Category Archives: Fr. Guy’s designs

Bishop Iffert of Covington

On September 30th the Rev. John C. Iffert (53) a priest of the Diocese of Belleville, Illinois will be ordained a bishop and installed as the 11th Bishop of Covington, Kentucky.

The armorial bearings that he will be assuming upon entering his episcopal ministry are:

It is customary in North America for a bishop to marshal his personal coat of arms to those of his jurisdiction, in this case the See of Covington. The method most often used is impalement whereby the two separate coats of arms are depicted side by side on the same shield. This method is most often used heraldically to depict the arms of two married people who are armigerous. In employing this method in the coat of arms of a diocesan bishop it illustrated that the bishop is “married” to his diocese. The arms of the See of Covington were commissioned by William T. Mulloy, 6th bishop of Covington, following the 1953 elevation of the cathedral to a minor basilica. The gold (yellow) sword over the red cross on a silver (white) field is the symbol of Saint Paul, the Patron of the Diocese of Covington. On a chief (upper third of the shield) the gold fleur-de-lis and silver crescent are symbols of the Blessed Virgin Mary who is the titular patroness of the Cathedral of the Assumption.

The right-hand side of the shield depicts the personal coat of arms now assumed by bishop Iffert. The field (background) is green a color used to symbolize hope in the liturgy and which also hearkens to the bishop’s farming ancestors, the color green being associated with the fertile land. Across the center of this field a wavy barrulet ( a line thinner than a bar or fess) represents the the rivers that flow near Belleville, IL (the Mississippi) and Covington, KY (the Ohio). These river cities are the places where Bishop Iffert has exercised his priestly and now episcopal ministry. In the upper portion there is a gold carpenter’s square and an eight-pointed star. These are symbols of St. Joseph and Our Lady. The star also appears in the coat of arms of Pope Francis so combined here they allude to the idea that Bishop Iffert was appointed by Pope Francis during the Year of St. Joseph. 

The gold garb of wheat in the lower part of the shield has multiple meaning. At harvest time wheat is brought in and gathered in sheaves or garbs. Harvest time is the time of year when we celebrate Thanksgiving and in the year Bishop Iffert was born his birthday happened to be Thanksgiving Day. In addition, the wheat alludes to what is used to confect the Eucharist, a word that means “thanksgiving”. The area of Illinois from which the bishop comes is often called “Little Egypt”. In addition, the garb of wheat is often used in heraldry to represent agriculture in general so it alludes to the bishop’s already mentioned farming ancestors. So, in the single charge of a sheaf of wheat we can allude to the Thanksgiving holiday, the act of giving thanks which is the central action of the Eucharist as the center of our Catholic lives and the matter of the Eucharist itself, the “gift of finest wheat”.

The motto below the shield is, “In All Things Give Thanks”, taken from 1 Thessalonians 5:18.

The shield is also ensigned with those external ornaments that indicate the bearer is a bishop. The gold (yellow) cross is placed vertically behind and extending above and below the shield. This is often erroneously thought to be a processional cross like those used in liturgical processions. However, in former times archbishops had a cross mounted on a staff carried immediately in front of them while in procession or on solemn occasions. This cross was a symbol of their rank as archbishop. Later, archbishops – and eventually all bishops – began to incorporate this symbol of rank into their coats of arms. A processional cross in Catholic usage is a crucifix and has a corpus on it while the episcopal cross very specifically does not. While such an episcopal cross is no longer used practically it has been retained heraldically. In fact, there are other clerics who make use of the ecclesiastical hat with its many tassels but the one true heraldic emblem of a bishop, and the only essential one, is the episcopal cross placed behind the shield.

Above the shield is the ecclesiastical hat, called a galero which, in heraldry, replaces the martial helmet, mantling and crest. “The hat with six pendant tassels (green, purple or black) on each side is universally considered in heraldry as the sign of prelacy. It, therefore, pertains to all who are actually prelates.” (Heim, Bruno B., Heraldry in the Catholic Church 1978, page 114) The galero is green with green cords pendant from it and twelve green tassels arranged in a pyramid shape on either side of the shield. At one time in history bishops and archbishops wore green before adopting the more Roman purple we see today. In heraldry the green hat and tassels was retained for prelates with the rank of bishop according to the Instruction of the Secretariat of State, “Ut Sive” of March, 1969.

It was both my privilege and my pleasure to assist in the design and execution of the bishop’s coat of arms.

Las Vegas’ First Auxiliary

On Friday, July 16 the Most Rev. Gregory Gordon (60), a priest of the Diocese of Las Vagas, Nevada will be ordained as the Titular Bishop of Nova Petra and the first Auxiliary Bishop of Las Vegas. The armorial bearings he is assuming are:

The shield is divided with a chevron as an allusion to the paternal family name and also as one for the state of Nevada (which partly includes the Sierra Nevada range). It is snow-covered as a nod to the name “nevada”. The mountain also represents Mt. Carmel because the bishop is being ordained on the feats of Our Lady of Mount Carmel.

The upper portion contains charges borrowed from the arms of his patron saint, Gregory the Great with a further allusion to Gregory’s seminal work on the office of bishop, the Liber Regulae Pastoralis. The star in the crook of the crozier is a symbol for Our Lady and the Tau cross a reference to St. Francis of Assisi and the Franciscan missionaries who pioneered the work of the Church in Nevada.

The lower portion displays a charge referring to a Eucharistic miracle in which the Host in a monstrance was turned to flesh in Lanciano, near the part of Italy from which the bishop’s maternal family come. It also refers to the Eucharist at the heart of priestly and episcopal ministry. Furthermore, it alludes to the Sacred heart of Jesus. It rests on a base suggesting a rock (the rock of St. Peter) as well as an allusion to the name of the titular see, Nova Petra.

