Monthly Archives: September 2022

Father Smith

The armorial bearings of the Reverend Father James R. Smith of the Diocese of Trenton, New Jersey were designed by me and recently assumed by the priest.

The shield is divided by a vertical line with the left side colored blue and the right side colored gold (yellow). These colors are borrowed from the armorial bearings of the Diocese of Trenton where he serves as a priest. Upon this is an escallop shell, a symbol of St. James the Greater which is also divided by the same colors alternating in a manner known as “counterchanging”. The counterchanging is evocative of the conversion inherent in metanoia. The shell is charged with a heart that is a symbol of St. Vincent de Paul, the “apostle of charity”. The heart is similarly counterchanged as a further allusion to metanoia.

The upper third of the shield, called a “chief” is separated from the rest by a jagged division line suggesting the teeth of a saw because St. James the Less was martyred by being sawed in half. Then the two sides of the chief are also “counterchanged” from the field below. 

On the chief to the right is a silver (white) crescent moon which is a symbol of Our Lady so it alludes to the diocese of Trenton, St. Mary’s Seminary, Baltimore and the USA of whom Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception is the patroness. To the left, the violet (depicted in a stylized way) is the State flower of New Jersey. The armiger is a proud New Jerseyan.

The motto, “Go Teach All nations” is taken from the Sacred Scriptures from Matthew 28:19.

The whole achievement, instead of using the secular helm, mantle and crest is ensigned with the traditional galero, an ecclesiastical hat. It is black with one tassel pendant on either side of the shield as befits the priestly dignity.

Charles III Royal Cypher

Buckingham Palace released the royal cypher to be used by King Charles III. It employs the “Tudor” crown rather than the stylized version of the St. Edward’s Crown favored by his late mother, Elizabeth II. Her four predecessors used this Tudor style crown in their cyphers as well as on their coats of arms. This has led to the erroneous belief that there is a “Queen’s crown” and a “King’s crown” used heraldically in British royal heraldry. That is not the case. It is simply a matter of each sovereign’s personal preference.

Death of Elizabeth II; Accession of Charles III

Today, HM Queen Elizabeth II died peacefully at Balmoral. Her eldest son immediately succeeded her becoming King Charles III. His son inherits his titles as heir to the throne and will now be Duke of Cornwall and Cambridge (among several other titles). King Charles will now relinquish the coat of arms he has borne since 1958 and the royal arms which had been used by his late mother since 1952, immediately becomes his coat of arms.

May she Rest in Peace. God Save the King!

Abbot President of the American Cassinese Congregation of Benedictine Monasteries

The Right Reverend Jonathan Licari, OSB who was ordained a priest of the Diocese of Duluth in 1976 and has been a monk of St. John’s Abbey in Collegeville, Minnesota since 1982 was elected as the 18th Præses or Abbot-President of the American-Cassinese Congregation on June 23, 2022 during a meeting of the General Chapter of the Congregation taking place at St. Benedict’s Abbey in Kansas. At the time of his election Abbot Jonathan did not yet possess the abbatial dignity. He received the solemn abbatial blessing the same evening as his election from the Most Rev. Elias Lorenzo, OSB who had himself served as the 17th Abbot-President of the Congregation prior to being appointed Auxiliary Bishop of Newark, NJ.

Abbot Jonathan had recently completed a term as Administrator of Mary, Mother of the Church Abbey in Richmond, Virginia and had also just been appointed by his predecessor as Abbot-President, Abbot John Klassen, OSB of St. John’s Abbey as the Administrator of St. Mary’s Abbey in Morristown, NJ (which also happens to be the monastery to which Bishop Elias belongs as a monk. Are you keeping up?)

Abbot Jonathan decided to assume a coat of arms and I was very pleased and honored to assist him in the design and execution of his armorial bearings.

The blazon is: “Sable, a quill pen, point downward Or between two arrows, points downward Argent; a chief wavy, fusily in bend Azure and Argent. Shield ensigned with an abbot’s crozier Or behind the shield with the sudarium attached and an abbot’s galero Sable cords and twelve tassels disposed in three rows of one, two and three all Sable. On a scroll below the shield the motto: “Servire”.”

