Abbot Michael Brunner, OSB

On May 7 the Rt. Rev. Michael Brunner, OSB, elected Abbot on January 17, 2022, will receive the abbatial blessing as the fourth Abbot of the Abbey of St. Gregory the Great in Portsmouth, Rhode Island.

The armorial achievement, or coat of arms, of Abbot Michael is composed of the shield with its various charges, the external ornaments of an abbot and the motto. The shield contains only the personal arms assumed by Abbot Michael. While it is often customary to impale (combine side-by-side on the same shield) the personal arms with those of the abbey that is not mandatory and it is up to the personal choice of the armiger. 

The coat of arms has a red field or background. This color is used liturgically in the Church on feasts connected with the Holy Spirit. Prominent in the upper portion is the descending silver (white) dove with a halo containing a red cross indicative of Divinity. This, of course, alludes to the Divine guidance and light of the Holy Spirit. The Abbot’s motto is taken from the great hymn, “Veni, Sancte Spiritus” so, the dove is a tie-in with the Abbot’s motto. The dove is also an allusion to the Abbey’s patron saint, Pope St. Gregory the Great who, in art, is often seen with the dove that symbolizes the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.

Issuing from the dove is a golden (yellow) beam of light and on this beam is a black cross pattee charged at the center with a gold (yellow) crescent. This black cross is combined with a red cross bottony turned in an “X” shape and placed behind the black cross.

The black cross pattee is a symbol of the Abbot’s Christian faith as well as his German ethnic background. The red cross turned in saltire (and X-shape) behind it is used in heraldry to symbolize St. Michael, the Abbot’s patron saint. The crescent on the cross is symbolic of Our Lady under the title of The Immaculate Conception and is there as a symbol of the Abbot’s Marian devotion.

The shield is ensigned with the black pilgrim’s hat, called a galero, used in heraldry for clerics in place of the traditional helmet, mantling and crest. The hat has black cords terminating in twelve black tassels. Behind the shield and extending above and below it is a gold (yellow) abbot’s crozier with the sudarium (veil) attached. This veil was used in former times to protect the shaft of the crozier from dirt and perspiration before the time when abbots would have worn liturgical gloves. While the veil is no longer used it remains as a heraldic emblem to distinguish the crozier of an abbot. These are the ornaments proper to a prelate with the rank of abbot according to the Instruction of the Holy See, “Ut Sive” of March 1969.

On a scroll below the shield we see Abbot Michael’s chosen motto, “Veni Pater Pauperum” which is from the Pentecost Sequence, “Veni, Sancte Spiritus”.

It was both my privilege and my pleasure to devise and depict the armorial bearings of Abbot Michael.

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