The motto is taken from the Communion Rite of the liturgy and is also a reference to the Centurion’s acclamation in Matthew 8:8. Suspended below the shield is the insignia of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem, of which the bishop is a Knight Commander. In addition, all bishops in the Order are accorded the rank of Knight Commander with star.

I was privileged to assist the bishop with creating the design of his coat of arms and also emblazoned them.

Bishop Scantlebury

On June 11 the Most Rev. Neil Sebastian Scantlebury (55) a priest of the Diocese of St. Thomas, American Virgin Islands and since March 1 the Administrator of the Diocese of Bridgetown, Barbados, Antilles will be ordained as the 4th Bishop of Bridgetown.

The armorial bearings assumed by Bishop Scantlebury combine symbols that are meaningful to him reflecting his life and identity.

The coat of arms of the Diocese of Bridgetown depicts a green field with a stylized form of dolphin that actually appears slightly more fierce than what we are used to seeing in nature. This charge, silver (white) with a mouth, fins, flippers and tail that is gold (yellow) is borrowed from the armorial bearings of Barbados where it appears as one of the figures supporting the shield. The trident head is an image borrowed from the flag of Barbados. A similar “broken” trident appears on the flag missing it’s lower part to symbolize a break with its colonial past.

Bishop Scantlbury’s arms depict A gold (yellow) field on which are two arrows crossed in the form of an “X”. The arrows are a symbol of his patron saint, St. Sebastian who, prior to being martyred by being bludgeoned to death, was tied up and shot with arrows as a form of torture. The arrows are flanked by two red hearts which evoke the mercy and the love of God. In addition, they are reminders of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary. At the center point is a stylized heraldic rose to allude to the bishop’s devotion to St. Thérèse of Lisieux, the “Little Flower”. 

On the upper third of the shield, called a chief, there is a blue background on which there are four five-pointed sliver (white) stars in the corners with an open book in the middle the pages being white and the binding of the book gold (yellow). The blue field with the four stars is borrowed from the armorial bearings of the Diocese of St. Thomas in the Virgin Islands where Bp. Scantlebury was ordained and served in priestly ministry before becoming a bishop. The open book alludes to the Scriptures and the bishop’s degree in the Sacred Scripture.

The motto below the shield is, “Thy Will Be Done”. 

I was pleased to assist the Bishop-Elect with the design of his coat of arms.

Third Priestly Arms

Recent days have been busy and I have now completed a trifecta of sacerdotal arms all, as it happens, for priests who are also Benedictine monks. They’re from different communities and made their requests independently of each other. In addition, they have all proven to be men of exceeding patience because their projects kept getting sidelined by commissions I’d received to prepare a coat of arms for a new bishop. Those commissions are always time sensitive so all other considerations would have to go by the way side whenever I’d receive one.

Finding a window in the calendar I decided to make the extra effort to complete this three long-standing commissions. This is the last of the three.

These arms reflect the armiger’s community, apostolate, family history and monastic name. The inclusion of the chaplet encircling the shield indicates that he is a Professed Religious in vows and the galero indicates he is ordained to the priesthood. Not all Religious armigers choose to use the chaplet, especially if they are also ordained priests. It is a matter of choice.

In fact, it is worth pointing out that while there are specific external ornaments which may be used by an armiger to indicate what rank they hold, or honors they have received, none of these are required to be used. If an armiger should so desire, he/she may simply bear a shield and motto, or indeed even just the shield alone. I mention that last part because everyone in ecclesiastical circles seems to make such a big deal out of the motto. (Bishops especially). Mottoes are, strictly speaking, not really part of the coat of arms. It has become customary to display one’s motto in the achievement of arms but that, too, is not necessary.

Another Presbyteral Coat of Arms

Sometimes, fate interrupts the desire for armorial bearings. This armiger was having a coat of arms designed for him. Sadly, the heraldist working on it for him passed away. With much of the work done but not yet finalized he came to me requesting my help. The original design was very busy with many charges included and a bit too liberal a use of various tinctures. (Keeping a coat of arms to fewer tinctures is always a good idea).

I didn’t feel as though the whole thing could be scrapped to start over. Rather, I tried instead to clean up the design a bit while still maintaining the original ideas. I also made a few suggestions about tinctures. Working with the armiger we were able to come up with something with which he was pleased and also with which I was, at least, satisfied. It’s not the achievement I would have designed had I had the opportunity to start from scratch. Nevertheless, it is a decent, if crowded, design and there aren’t any egregious violations of tincture rules.

I must admit it was odd working on a project that had been started and brought rather far along by someone else. It was also an odd feeling to make changes to something that another heraldist had done and, being deceased, couldn’t defend or explain his choices. Still, it was a privilege to help this particular armiger out and, I think, we ended up with a rather nice coat of arms for him. (…if I do say so myself)

Armorial Bearings of a Priest

Here is one of my more recent commissions. It is the armorial bearings of a priest who is also a Professed Religious in vows. The black galero at the top of the achievement indicates his status as a priest. The chaplet – not often seen these days in heraldry – is used in the achievement as an external ornament indicating a person in Religious Vows. It is often seen in the arms of an Abbess (along with the veiled crozier) who, unlike an Abbot, does not make use of the galero. It is also seen in the armorial achievements of Professed Knights of Malta, whose Knights of Justice are Professed Religious in the Roman Catholic Church.

This armiger is both a monk and a priest. The motto is taken from the Holy Rule of St. Benedict.

