Monthly Archives: August 2022

Bishop Woost of Cleveland

On August 4 the Most Rev. Michael G. Woost (63) was ordained as the Titular Bishop of Sertei and Auxiliary Bishop of the Diocese of Cleveland, OH where the had previously served as a priest.

His arms are blazoned: “Argent, a cross emerging from a pile embowed reversed Or, charged in base with a closed book Gules, in dexter chief a gutté d’eau surmounted in bend sinister by a gutté de sang, and in sinister chief a tongue of flame Proper.”

I don’t concern myself with the artwork here. In addition, the charges chosen are all clear and the overall design is simple. I do know that many, myself included, might take issue with the two droplets, one of water and the other of blood, slightly overlapping each other. As a general rule charges should not do that but it is done in a very minor way that I don’t think really detracts from the overall design or the ability to discern what they are. That, after all, is what is most important for a coat of arms.

No, my only issue –and it is admittedly a very minor one– is with the blazon. Now, it must be said at the outset that the art of blazon is not as precise as some might assert. That is to say there is often more than one way to blazon the same coat of arms. There can be slight differences in the way a phrase is turned, etc. While the essence of a coat of arms “lives” in the blazon rather than in the emblazonment that does not mean there can only be one single way to blazon a particular coat of arms.

My issue is with the use of the word “gutté” to refer to a single drop or droplet. Generally speaking a single drop is a “goutte” and the word “gutté” indicates a field or a charge that is covered with numerous drops of whatever liquid is being depicted. So, my minor criticism is that the blazon should read, “…in dexter chief a goutte d’eau surmounted in bend sinister by a goutte de sang…”

Nit picky? Perhaps. But, the blazon should try to be as precise as it can be assuming that someone who is familiar with the language of blazon could depict the coat of arms without ever having seen it just by following the blazon. Since gutté means covered with several drops and these arms contain a single drop each of water and of blood the blazon is confusing.

Abbot Augustine Curley of Newark Abbey

On May 12, 2022 the monks of Newark Abbey in Newark, New Jersey elected the Right Reverend Augustine Curley, OSB as the third Abbot of their community. He is still yet to receive the abbatial blessing. The arms he has assumed are shown above.

The armorial achievement, or coat of arms, of Abbot Augustine is composed of the shield with its various charges, the external ornaments of an abbot and the motto. The shield contains the coat of arms of the abbey impaled (combined side-by-side on the same shield) with the personal arms. Such impalement illustrates that the abbot is, in a sense, “married” to the community and exercises jurisdiction over it during his tenure in office. 

In the armorial bearings of Newark Abbey the field is primarily silver (white) with six white and blue wavy lines representing waves below. Out of this sticks a gold (yellow) rocky formation on top of which is the ark, also gold (yellow). This is a representation of the ark and the rock upon which the ark came to rest after the great flood of Noah’s time surrounded by receding waters of the flood. Above the ark is a stylized rainbow in blue and gold (yellow) representing the the new beginning of Newark Abbey after the tumultuous period preceding its re-elevation to Abbatial status. 

The chief (upper third) of the shield is a field of the blue and silver (white) elongated diamond-shaped fusils in a diagonal pattern taken from the Bavarian royal arms. Newark Abbey traces its monastic origins back through St. Mary’s Abbey which was a daughter house of St. Vincent Archabbey in Pennsylvania. St. Vincent was founded by Boniface Wimmer, a monk of St. Michael’s Abbey in Metten, Bavaria. 

The personal armorial bearings which Abbot Augustine has assumed recall his Irish heritage, his patron saint and his Benedictine life. The green field with a gold (yellow) harp is a symbol of his Irish ethnic background as well as an allusion to the singing of the psalms, composed by King David, which are traditionally accompanied on the harp. This is the principal work of a Benedictine monk —the ora in “Ora et Labora”— as it were. The upper portion of the shield is divided using a line representing trefoils, more commonly known as shamrocks, a further symbol of Ireland and, in particular, the Irish rebels Abbot Augustine counts among his ancestors. Those facing upward are three in number as an oblique reference to the fact that Abbot Augustine is the third Abbot of Newark Abbey. On the upper portion of the shield is a single red heart. The heart is used as a symbol of St. Augustine, the abbot’s monastic patron saint but also represents the exhortation to “Listen…inclining the ear of one’s heart” that makes up part of the Prologue of the Holy Rule of St. Benedict.

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 Augustine’s chosen motto, “Blessed Be The Name of The Lord” which is from the Book of Job.

I was pleased and privileged to design his personal arms and marshal them to those of the Abbey.

An Unexpected Honor

The Board of Governors of the American Heraldry Society voted unanimously at its July meeting to elect Father Guy Selvester as the first Fellow of the American Heraldry Society!

Father Guy has spent decades as a student and practitioner of heraldry and has become a respected expert in the field of ecclesiastical armory specifically. Many Bishops and Priests around the country bear arms designed by Father Guy and his writings on the subject are held in very high regard.

“The Board hopes this is a welcome recognition of the fine work that Father Guy continues to do promoting and improving heraldry in the United States and around the world! Congratulations!” said David Boven, president and founding member of the American Heraldry Society.

The honor of Fellow is awarded to any member of the Society who has compiled a distinguished record of scholarship and experience marked by significant contributions to the advancement of heraldry or an auxiliary science of heraldry. Since the inception of the award in 2013, no individual has been nominated or elected as Fellow by the Society until now.

