On May 13, the Feast of Our Lady of Fatima, the Most Rev. Jacques Fabre-Jeune, CS (66), a priest of the Congregation of the Missionaries of St. Charles Borromeo will be ordained a bishop and installed as the 15th Bishop of Charleston, South Carolina.
“The upper portion contains a Royal Palm Tree in gold with a Phrygian cap in gold and silver. The palm tree was the first and most important emblem requested by Bishop Fabre-Jeune. It is a symbol of his place of birth and heritage, plus a symbol of the faith so deeply rooted within the Fabre family. This particular palm tree has eight branches, one for each member of the Fabre family: Bishop Jacques, his parents Providence and Anita, and his five siblings. The strong roots of the Royal Palm Tree are clearly visible, reaching out to the tip of the Cross Fleury.
The lower half of the shield is subdivided quarterly, silver and red. The first quarter (upper left, silver) contains a green Butterfly, a symbol for migration. The island of Hispaniola is home to one of the species of this migratory monarch butterfly. The use of green is associated with new life.
The second quarter (upper right, red) features a Gold Crown borrowed from the coat of arms of the Scalabrinians — the Congregation of the Missionaries of St. Charles Borromeo — an international community of religious serving migrants and refugees of different cultures, religions and ethnicities. Bishop Fabre-Jeune is a professed member of this community.
The third quarter (lower left, red) contains a Phoenix rising from the flames: a mythical bird that rejuvenates itself by dying in fire and being reborn from the ashes, a symbol of eternal life. The phoenix is from the coat of arms of the city of Chicago, where Jacques Fabre-Jeune professed first vows as a Scalabrinian in 1982.
The fourth quarter (lower right, silver) contains a Fig Bough with Fruit, representing the Old Testament prophet Amos. Before responding to the call of the Lord, Amos was “a herdsman, and a dresser of sycamore-fig trees” (7:14).
The lower portion of the shield contains a Cross Fleury over all with a fleur-de-lis at the end of each arm. The fleur-de-lis represents a lily, which is commonly associated with the Virgin Mary. In the story of our salvation, Mary is the first of those called to serve the Lord. The use of the cross is also a nod to the first Bishop of Charleston, John England (1820-1842), whose coat of arms featured a Cross Bottony over all.”
The explanation on the diocesan website states, “Bishop Fabre-Jeune desired a coat of arms that would define clearly, simply, and humbly his heritage, his faith, his life and his ministry as a priest and as the shepherd for the Church in Charleston, South Carolina.”
I think it succeeds on the latter desires of showing heritage, faith and life & ministry but can’t agree that it succeeds to do so either clearly or simply. Can you even make out the Phrygian Cap above the palm tree? Imagine what it will look like when it’s an inch high at the top of letterhead!
This is not so much a coat of arms as it is an eclectic pictorial biography. It violates many of the admonitions you have articulated over the years on simplicity, balance, and proportion. The Phrygian cap is microscopic. Just look at the arms of the Diocese – simple and beautiful.
What is particularly odd is how any one (or even two) components would have made a thoroughly pleasant coat of arms by itself. What was Chesterton’s line about plucking an entire tree’s worth of pears?