Bishop Grob

On November 13 the Most Rev. Jeffrey S. Grob (59) a priest of the Archdiocese of Chicago will be ordained as the Titular Bishop of Abora and Auxiliary Bishop of Chicago. The armorial bearings he is assuming are:

The armorial bearings of Bishop Grob symbolize his origins, his personal devotion and the place in which he has spent his ministry as a priest. The field is Azure and the main charge is a large gold (yellow) plow blade facing the viewer. This not only alludes to the ministry of spreading the Gospel as symbolized by plowing a field to prepare for seed to be sown but is an allusion to the bishop’s early life growing up on a Wisconsin dairy farm.

Above the plow blade are a silver (white) crescent, a symbol of Our Lady under her title of the Immaculate Conception which is the patronal feast of the USA. The two silver (white) fleur-de-lis represent several things. First, they are a symbol of St. Joseph to whom the bishop has a special devotion as a kind of patron saint because he was born on the Solemnity of St. Joseph (March 19). The fleur-de-lis is a stylized version of the lily and St. Joseph is often depicted holding a staff from which lilies are blossoming. Second, they allude to St. John XXIII who used them in his own coat of arms. The bishop has a devotion to this great 20th Century saint. Finally, there are two fleur-de-lis in the coat of arms of the Archdiocese of Chicago where the bishop has served as a priest and will now serve as a bishop.

The motto below the shield is “Jesus The Vine”

It was a great privilege for me to design Bishop Grob’s coat of arms in consultation with him and to emblazon it.

Bishop Birmingham

On November 13 the Most Reverend Kevin M. Birmingham (49) a priest of the Archdiocese of Chicago will be ordained as the Titular Bishop of Dolia and Auxiliary bishop of Chicago.

Bishop Birmingham’s armorial bearings represent his family name and symbols of his own devotional life. The division of the shield uses a jagged line called “indented” in heraldry and is borrowed from the arms associated with the family Bermingham and which is also used in several places that bear the name Birmingham. 

The upper half is green with a gold (yellow) chalice and white priest’s stole. These symbols represent priestly life and ministry and specifically act as an allusion to St. John Vianney, the patron saint of priests to whom the bishop has had a lifelong devotion. On the ends of the stole are a red fleur-de-lis. This symbol is associated with France where St. John Vianney lived and died and are also borrowed from the coat of arms of the Archdiocese of Chicago where the bishop has spent his life and priestly ministry and now will continue with his episcopal ministry.

The lower half shows three red roses on a silver (white) background. They represent Our Lady of Guadalupe, patroness of the Americas. In connection with the appearance of Our Lady to Juan Diego the miraculous blooming of roses in December occurred. Two days after his ordination the bishop traveled to Mexico City and celebrated his second Mass as a priest at the Basilica of OL of Guadalupe. Throughout his priesthood he has had a strong devotion to Mary under this title.

The motto below the shield is “Tend My People” (adapted from John 21:16)

I was privileged to design and emblazon the armorial bearings of Bishop Birmingham.

Bishop Lombardo, CFR

On November 13 the Most Rev. Robert Lombardo, CFR (63) a Franciscan friar and priest currently serving in the Archdiocese of Chicago will be ordained as the Titular Bishop of Munatiana and Auxiliary Bishop of Chicago.

The armorial bearings of Bishop Lombardo reflect his Religious Community, his Marian devotion and the centrality of the Eucharist. The shield is divided into three sections by a dividing line that suggests an open cape. In the upper left on a silver (white) background is the customary symbol of Franciscans the world over composed of the right bare arms of Jesus and the left clothed arms of St. Francis of Assisi. Both show the hands bearing the nail mark of the Crucifixion because St. Francis received the stigmata prior to his death. The color of the sleeve on the arm of Francis reflects the grey/blue habit worn by the CFR Franciscans. This color more closely approximates the color of the robe actually worn by St. Francis himself. Bishop Lombardo is the first member of his community to be named a bishop.

The upper right depicts a traditional monogram of the Blessed Virgin Mary. It is composed of the letter “M” interlaced with a cross. The whole is depicted blue, a color frequently associated with the Blessed Mother on a silver (white) field. This emblem is also found on the reverse of the Miraculous Medal of Our Lady which the bishop received years ago in Lourdes and has worn every day since.

The lower, main, portion of the shield is blue with a gold (yellow) cross-shaped monstrance holding the Sacred Host above blue and silver (white) waves. The waves allude to the Atlantic Ocean of the east coast of the US where the bishop was born, and also to Lake Michigan where Chicago is located and where he has done priestly and, now, episcopal ministry as well as to the Mediterranean Sea near Salerno and Calabria in Italy from which his ancestors came. The central figure is a simple monstrance in the shape of the cross containing the Eucharist. This symbolizes the central place in the bishop’s life of the Eucharist and also the Eucharistic retreats undertaken by the friars of his community all over the world.

The motto below the shield is “My God And My All”

It was my privilege to design and emblazon the armorial bearings of Bishop Lombardo. 

Bishop Hicks of Joliet

On September 29, the Most Reverend Ronald A. Hicks (53), a priest and Auxiliary Bishop of Chicago, will be installed as the Sixth Bishop of Joliet, Illinois.

His personal coat of arms was assumed in 2018 when he became a bishop and was prepared at that time by the late Deacon Paul Sullivan. After being named to Joliet he asked me to help him by marshaling his existing arms with those of the See of Joliet.

Bishop Persaud of Mandeville

On September 19 the Most Rev. John Derek Persaud (64) a priest of the Diocese of Georgetown, Guyana will be ordained a bishop and installed as the fourth bishop of Mandeville, Jamaica. I was pleased to be able to design his personal coat of arms and marshal it to the existing armorial bearings of the See.

