The Five Knots of the Franciscan Cord

When Francis embraced the life of poverty he clothed himself in the rough textured garment of the poor and girded himself with a cord. Some say that Francis recognized in the cord a reminder of the ropes that bound his beloved Master, Jesus. And the five knots tied in the cord could graphically signify the five wounds of Christ. These knots remind us that one girded with this cord must also be girded with : 1) charity, 2) obedience, 3) chastity, 4) penance, and 5) detachment.

First knot—CHARITY is patient, is kind; charity does not envy, is not pretentious, is not puffed up, is not ambitious, is not self seeking, is not provoked; thinks no evil, does not rejoice over wickedness, but rejoices with the truth; bears with all things, believes in all things, hopes in all things, endures all things.

Second knot—OBEDIENCE bound to the commandments and precepts of the Church. When it comes to the doctrines and precepts of the Church, we must make every effort to form our conscience rightly so as to act in obedience to the Church. Don’t openly complain about Church decrees or even options if they have been approved by the Pope. Like Francis, hold fast to Christ, knowing that all will turn out for the good.
Third knot—CHASTITY Francis has shown us that everything we do should be to please God. We should have chastity and modesty in our thoughts, in our words, in our actions and in the way we dress. Also, control our temper, be patience, do not over-indulge in food or drink. Be a peacemaker when we feel like lashing out at someone. In reality, it means to become God-centered like St. Francis.

Fourth knot—PENANCE This knot deals mainly with serving God through others. It is difficult because it involves penance and sacrifice. It often means putting the things aside that we have planned for ourselves so that we can help others in need. Dedication to the service of God is not an easy task to perform, but our reward will be great in heaven.

Fifth knot—DETACHMENT This knot does not ask us to give up all our possessions. But it does require that we curb any undue attachment to our possessions, hobbies and interests which might draw us away from our dedication to serve God. It reminds us to prayerfully persevere if God gives us trials. Trust God, and hold on to him tightly, saying “My God and my all.” Don’t let the ups and downs in life diminish our joyful Franciscan spirit.

3 thoughts on “The Five Knots of the Franciscan Cord

  1. Ann Marie Rhoades

    Recently, a trio of us were Professed as Secular Franciscans. I had asked about the use of the cincture, but the Sr. who is our local sponsor, & the priest who said our profession mass, both said, only the consecrated religious wear them. That said, I am supposing they may have meant the pre-knotted variety worn outside the clothing as part of the consecrated religious habit; no further comments were made to me. But, no offer was made for us to use it inside outer clothing as the 5-knotted lay version you describe here, reminders of our Franciscan charisma in living our daily lay lives…So, I am wondering where to find info to document usage of the 5- knotted version by us lay Seculars?

  2. Dennis Mallon Post author

    Secular Franciscans used to wear a small knotted cord underneath their clothing but no longer. The habit now is to wear the Tau cross exposed.

  3. Fr. Joel Lopez

    I strongly suggest that the OFS NationalCouncil here in the USA bring back some sort of an outer garment for all the members be a habit or the knotted cord. Tau cross is not enough. One day I saw a woman wearing a Tau cross. So I was excited to ask her what franciscan fraternity/group she belongs to. She has no idea what I was talking about. She said her friend went to Assisi for a pilgrimage and bought her a tau cross for a souvenir. I believe that wearing a habit, designed not as the first order, would be a great help to strengthen the identity of the third order in this modern world thus serve as a tool of evangelization even without using words. I am a secular priest and a professed member of the OFS. The ofs clergy in the Philippines are permitted to wear a habit not similar to the 1st order so not to confuse the people.

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