referred to as the Servite Rosary. Rather than decades, it consists of seven sets of seven beads; the sets of seven beads are called ‘weeks.’ Where the Franciscan Crown is focused on the seven joys of Mary, the Servite chaplet is focused specifically on the seven sorrows, or dolors, of Mary. These are the prophecy of Simeon, the flight into Egypt, the loss of Jesus in the temple, Mary meeting Jesus on the road to Calvary, the Crucifixion, Jesus being taken down from the cross, and the laying of Jesus’s body in the tomb. The intent behind the Servite rosary is a devotion to Mary and the real pain she suffered in watching and sharing in Jesus’s pain, as we are called to share in Jesus’s suffering as well.
The wedding rosary, also called a lasso, or lazo, rosary is an over-sized rosary formed of two rosaries joined together at the center. The lasso rosary will share a crucifix, the first five beads, and the rosary center, with two, rather than one, loops of 5 decades each. The lasso rosary is part of a wedding ceremony, especially in Hispanic culture, where the loops of the rosary are put over the head of the bride and groom by the priest. This is symbolic of the joining of the two in God; their prayer lives will now be joined as well. Since the rosary is to be placed over the heads of both the bride and groom, the beads are typically oversized with larger spaces between beads in order to make the rosary long enough. While the use of the lasso rosary is largely figurative, it can also be used after the wedding for the husband and wife to pray the rosary together.
One Decade Rosary
The one decade rosary is, as it sounds, a rosary consisting of only one decade. The idea behind the one decade rosary is that it is easy to carry around and use for prayer. After the crucifix on a one decade rosary, the initial 5 beads (for saying the Our Father, 3 Hail Marys and a Glory Be) are commonly represented with only one bead. After the rosary center is one decade, one set of ten beads. Some chaplet instructions come with a one decade rosary, and you can also use a one decade rosary to pray five, or even the full 20 mysteries, by circling around and using the ten beads to count for as many decades as needed. The one decade rosary closely resembles the prayer beads or prayer ropes which have been in use in the Eastern churches (both Catholic and Orthodox) from the earliest years.
There are also a few specific types of one decade rosaries:
This one decade rosary is the same as one described above but with one difference. Rather than a continuous unbroken loop, there is a clasp in the middle of the set of ten beads. This is in place so that the rosary may be hooked around a rearview mirror, and used for prayer in the car. The clasp is also useful for clipping the rosary to the steering wheel while praying so you do not drop the beads while driving.
This is a one decade rosary meant to be worn on the wrist. The bracelet varies slightly from the appearance of the standard one decade rosary. The rosary bracelet has one decade plus one Our Father bead, but rather than a center and a dangling crucifix, there will often be a miraculous medal and small, charm sized crucifix or cross hung together, or a cross shaped bead in place of the hanging crucifix. The bracelet is not intended to be a fashion statement but rather a way to easily bring a rosary with you, to be used for prayer. In the Middle Ages and beyond, it was not uncommon for people to hang a rosary from their waist, which they could easily reach for and use to pray with at any time. Many religious orders still do this, but for many other people, hanging a long rosary from their waist would be impractical. However, the rosary bracelet can be worn easily and so it can be used anywhere as a prayer aid.
Rosary Rings and Finger Rosaries
A rosary ring can be an actual wearable ring, or it can also be a small, mini one decade rosary to tuck into a wallet or purse, or on a key ring. These non-wearable rings are also called finger rosaries. Similar to the bracelet, there is a crucifix, followed by ten little bumps or beads for the decade. The idea of a small, easily transportable rosary one could reach for and pray with anytime stands true for the rosary ring as well.
Ian Rutherford is the President and founder of AquinasAndMore.com, one of the largest and oldest on-line Catholic stores.
He lives with his lovely wife and eleven kids in northern Colorado.
He lives with his lovely wife and eleven kids in northern Colorado.
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