The coat of arms of the Diocese of Mandeville depicts a red field on which there is a black cross filling the space. The cross is outlined in silver (white) to offset it from the red background. In the middle of the cross is the heart with the cross on top of it that is the emblem of the Congregation of the Passion of Jesus, more commonly known as “The Passionists” who were instrumental in the foundation of the diocese. On the upper third of the shield, called a “chief” are blue and silver (white) wavy bars suggesting the waves of the ocean with a gold (yellow) anchor, a symbol of Hope, placed overall.

Bishop Persaud’s arms depict a blue background on which there is a gold (yellow) eagle bearing a red scallop shell on its breast. The halo on the eagle’s head indicates it is the symbol of St. John, the Apostle and Evangelist. The given name John means “a gift from God”. In addition, the bishop’s family name, Persaud, means “gracious gift” derived from the Hindi word, “Prasad”. As both the bishop’s given name and family name have similar meanings the eagle as a symbol of St. John represents both. The red scallop shell on its breast is a heraldic symbol for St. Augustine, to whom the bishop has a special devotion.

In the lower part of the shield the silver (white) wavy lines suggest waves of the sea. This is borrowed from the coat of arms of the bishop’s native country, Guyana, the name of which means, “Land of many waters”. In addition, they also appear in the arms of the See of Mandeville so they possess a double meaning. Above the eagle there are two gold (yellow) pineapples borrowed from the coat of arms of Jamaica, the bishop’s newly adopted country. These are on either side of a silver (white) fleur-de-lis, a heraldic symbol for Our Lady.

The motto below the shield is, “Iustitia in Caritate” (Justice in Love)

The shield is also ensigned with those external ornaments that indicate the bearer is a bishop. The gold (yellow) cross is placed vertically behind and extending above and below the shield. This is often mistakenly thought to be a processional cross like those used in liturgical processions. However, in former times archbishops, and later all bishops, had a cross mounted on a staff carried immediately in front of them while in procession or on solemn occasions. This cross was a symbol of their rank as bishop. While such an episcopal cross is no longer used practically it has been retained heraldically. In fact, there are other clerics who make use of the ecclesiastical hat with its many tassels but the one true heraldic emblem of a bishop, and the only essential one, is the episcopal cross placed behind the shield.

Above the shield is the ecclesiastical hat, called a galero which, in heraldry, replaces the martial helmet, mantling and crest. “The hat with six pendant tassels (green, purple or black) on each side is universally considered in heraldry as the sign of prelacy. It, therefore, pertains to all who are actually prelates.” (Heim, Bruno B., Heraldry in the Catholic Church 1978, page 114) The galero is green with green cords pendant from it and twelve green tassels arranged in a pyramid shape on either side of the shield. At one time in history bishops and archbishops wore green before adopting the more Roman purple we see today. In heraldry the green hat and tassels was retained for prelates with the rank of bishop according to the Instruction of the Secretariat of State, “Ut Sive” of March, 1969.

Do The Work

I’m very gratified whenever someone tells me that they regularly take a look at this blog. Sometimes they will mention that they have learned a thing or two in what they’ve read here and sometimes they also, jokingly or occasionally chidingly, tell me that they are surprised at the sharpness of my criticisms. With increasing frequency, however, I’m also hearing often in both direct contact with me or in other places on the internet where heraldic enthusiasts congregate that those of us who seem to know more about heraldry should do more to educate those who wish to learn more.

First, let me say that the “those who wish to learn more” frequently fall into two categories. There are those who, for whatever reason, have an interest in learning as much as they can about heraldry for their own enrichment. They understand that a study of heraldry means delving into a world of history, genealogy, symbolism and, lastly, art. Heraldry is a science as well as an art. It isn’t just about pretty pictures or “cool” images of dragons and basilisks. It’s not the domain of medieval fantasists (although many of them do enjoy it) or social-climbing faux nobles. It is a perfectly good hobby, so to speak; a wonderful subject to which one can devote a lifetime of study and learning. In addition, a few also become intimately involved in it as a profession or as an avocation and create new coats of arms for the deserving and the desirous. Whether someone becomes a practitioner of heraldic design and art or simply remains a great enthusiast it is a topic about which you can never stop learning more.

But then there is the other type who, again for whatever reason, have an interest in heraldry but don’t really care all that much about learning the “why and wherefore” of heraldic history or design. They have no interest whatsoever in the many ways the development of heraldry differs from country to country or during different centuries. They have, perhaps, read one or two books on heraldry (or maybe even as many as three!) and have now decided that they’ve “got this”. They are now as expert on the topic as the Garter King of Arms. Therefore, the time has come for them to hang out a shingle and begin creating coats of arms themselves…as a “herald”.

Ironically, despite being convinced of their own expertise, it is this second category who seem to complain the most and the loudest that those individuals and organizations online who offer criticism of heraldic designs owe it to everyone else to educate them more.

Well, first of all, reading someone’s criticism of a design should actually help the less educated to learn more in itself. Although, having said that, I must admit that when I come across really appalling examples I often don’t go into a detailed analytical criticism of the coat of arms but just express my great displeasure by means of some exclamation like, “Awful!”. I’ll grant you that someone is hardly likely to learn much from that other than that I didn’t like it.

