I first came across this devotion in the Yves Chiron biography of Pope Pius IX. It seems that the Holy Father said this devotion since he was a seminarian. While the text mentioned that one of the prayers alluded to the Immaculate Conception of Our Lady and that Pius IX did, of course, formally define that dogma, there wasn't much else about the prayers or where it originated.
Pius IX is our longest-reigning Holy Father and any devotion that he kept was of interest to me, so I did a bit of digging.
The reference to a "crown of twelve stars" comes from Scripture, specifically the Apocalypse of St. John, Chapter 12. This crown is worn by a woman "clothed with the sun" and the "moon beneath her feet." Many of us might think of the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe when we hear that description.
The twelve stars are said to refer to both Our Lady's queenship and motherhood, which straddles the Old and New Testaments. She is the Queen of the twelve Tribes of Israel just as she was the mother of the twelve Apostles.
St. Bonaventure also spoke about Mary's 12 privileges:
- fullness of grace
- knowledge of God
- perfection of love
- expression of love
- exaltation above all other creatures
- embodiment of dignity
- giving birth without woe
- mother and virgin simultaneously
- mother of the highest degree (in relation to Our Lord)
- mother of all mankind
The prayers were written in the 17th century by St. Joseph Calasanz. The twelve stars are set into three groups of four Aves, each of which are begun with an Our Father and ended with a Glory Be. Each group focuses on one person of the Holy Trinity and one aspect of our Lady's Virtues.
The prayer begins : "Let us offer praise and thanksgiving to the Most Holy Trinity, Who has shown us the Virgin Mary, clothed with the sun, the moon under her feet, and on her head a mystic crown of twelve stars. Forever and ever. Amen."
You then begin the first set, which is focused on the Father and the excellence of Our Lady:
"Let us give praise and thanks to the Eternal Father, Who chose her for His daughter. Amen." Our Father.
"Praised be the Eternal Father, Who predestined her to be the Mother of His Divine Son. Amen." Hail Mary.
"Praised be the Eternal Father, Who preserved her from all stain of sin in her conception. Amen." Hail Mary.
"Praised be the Eternal Father, Who adorned her at her birth with His most excellent gifts. Amen." Hail Mary.
"Praised be the Eternal Father, Who gave her Saint Joseph to be her companion and most pure spouse. Amen." Hail Mary. Glory Be.
The second set focuses on the Son and the goodness of Our Lady:
"Let us give praise and thanks to the Divine Son, Who chose her for His Mother. Amen." Our Father.
"Praised be the Divine Son, Who became incarnate in her womb and there abode for nine months. Amen." Hail Mary.
"Praised be the Divine Son, Who was born of her and was nourished at her breast. Amen." Hail Mary.
"Praised be the Divine Son, Who in His childhood willed to be taught by her. Amen." Hail Mary.
"Praised be the Divine Son, Who revealed to her the mystery of the Redemption of the world. Amen." Hail Mary. Glory Be.
The final set focuses on the Holy Spirit and the power of Our Lady:
"Let us give praise and thanks to the Holy Spirit, Who took her for His spouse. Amen." Our Father.
"Praised be the Holy Spirit, Who revealed first to her His Name of Holy Spirit. Amen." Hail Mary.
"Praised be the Holy Spirit, by Whose operation she was at once Virgin and Mother. Amen." Hail Mary.
"Praised be the Holy Spirit, by Whose power she was the living temple of the ever-blessed Trinity. Amen." Hail Mary.
"Praised be the Holy Spirit, by Whom she was exalted in Heaven above every living creature. Amen." Hail Mary. Glory Be.
If the fact that the devotion was created by a Saint and prayed by a Pope isn't enough to encourage you to add this to your daily prayers, I'll offer four of my own:
- This is a wonderful short complement to (not replacement for) your daily Rosary. It's fewer than two decades, by comparison.
- It packs a punch: within that short time span you are contemplating twelve separate gifts of Our Lady.
- By relating these gifts to the different Persons of the Holy Trinity, you are given further fruits for meditation.
- It is a beautiful resume of our faith. We can never learn the truths of our religion often enough, and praying them is even better than studying them.
But given how late the hour is, perhaps the fact that the name comes from the Book of the Apocalypse will move you. Our triumph will come with the woman crowned with twelve stars. What better way to pray for that triumph than praying a prayer named for that Crown?
You can use Rosary beads to pray this devotion, but you can also purchase one of our own sets, handmade for True Restoration by children of the Australian Catholic Mission.