Cardinal McElroy

On August 27, in Rome, Pope Francis will create twenty-one new Cardinals of the Holy Roman Church. Among these, the Most Rev. Robert W. McElroy (68) a priest and Auxiliary Bishop in San Francisco who has, since 2015, served as the 6th Bishop of San Diego, California will receive the red hat. He assumed arms when he was made Auxiliary of San Francisco in 2010 and he later modified his coat of arms after he was translated to San Diego. He has decided to make two minor adjustments to his existing coat of arms by changing the episcopal cross which had previously been of a specific shape to a more general form and to change the oak leaf in the base of his shield from green on green to a contrasting color to make it easier to see.

His coat of arms as a Cardinal Priest are:

By heraldic custom observed in North America, the arms of a diocesan bishop are “impaled” side by side on the same shield to the arms of his jurisdiction, in this case, the Diocese of San Diego. This signifies that the diocesan bishop, in this case, the cardinal, is “married” to the See. The same method of impalement is employed in the coat of arms of two married people who are armigerous.

The coat of arms of the See of San Diego is composed of a gold (yellow) field and symbols of San Diego (St. Didacus in Latin), the diocesan patron saint. Diego was born to poor Spanish parents shortly before the year 1400. His love of poverty never left him. As a Franciscan brother he was a selfless servant of the poor and was known to heal the sick with the Sign of the Cross, the central charge of the diocesan coat of arms. The Spanish stew pot in the upper left quadrant indicates Diego’s boundless charity and tireless efforts to feed the hungry. San Diego had a special devotion to the Lord in his Passion, symbolized by the three nails in the other three quadrants. Diego died on Nov. 12, 1463, at the Franciscan monastery in Alcalá, Spain, pressing a crucifix to his heart and repeating the words of the Good Friday chant: “Dulce lignum, dulce ferrum, dulce pondus sustinet” (Precious the wood, precious the nails, precious the weight they bear.)

For his personal arms Cardinal McElroy uses the design he assumed in 2015 upon becoming Bishop of San Diego reflecting his priestly ministry and interests. The arms are composed of two sections of the field. In the upper portion, on a blue background, are stylized depictions of two California Missions. The upper is Mission San Francisco and the lower is Mission San Diego. Prior to becoming Bishop of San Diego the cardinal served as Auxiliary Bishop of San Francisco. The lower part of the field shows a green background. On this field we see a silver (white) dove in flight which symbolizes peace; a silver (white) oak leaf used as a symbol of life and the gold (yellow) scales symbolizing justice. These three virtues are important to the life, work and ministry of the cardinal.

For his motto, Cardinal McElroy has selected the phrase “DIGNITATIS HUMANAE”  (Of the Dignity of the Human Person) which is also the title of the Second Vatican Council’s “Declaration on Religious Freedom”. 

The shield is ensigned with a gold (yellow) episcopal cross. Such crosses resemble  contemporary processional crosses but they are, in fact, different. In the Middle Ages such a cross, without a corpus, was carried directly in front of all metropolitan archbishops and Papal Legates as a symbol of their authority. Eventually all bishops began using this emblem and adopted it in their coats of arms as well. The episcopal cross ceased to be used in the late XIX Century but the cross behind the shield continues to be used by bishops in ecclesiastical heraldry. The cardinal retains the use of an episcopal cross, with a single horizontal bar, because while the Holy Father has promoted him to the dignity of the Sacred College of Cardinals he retains his office as Bishop of San Diego. In the armorial bearings of a Cardinal of the Holy Roman Church the external ornaments around the shield reflect the office exercised by the individual cardinal. Those cardinals who are also archbishops use a cross with two horizontal bars; those who are bishops use one with a single horizontal bar. In the rare case of a cardinal who does not possess the episcopal office no cross at all appears in his coat of arms.

In addition, above the shield is the red ecclesiastical hat called a “galero” with fifteen tassels pendant on either side. This is the singular heraldic emblem that distinguishes the coat of arms of a cardinal. This broad brimmed hat, once worn in cavalcades, is no longer used but remains as a heraldic emblem. The galero was first bestowed on the Cardinals of the Roman Church by Pope Innocent IV at the First Council of Lyon in 1245. It was the first hat to be distinguished by the use of a specific color (scarlet) and it was also to be adorned with tassels. However, originally the number of tassels was not fixed. There are various examples of cardinals’ coats of arms that show as few as two tassels suspended from the galero and as many as seventy-two! What marked these coats of arms as those belonging to cardinals was that the galero, cords and tassels were red and nothing else. No one else could use such a red hat except a cardinal regardless of how many tassels were suspended from it. The number eventually was fixed at thirty (usually depicted as fifteen suspended on either side of the shield in a pyramidal pattern) only in 1832. A system for distinguishing the ranks of other clergy based on the color of the hat, of the cords and the number of the tassels did not come into existence until the Instruction of Pope St. Pius X “Inter Multiplices” in 1905. 

These external ornaments are those used for a prelate with the rank of cardinal who is a diocesan bishop while not being a metropolitan archbishop according to the Instruction of the Holy See, “Ut Sive“, of March, 1969.

It was my great pleasure to advise the Cardinal on his armorial achievement and to assist him in preparing this version upon his elevation to the Sacred Purple.