On Wednesday, August 21, the feast of St. Pius X, the Most Rev. Mark E. Brennan (72) until recently Auxiliary Bishop of Baltimore and Titular Bishop of Rusibisir, was installed as the 9th Bishop of Wheeling-Charleston, West Virginia. He succeeds the scandal ridden Bishop Michael Bransfield.
His coat of arms (above) is clearly a redesign of the coat of arms he assumed at the time he became a bishop. Normally, I am very critical of the practice of a bishop changing his coat of arms when transferring to a different assignment. A coat of arms is not “changeable” as it is a mark of personal identification.
However, Bishop Brennan’s originally assumed arms (below) were rather busy and it would have been difficult to impale them well with the diocesan coat of arms. Of course, it is well worth pointing out that while impalement, symbolizing that the bishop is “married” to his diocese, is the norm for diocesan bishops in the United States but it is not mandatory by any means. I would hazard a guess that when Bishop Brennan assumed his coat of arms he did not think that he would ever be called upon to serve as a diocesan bishop and thought his episcopal ministry would be lived out as an Auxiliary of Baltimore. That’s not an unusual assumption when you consider he was already 69 years old when he was appointed a bishop and the mandatory age at which bishops must submit a resignation is 75!
Nevertheless, his personal coat of arms has been redesigned to better harmonize and more easily be impaled with the coat of arms of the See of Wheeling-Charleston. In my opinion, my misgivings about redesigning arms aside, I think it is an improvement over the original coat of arms. The change of the motto, also not an absolutely necessary part of a coat of arms although erroneously thought to be so by many, is less problematic.