My area of particular interest is, obviously, ecclesiastical heraldry. This is an interesting sub-set of heraldry that crosses over time and boundaries and has many rules, customs and traditions of its own despite the fact that there is no umbrella heraldic authority over the entire Church. In places where a heraldic authority does exist the coats of arms of clerics are just as subject to that local authority as the armorial bearings of anyone else. The Church makes no claim to having some kind of supra-national jurisdiction over the regulation of heraldry worldwide. Famously, St. John XXIII (himself a heraldic enthusiast) wanted to establish a Pontifical Office of Heraldry. His former secretary and good friend, Abp. Bruno Heim, talked him out of it. Heim said that one couldn’t legislate in matters of taste. He also had a healthy respect for the different ways heraldry developed in different countries and a real love of heraldic creativity. He knew such a Pontifical Office would tend to standardize Church heraldry and stifle creativity.

So, that’s one of the reasons there isn’t now, nor is there likely to be, an office to regulate the armorial bearings of clergy, prelates and institutions in the Church.

Throughout history the Church has primarily concerned itself with the external ornaments of heraldry. That is, those things that are placed around the shield rather than on it which indicate the rank and/or function of the armiger in question. What actually goes onto the shield is a matter of individual taste or family history or inheritance or anything else that would make for a unique mark of identification for the bearer of the coat of arms. The Church has no great desire to get into that. Those are precisely the kinds of things some heraldic authorities do get into. I know someone who had applied for a grant from the College of Arms in England and the individual wanted the shield divided per bend. He was told to modify that request because, in England, they preferred not to divide the field that way. I know of another case where a bishop wished to receive a grant from the Court of Lord Lyon. His arms were designed by a very competent expert in heraldry but they contained a field chequy and Lord Lyon didn’t allow such a field so the design had to be changed. The Holy See has neither the time, the resources to devote, or the desire to get into that kind of heraldic regulation. Rather, it tends to concern itself with things like the appropriate color of the tassels on a galero to indicate a Prothonotary Apostolic, etc.

So claiming that it is the job of the Holy See to provide guidance in this area isn’t the answer especially as they already do to some extent. Similarly, it isn’t the job of the various heraldic societies that exist to make sure everyone knows every and any rule of the heraldic science. For the most part those societies exist for people who already know and appreciate heraldry somewhat and wish to share their love of the subject with other enthusiasts. There is an educational element to that but it comes primarily from mutual enrichment rather than mere instruction. There are the many heraldic artists in the world, many of whom now have a website to display their work and solicit business. But they are not necessarily experts in heraldry. Rather, many of them are happy to provide heraldic artwork, itself a speciality that not every competent artist can undertake, but it is not necessarily their task to educate. Finally, there are the heraldic enthusiasts like myself who have a website or blog and who, sometimes a bit flippantly, offer exposure and criticism in an effort promote good heraldic practices and, perhaps, help some people to avoid bad ones. But, I put it to you that while having such a blog may help others to learn that does not make it incumbent upon me to attempt to provide an exhaustive course of study in the particulars of ecclesiastical heraldry. After all, this is something I do for fun!

No, the problem in the world today, especially since the advent of the internet and social media, is that, as usual, people want something for nothing. They want some quick and easy way to skip over the hard stuff and be provided with all the answers they need at the click of a mouse. To put it another way, they don’t want to do the work.

Occasionally, someone is kind enough to describe me as an “expert” in ecclesiastical heraldry, especially Catholic heraldry. That’s very kind. To the extent that it may be true it is so for one reason and for one reason only. It’s because I undertook to begin a serious study of heraldry when I was a young man and have stayed with it for over 35 years. I started doing this before there was an internet (or one to speak of) and it was difficult to communicate with others who shared my enthusiasm. But, I was willing to delve, to do research, to read extensively, to slowly build up a personal heraldic library, to seek the advice of experts and then eventually to come under the tutelage of a person who could critique my own ideas and help me to learn by making mistakes. I did the work!

There are a lot of resources available…if you’re willing to roll up your sleeves and do some good, old-fashioned research. You can’t learn about heraldry by reading an book, or two, or even three. You definitely can’t learn about ecclesiastical heraldry by looking at pictures of other bishop’s coats of arms alone. For example, if you look in the back of a really good book on Church heraldry like Bruno Heim’s Heraldry in the Catholic Church you’ll find not only a bibliography but several appendixes quoting papal documents. How many people have undertaken to look up and obtain full texts of those documents and then have them translated into their own language if they don’t have a good command of Latin?

I did.

How many people who claim to really love Church heraldry look at the books in Heim’s bibliography and then set out to obtain as many of them as possible for your own library, or at least track copies of them down in a lending library?

I did.

How many heraldic enthusiasts who can draw reasonably well have said no to undertaking heraldic commissions because they realize they don’t really know enough about heraldry to create a coat of arms for someone else so they wait several years in order to learn more and become more competent in the field before daring to be so bold as to design a coat of arms for someone else?

I did.

To become really good at this -not the world’s greatest, but just really good- takes a lot of effort, a lot of time and a lot of work. Sadly, there are too many people involved with the creation of heraldry who simply don’t want to make the effort, put in the time or do the work. THAT’S why there is so much bad heraldry floating around the Church. It’s because too many people who have no business whatsoever creating coats of arms are doing so. For a bishop to go to a friend, or relative, or seminarian and say, “You draw well. Why don’t you do my coat of arms?” is like me going to a friend and saying, “You know how to sew on a button so why don’t you make me a chasuble?” It’s preposterous! But, it happens all the time. Ignorant dilettantes who don’t have the sense to seek out the advice of someone with greater expertise, let alone refer their “client” to someone with greater expertise, are getting involved in droves in the design and creation of coats of arms in the Church. Not only are the resulting designs really bad but then they have the audacity to say that someone else: the Holy See, a heraldic society, or even a blogger should provide more guidance and instruction to them so that they can avoid mistakes.

