Monthly Archives: September 2013

Assumption Anniversary


Sixteen years ago today, on the feast of St. Vincent dePaul, I was ordained a priest by the late Bishop Vincent (dePaul) Breen. On that day as well I assumed my coat of arms since I was now able to ensign the shield with the galero of a priest. The rendering used at that time (above) was done by the late Richard Crossett, an American heraldic artist of great talent. So, in addition to celebrating sixteen years as a priest today I celebrate sixteen years being armigerous. (for those of you who don’t know…go look it up!)

Archbishop-Designate Hebda, Coadjutor of Newark


This morning the pope appointed Bernard Hebda, a Pittsburgh priest serving until now as bishop of Gaylord, Michigan to be the Coadjutor Archbishop of Newark, NJ. He will be serving in assistance to the current Archbishop, John Myers (age 72) and will immediately succeed him upon Myers’ resignation, whenever that comes sometime in the next three years. A coadjutor (arch)bishop shares in the governance of the diocese and, unlike an auxiliary bishop, automatically succeeds to the See upon the death or retirement of the previous diocesan (arch)bishop.

The coat of arms that Bishop Hebda will use during his time as coadjutor are pictured above. It is composed only of the personal arms he assumed at the time he became a bishop in 2009. It is not the custom for a coadjutor to combine his personal coat of arms with the coat of arms of the diocese on the same shield as a diocesan bishop does.

Archbishop Hebda’s personal arms use as the primary charge an elderberry tree which alludes to his surname, Hebda, itself similar to “ bez hebd ”, the Polish term for the type of elderberry tree that is widespread in the area of Southeastern Poland from which Bishop Hebda’s paternal grandparents emigrated. The tree thus also alludes to the Bishop’s parents and family. In addition, the berries of the tree are reminiscent of the beads of the Rosary, recalling that the Bishop, named to the episcopacy on October 7th, the feast of Our Lady of the Rosary, has entrusted his episcopal ministry to the Blessed Mother under that title. Over the elderberry tree appears a blue star, the shining symbol of Mary, to underline that Bishop Hebda has placed his new pastoral ministry under Her maternal protection.

The blue and white fess cheqy is taken from the coat of arms of the Diocese of Pittsburgh where they appear because they come from the arms of William Pitt. Placed as the foundation for the elderberry tree, the juxtaposition recalls that Bishop Hebda has his roots in the Diocese of Pittsburgh.

Archbishop Myers will continue to combine or impale his personal arms on the same shield as the arms of the archdiocese until such time as he steps down. It is at that time that archbishop Hebda, who will then succeed as Archbishop of Newark and Metropolitan of the Province of Newark (not the province of New Jersey as is often wrongly thought) will impale his own arms to those of the See of Newark (a preview of that below).


New Bishop of San Diego


The pope accepted Bishop Brom’s resignation as Bishop of San Diego, California since he has reached the age of 75. He was immediately succeeded by his Coadjutor Bishop, the Most Rev. Cirilo Flores, the former auxiliary of the diocese of Orange, CA. Bishop Flores now impales his personal coat of arms with that of the diocese.

Canting Arms


There is a tradition in heraldry of so-called “canting arms” or armes parlantes where the design of the coat of arms literally depicts the meaning of the name of the armiger and, so, ‘says” his name. One that I came across recently which illustrates this well is the coat of arms of Cardinal Vegliò who was created cardinal by Pope Benedict XVI in 2012. The main charge on the shield is a crane standing with one foot off the ground and holding a stone. This is usually referred to as a crane “in its vigilance”. This comes from Pliny the Elder wrote that cranes would appoint one of their number to stand guard while they slept. The sentry would hold a stone in its claw, so that if it fell asleep it would drop the stone and waken. The cardinal’s name means “watchful”.

9/11 Depicted Heraldically


This is the emblem containing the coat of arms of the USS New York a naval vessel of the US Navy. The ship was constructed with seven tons of steel recovered from the wreckage of the World Trade Center in its bow. The twin towers and a chevron. representing the bow of the ship form a central feature in the coat of arms. The phoenix rising from the ashes is an allusion to carrying on and rebuilding the World Trade Center in the aftermath of the terrorist attack. The escutcheon on the breast of the phoenix contains the colors of the first responders on 9/11: the NY police department, NY fire department and the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey. The drops of blood on the escutcheon commemorate the fallen. The three stars depicted are for those earned by the former battleship USS NEW YORK (BB34) in World War II at Iwo Jima, Okinawa and North Africa. Above the shield the crest is taken from the central landscape charges on the coat of arms of the State of New York. Here the rays of the sun are depicted as seven in imitation of those radiating off the crown atop the Statue of Liberty in New York harbor.

This may not be the best heraldic design I’ve ever seen but it is a fine example of how heraldry, even in our own time, can be filled with poignant meaning and, in a simple artistic design, depict and commemorate so much. This coat of arms was devised, as are all US military insignia by the US Army’s Institute of Heraldry in Virginia.

Crest or Coat-of-Arms?


This photo illustrates something well. The banners at the top of the photo contain the coats-of-arms of the individuals who bear them. In the middle part of the photo there are those sort of dorky looking statues standing on top of the helmets. THOSE are crests. (They are placed at the crest of the helmet…get it?) The two terms are NOT synonymous. Many people use the word crest to mean a coat-of-arms. I know, those extra two syllables are a killer to have to say! A crest is a part of the full achievement of arms but it may be depicted alone. However a coat-of-arms and a crest are different things.

Basilica of Regina Pacis, Brooklyn, NY


Arrrrrgh! This is horrible, Horrible, HORRIBLE!!! This coat of arms devised for the newly-designated Basilica Church of Regina Pacis in the Diocese of Brooklyn, NY is an excellent example of everything heraldry should NOT be. Do the “designers” (and I use the term loosely) of this monstrosity think that you simply take whatever images you want in whatever style you want and tack it to a shield and that’s called heraldry?

The only correct thing about this coat of arms is that basilica churches do, in fact, have the use of the ombrellino or pavilion and keys as external ornaments. Literally, everything else about it is horribly incorrect and completely lacking in imagination, creativity or even a passing knowledge of heraldic design.

The motto should not cross the shield but be depicted below it. Why is there a second scroll above the shield bearing only the name of the church? Is a coat of arms not identifying enough? The inclusion of the arms of the See of Brooklyn in its entirety is questionable but since it was done it would be good if part of it weren’t cut off! The pictorial images of Our Lady and of the church itself are wholly inappropriate and the whole is clearly a mish-mash of images cut and pasted together that don’t even match in style!

This is the worst kind of slap-dash, indifferent, ignorant heraldry that it sadly in use in far too many parts of the United States. IT STINKS!

An “Oldie” But a “Goodie” (amended)


The coat of arms of the Most Reverend Hugh Charles Boyle, DD who served as the Sixth bishop of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania from 1921-1950. His arms are in the older style popular at that time and include the mitre and crozier as well as the episcopal cross (not to be confused with a processional cross) and galero. In 1969 Pope Paul VI’s instructions discontinued the use of the mitre and crozier in the coats of arms of people even though they are frequently used as external ornaments in the coats of arms of corporate bodies such as dioceses and abbeys.

The arms of the See of Pittsburgh were based on those of the city of Pittsburgh which, in turn were based on those of William Pitt. In the diocesan arms the bezants (gold roundels) have been changed to crosses and the inclusion of the sword alludes to the titular patron of the cathedral: St. Paul.

Very nice! Unfortunately, I cannot find a color image.

UPDATE: An intrepid reader informs me this is actually the arms of Bishop Regis Canevin, also of Pittsburgh.