Category Archives: Fr. Guy’s designs

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).

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.

Bishop Dolan Translated To Phoenix

On August 2 the Most Reverend John Patrick Dolan (60), originally a priest of San Diego and, since 2017 Auxiliary Bishop of that same diocese, will be installed as the fifth Bishop of Phoenix, Arizona. His armorial bearings are:

The bishop’s coat of arms, is composed of a shield upon which there are symbolic charges, a motto and the external ornaments of rank. By heraldic custom observed in North America, the arms of the diocesan bishop are “impaled” side by side on the same shield to the arms of his jurisdiction, in this case, the Diocese of Phoenix. This signifies that the bishop 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 Phoenix is composed of a blue field on which is placed a silver (white) mountain to represent Camelback Mountain, a significant aspect of the backdrop of the See City. Arising from the mountain is a gold (yellow) bird that is coming forth from red flames to represent the mythological phoenix, that arose from the ashes, and for which the See city is named. Above the phoenix is a gold cross formy fitchée (three arms of a cross and one resembling a spike), which is taken from the arms of the Diocese of Tucson to signify that it was from the territory of Tucson that the Diocese of Phoenix was created in 1969.

For his personal arms Bishop Dolan has adopted a design to reflect his religious devotion, priestly ministry and family. The arms are composed of a gold (yellow) field on which there is a single charge of the Sacred Heart of Jesus depicted wounded, surrounded by a crown of thorns and enflamed all colored red. This reflects the bishop’s devotion to the Sacred Heart which is also symbolic of the mercy of God which he tries to reflect in his priestly ministry. All priests are exhorted to conform themselves more closely to Christ and strive to be shepherds after His own heart. The gold field is borrowed from the coat of arms of the diocese of San Diego to recall the local church he had served as a priest and auxiliary bishop. The chief (upper third of the shield) replicates the blue field and crescents traditionally associated with the arms of Dolan in Irish heraldry. Here the usually silver crescents have been colored gold (yellow) and reduced in number from three to two for differencing. These charges are merely borrowed to act as an allusion to the bishop’s family name.

For his motto, Bishop Dolan has selected the phrase “ABIDE IN MY LOVE”.

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 is the true emblem of episcopal heraldry. In addition, above the shield is the green ecclesiastical hat called a “galero” with six tassels pendant on either side. This broad brimmed hat, once worn in cavalcades, is no longer used but remains as a heraldic emblem. The original color worn by bishops and archbishops was green, not purple. This “episcopal color” is retained in heraldry. These external ornaments are those used for a prelate with the rank of bishop according to the Instruction of the Holy See, “Ut Sive”, of March, 1969.

I was pleased to design the bishop’s personal arms in 2017 when he became a bishop and was also happy to marshal them to those of his new diocese shortly after his appointment to Phoenix.

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.

Bishop Meagher

On December 8 the Most Rev. Daniel Joseph Meagher (60), a priest of the Archdiocese of Sydney, Australia was ordained a bishop with the Titular See of Pocofeltus and assigned to serve as Auxiliary Bishop of Sydney. The arms he assumed, of which I was pleased to act as a consultant on the design, are the following:

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.