Well, I don’t agree. I’m living proof that the resources and material are out there and can be found with a little effort. What is required is having the humility to start out as a student and not jump immediately into attempting to do something about which you know very little as though anyone can do it. It requires the ability genuinely to learn from criticism instead of simply becoming defensive in the face of it. Most importantly, instead of expecting someone else to provide you with ready-made answers at your fingertips so that you can reap all the benefit of the years of effort someone else has made to increase their knowledge and expertise while at the same time barely lifting a finger yourself you need to…

DO. THE. WORK!

Bishop Marshall of Alexandria, Louisiana

On August 20, 2020, the Most Rev. Robert Marshall (61) up until now a priest of the Diocese of Memphis, Tennessee will be ordained a bishop and installed as the thirteenth bishop of Alexandria, Louisiana. The diocese was founded originally as the diocese of Natchitoches and was later called Alexandria and then Alexandria-Shreveport until Shreveport was separated to be its own diocese in 1986.

Bishop Marshall’s coat of arms impaled with those of Alexandria are:

To the left we see the arms of the Diocese of Alexandria. The red background represents the Red River which runs through the city. The silver (white) cross stands for the Christian faith and is surrounded by four bells borrowed from the ancient See of Alexandria, Egypt for which the city that is the seat of the diocese is named. Over all of this is a crescent divided into gold (yellow) and black checks. This is borrowed from the Spanish arms for the family “Xavier” and serves as an allusion to St. Francis Xavier, the titular patron of the cathedral church.

Bishop Marshall’s arms depict a blue background with a silver (white) Cross of Calvary. This type of cross is depicted as a Latin cross (the lower arm being longer than the other three) atop three gradings or steps. Both the background color and the cross are derived from the coat of arms associated with the name “Martin”. This was the bishop’s mother’s maiden name and is used to honor his family heritage. The lower portion of the field is divided from the upper third called a “chief” by a narrow silver (white) wavy line. This wavy line represents the Mississippi River near to which the bishop has lived for most of his life. In addition, a symbol of the Mississippi River is included in the coat of arms of the Diocese of Memphis in which the bishop served as a priest prior to becoming a bishop.

 On the red background of the chief are a single silver (white) five-pointed star between two gold (yellow) pine cones. The star comes from the emblem of the LaSalle Christian Brothers who educated the bishop both in his high school and college years as well as educating his father and uncles. That Religious Community of men had a profound and lasting impact on not only the bishop’s education but also on his spiritual life and journey and on the lives of his family. The red background and pine cones are borrowed from the coat of arms of the bishop’s patron saint, St. Robert Bellarmine.

The motto below the shield is, “Live, Jesus In Our Hearts” from a prayer attributed to St. John Baptist de La Salle (1651-1719), founder of the Institute of the Brothers of the Christian Schools and patron saint of teachers of youth.  The prayer is used multiple times each day in LaSallian schools throughout the world.  It is used most frequently in dialog.  The leader says, “Live Jesus in our hearts,” and the students respond, “Forever!”

It was my privilege to design the bishop’s personal arms, marshal them to the arms of the See and emblazon them.

Bishop Tylka of Peoria

On July 23, the Most Rev. Louis Tylka (50), a priest of the Archdiocese of Chicago, will be ordained a bishop in the Church and also become the Coadjutor Bishop of Peoria, Illinois. A Coadjutor Bishop functions within the diocese very much like an Auxiliary Bishop and has duties that are at the discretion of the Diocesan Bishop. However, what distinguishes a Coadjutor Bishop is that he has a right to automatically succeed to the See on the death or resignation of the current Diocesan Bishop. So, when the day comes that Bishop Jenky, CSC of Peoria leaves office Bishop-Elect Tylka will immediately succeed him as Diocesan Bishop.

The coat of arms he assumes now is his personal arms alone which will, in due time, be impaled with those of the Diocese of Peoria after he succeeds to the See.

The field is red which is a color associated with the Holy Spirit. The life of any priest and bishop is placed under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. The two silver (white) “waves,” at the bottom of the shield symbolize Lake Michigan (the shores of the archdiocese of Chicago where Bishop Tylka served prior to becoming a bishop) and Lake St. Mary (at the seminary which the bishop attended). Together the waves hearken to our Baptism which initiates into the life of Christ and also alludes to John the Baptist.

The main charge – a mystical rose – is composed of several elements that are layered as each aspect of our faith builds upon the various encounters we have with the Lord, the Church and others. Together, they create a symbol of the Blessed Virgin Mary. This is a slight reference to the parish of Mater Christi where the bishop served for ten years as pastor. In addition, the rose also alludes to the need to grow in our faith which blossoms as it grows. The larger petals of the rose consist of heart-shapes surmounted by small tongues of fire resembling the traditional image of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. This represents His sacrificial love for us. The flames above each heart also remind us of the Holy Spirit. Coincidentally, the Sacred Heart was a particular devotion of St. Julie Billiart, the patroness of the parish in which the bishop has served as pastor for the last six years.)

At the center of the rose are five gold (yellow) petals surrounding a silver (white) roundel on which there is a cross. This represents the Sacred Host in the monstrance and it is placed at the center of the whole image as a way of expressing the Eucharist being at the center of the life of faith. Traditionally a heraldic rose is depicted with thorns which, in this instance, have been shaped like the fleur-de-lis. This has multiple meanings as it alludes to St. Joseph and to the bishop’s home parish of St. Joseph, St. Louis the King (the bishop’s baptismal patron) and the Archdiocese of Chicago (from whose coat of arms they were borrowed).