The field is colored black to allude to the black Benedictine habit. In addition, the area of Minnesota where he was born and raised is known as an area for mining iron ore. The black also alludes to the iron. The gold (yellow) pen in the center is a symbol of administration which is the kind of work the Abbot has been assigned to do during most of his monastic life. The two arrows are a symbol of the Biblical figure, Jonathan, his monastic patron. They allude to the story of Jonathan shooting arrows as a signal to David about whether or not he was safe in the First Book of Samuel, chapter 20.

The shield is divided by a wavy line of division. This is symbolic, once again, of the part of Minnesota where the Abbot grew up known for its many lakes. The upper third of the shield, called a “chief” depicts the familiar blue and silver (white) pattern of fusils (elongated diamond shapes) placed in a repeating pattern along diagonal lines. This is the background of the coat of arms of the Bavarian Royal House (Wittelsbach) and of the State of Bavaria in Germany today. The motherhouse of the Congregation was founded by Boniface Wimmer who was a monk of St. Michael’s Abbey in Metten and the Ludwigsmissionverein was heavily subsidized by the Bavarian Royal Family. So, the coat of arms of St. Vincent Archabbey uses this background in its own arms. In addition, the coat of arms of the Abbot’s own Community at St. John in Collegeville makes use of this background in two of the four quarters on its coat of arms. In fact, of the 18 existing independent houses of the American Cassinese Congregation there are 8 which were directly founded from St. Vincent as daughter-houses and 2 which were founded as granddaughter-houses from St. Vincent. Of those houses 5 of them make use of this Bavarian pattern and/or of its color scheme as an allusion to the Bavarian origins of the Congregation. So, the chief is used to symbolize St. Vincent and Bavaria as the origins of the American-Cassinese Congregation as well as St. John’s Abbey, the Abbot’s own community of origin. It is also an allusion to St. Mary’s Abbey where the Abbot is serving as Administrator for several years.

The motto below the shield is the single Latin word, “Servire” which means to serve.

The shield is also ensigned with those external ornaments that indicate the bearer is an abbot. The gold (yellow) crozier, no longer used in the coats of arms of bishops but retained in the arms of abbots is placed vertically behind and extending above and below the shield. Attached to the crozier is a veil or sudarium. Widely used in the Middle Ages it is rarely seen in actual use today. It dates from a time when abbots were already making use of the crozier as a sign of their authority but had not been granted the privilege of full pontificals which, prior to the reforms of the 1970s, would have included liturgical gloves. The purpose of the sudarium was originally practical; it shielded the metal of the crozier from dirt and perspiration from the hands. Later, it became merely symbolic and has been retained in heraldry to distinguish the crozier of an abbot.

Above the shield is the ecclesiastical hat, called a galero which, in heraldry, replaces the martial helmet, mantling and crest. The galero is black with black cords pendant from it and twelve black tassels arranged in a pyramid shape on either side of the shield. This is the hat assigned to a prelate with the rank of abbot according to the Instruction of the Secretariat of State of the Holy See, “Ut Sive” of 31 March, 1969 (Acta Apostolicae Sedis 61 (1969) 334-40).

Beatification of Pope John Paul I

On Sunday, September 4 Pope Francis will beatify his esteemed predecessor, Pope John Paul I (Albino Luciani) who was pope from August to September, 1978 for just 33 days, one of the shortest pontificates in history.

The “Smiling Pope” as he was called chose a unique papal name using the names of his two immediate predecessors, John XXIII and Paul VI. He created a new double name, John Paul, which went on to be adopted by the man who succeeded him, St. John Paul II.

Bruno Heim designed a wonderful coat of arms for John Paul I that employed elements from the arms of John XXIII (the chief of Venice) and those of Paul VI (the mountains in base). The three stars (changed form 4-pointed to 5-pointed stars) were used in the coat of arms Luciani had assumed as a bishop. It is, in my opinion, one of Heim’s better designs.