Blazoning this complex charge was a bit challenging but it turned out to be, “…a Mystical Rose composed of five heart-shaped petals Argent each surmounted by a tongue of fire Or surrounding an inner circle of petals Or; seeded with a plate charged with a Greek cross Sable and barbed with fleurs-de-lis Or.” In general, it’s considered a good practice to keep a blazon as succinct as possible but sometimes, especially as in this case when coming up with something new and unique, it’s best simply to describe it as thoroughly as possible in case someone in the future will be working from the blazon.

The motto below the shield is, “Go Make Disciples” from Matthew 28:19.

The Bishop-Elect requested an emblazonment that was as simple as possible and also reflected his preference for a more modern style.

I was very pleased and happy to design and emblazon Bishop Tylka’s achievement.

Bishop McGovern of Belleville

On July 22 the Most Rev. Michael McGovern (56) a priest of the Archdiocese of Chicago, will be ordained a bishop in the Church and installed as the IX Bishop of the Diocese of Belleville, Illinois.

The new bishop is assuming a personal coat of arms which will be impaled with the arms of the See:

In the dexter (left side as we view it) impalement, Belleville is symbolized by a blue field with a green mount or hill rising from the base of the design. This hill has a dual significance. It refers to Compton Hill, the name of Belleville until 1814, and to Cahokia Mounds near which Bishop Laval of Quebec established the first mission serving the Cahokia Native Americans in 1699. On the top of the hill is a castle which is the traditional symbol for a city (“ville”). It is rendered in gold for beauty (“belle”) which identifies the See city, Belleville. Rising above the castle is a gold cross with arms that end in fleur-de-lis to honor the French missionaries who served the Native Americans of Southern Illinois. Above the castle is an arched bar which is taken from the Coat of Arms of His Holiness, Pope Leo XIII who erected Belleville as a Diocese in 1887. Just above this bar are the symbolic “keys to the Kingdom of Heaven” given by Christ to Simon Peter, the rock on which He built the Church. This is in recognition of the diocese’s Cathedral Church of Saint Peter.

The personal coat of arms assumed by Bishop McGovern combines symbols that are meaningful to him reflecting his spiritual life and priestly ministry. The field is red, a color associated with the Holy Spirit as well as with the Passion of the Lord. The life and ministry of a priest and bishop are rooted in the Paschal sacrifice of Christ and guided by the Holy Spirit. The main charge, a silver (white) pelican in its piety, symbolizes the discipleship to Christ to which all Christians are called. It depicts a pelican vulning its breast, or picking at its own flesh to feed its young with its blood. This is clearly an image of Christ and the Eucharist who calls us all together as His brothers and feeds us with His Body & Blood.

Below the pelican is a gold (yellow) crescent which is a symbol of Our Lady under her title of the Immaculate Conception, the patroness of the United States of America. Above the pelican are two gold fleurs-de-lis which, while also being a symbol associated with Our Lady, are included here because they are taken from the coat of arms of the Archdiocese of Chicago where Bishop McGovern served as a priest prior to becoming a bishop.  

The motto below the shield is, “Vos Autem Dixi Amicos”, taken from John 15:15. Jesus says to His disciples, “I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.” This, too, is an allusion to the fellowship of discipleship which Jesus gives to all people.

It was both my privilege and my pleasure to design and emblazon the bishop’s coat of arms as well as to marshal them to the existing coat of arms of the See of Belleville..

Bishop Ramon Bejarano

On July 14, the feast of St. Katherine Tekakwitha, the Most Rev. Ramon Bejarano (50), a priest of the Diocese of Stockton, California will be ordained the Titular Bishop of Carpi and the Auxiliary Bishop of San Diego, California.

The coat of arms he is assuming is the following:

The personal coat of arms combines symbols that are meaningful to him reflecting his spiritual life and priestly ministry. The main part of the shield shows a gold background on which are four wavy vertical lines. These represent flowing waters. This alludes to his chosen motto and also symbolizes the graces that come from the Divine life to quench our thirst for God.

The upper third of the shield, called a “chief” is red because it is borrowed for the coat of arms of the Order of Mercy, the Mercedarians, of which the bishop’s patron saint, Raymond Nonnatus, was a member. The central symbol resembles a monstrance because St. Raymond is often depicted artistically holding a monstrance. Furthermore, the Eucharist is, for Bishop Bejarano, the inspiration for his priestly vocation. It was through the Eucharist that he received his call to the priesthood at age seven and which keeps his faith and his ministry going. It represents the call to offer oneself as a living sacrifice.

The monstrance is flanked on either side by an image of the Sacred Heart alluding to the mercy of God and echoing the idea of a sacrificial offering of oneself united to the sacrifice of Christ and of a rose for Our Lady. In particular, it is an allusion to Our Lady of Guadalupe, patroness of the Americas. This is for the bishop’s Hispanic heritage.In connection with the appearance of Our Lady to Juan Diego the miraculous blooming of roses in December occurred.

The motto below the shield is, “My Soul Is Thirsting For You” from Psalm 63. He chose this because he sees it as also connected with St. Augustine’s phrase about our restless heart. (“Our hearts are restless, O God, until they rest in Thee”) The human heart seeks God, and Bishop Bejarano sees the need for evangelization for so many thirsting souls.

The shield is also ensigned with those external ornaments that indicate the bearer is a bishop. The gold (yellow) cross is placed vertically behind and extending above and below the shield. This is often mistakenly thought to be a processional cross like those used in liturgical processions. In former times archbishops, and later all bishops, had a cross mounted on a staff carried immediately in front of them while in procession or on solemn occasions. This cross was a symbol of their rank as bishop. While such an episcopal cross is no longer used practically it has been retained heraldically. In fact, there are other clerics who make use of the ecclesiastical hat with its many tassels but the one true heraldic emblem of a bishop, and the only essential one, is the episcopal cross placed behind the shield.

Above the shield is the ecclesiastical hat, called a galero which, in heraldry, replaces the martial helmet, mantling and crest. At one time in history bishops and archbishops wore green before adopting the more Roman purple we see today. In heraldry the green hat and tassels was retained for prelates with the rank of bishop according to the Instruction of the Secretariat of State, “Ut Sive” of March, 1969.

It was my privilege and pleasure to design and execute Bishop Bejarano’s coat of arms.

Bishop Kevin Sweeney of Paterson, NJ

On July 1, 2020 the Most Rev. Kevin Sweeney (50) a priest of the Diocese of Brooklyn since 1997 will be ordained a bishop and installed as the 8th Bishop of Paterson, New Jersey. The coat of arms he is assuming is the following:

On the left from the viewer’s perspective, is the coat of arms of the Diocese of Paterson. The main charge, the Paschal Lamb holding the banner of victory, is the symbol for St. John the Baptist, the titular of the Cathedral. It was John who said: “Behold the lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:12).

The trefoil, more commonly called a shamrock is a symbol of St. Patrick. The silver (white) division line with a crenelated upper edge represents the Lord’s protection of the city (and diocese).

On the right from the viewer’s perspective is the coat of arms assumed by Bishop Sweeney upon being named a bishop. It is joined (impaled) on the same shield with those of the diocese to indicate that Bishop Sweeney possesses jurisdiction over the diocese and that he is symbolically “married” to it. This manner of combining two coats of arms on the same shield is the method of marshaling that has been used for centuries by two armigerous people who get married.

The two main colors of the coat of arms are blue and gold (yellow) borrowing from the coat of arms of St. John Paul II whose life and pontificate greatly influenced the vocation and ministry of Bishop Sweeney. The main charge on the lower gold (yellow) field is a red escallop shell. This is a symbol of St. James, the titular of the Cathedral-Basilica in Brooklyn, and is borrowed from the coat of arms of the Diocese of Brooklyn where Bishop Sweeney was born and raised, educated and ordained a priest prior to becoming a bishop. There are three blue drops of water falling below the shell which make the shell also a symbol of St. John the Baptist, the titular of the cathedral in Paterson. In addition, this charge emphasizes the importance of Baptism as our incorporation into the Body of Christ and the call to holiness that is received by all followers of Jesus.

The upper part of the shield, is colored blue and contains two silver (white) horizontal lines as well as a golden rose. The white lines against the blue background allude to the distinctive blue and white habit worn by St. Teresa of Calcutta, the foundress of the Missionaries of Charity. This saintly woman also had a profound influence on Bishop Sweeney and he wished to commemorate her as a saint to whom he looks for inspiration in his priestly, and episcopal ministry. The golden rose is a symbol of Our Lady. The gold (yellow) rose alludes to Our Lady of Knock in particular and by this the bishop honors his Irish heritage. However, the rose also has a double symbolism in that it is an allusion to Our Lady of Guadalupe, patroness of the Americas. In connection with the appearance of Our Lady to Juan Diego a miraculous blooming of roses in December occurred so this flower, regardless of its color, is associated with Our Lady of Guadalupe.

The motto below the shield, in English and in Spanish, is, “God Is Love – Dios Es Amor”. 

The shield is also ensigned with the gold (yellow) cross placed vertically behind and extending above and below the shield. This is often mistakenly thought to be a processional cross like those used in liturgical processions. In former times archbishops, and later all bishops, had a cross mounted on a staff carried immediately in front of them on all solemn occasions. This cross was a symbol of their rank as bishop. While such an episcopal cross is no longer used practically it has been retained heraldically. In fact, there are other clerics who make use of the ecclesiastical hat with its many tassels but the one true heraldic emblem of a bishop, and the only essential one, is the episcopal cross placed behind the shield.

Above the shield is the ecclesiastical hat, called a galero which, in heraldry, replaces the martial helmet, mantling and crest. The galero is green with green cords pendant from it and twelve green tassels arranged in a pyramid shape on either side of the shield. At one time in history bishops and archbishops wore green before adopting the more Roman purple we see today. In heraldry the green hat and tassels was retained for prelates with the rank of bishop according to the Instruction of the Secretariat of State, “Ut Sive” of March, 1969.

I was pleased and privileged to design the bishop’s personal coat of arms and to marshal them to the arms of his diocese and execute the artwork. Bishop Sweeney and I first became acquainted 28 years ago when we were in the seminary. Ad Multos Annos!

Archabbot Douglas R. Nowicki, OSB

The Rt. Rev. Douglas R. Nowicki, OSB who served as Archabbot of St. Vincent Archabbey from January 8, 1991 until May 11, 2020. His successor will be elected June 22. During his tenure as Archabbot of the Archabbey he bore his personal arms impaled with those of the Archabbey itself. This form of marshaling two different coats of arms together, called “impaling” is rather the same as combining the two separate coats of arms of two armigerous people who are married to each other. Because the Archabbot has jurisdiction over the monastery his arms (in the position of the “groom”) are displayed together with the arms of his jurisdiction (in the position of the “bride”) on the same shield. When the tenure giving him such jurisdiction comes to an end the privilege of impaling his arms also comes to an end and he bears his personal arms alone. Accordingly, as of May 11, 2020 Archabbot Douglas’ coat of arms now appears as illustrated.

I designed his personal coat of arms in 1991 and prepared the original artwork used at the time of his archabbatial blessing.