An American in Poland

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The arms (above) I recently devised for an American priest who lives and works in the USA but who, in addition to his pastoral responsibilities at home, was honored by being named an Honorary Canon of the Collegiate Chapter of the Basilica of St. Florian in Krakow.

The arms are:

Quarterly skewed to the dexter Gules and Argent; at the cross point a cross of St. Florian counterchanged Or and Azure; in sinister base above a mullet of six points Or an open crown Argent. Suspended below the shield is the badge of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulcher. The shield is ensigned by the galero of a Canon Sable with cords and six tassels in two rows of one and two respectively Sable. On a scroll below the shield is the motto, “Fiat Voluntas Tua” (Let it Be Done According to Your Will).

The principal colors of the field are the Polish national colors and the division of the field alludes to the off-center cross found in the arms of St. John Paul II (who raised St. Florian Church, his own first priestly assignment, to the rank of a basilica). the cross associated with St. Florian himself is superimposed over the cross point and is colored in blue and gold counterchanged to avoid the tincture violations. These colors are also found in the arms of St. John Paul II.

In the lower right there is a six pointed star to symbolize Our Lady and it is crowned with an open crown alluding to Mary’s Queenship, the patroness of the armiger’s home diocese.

The black galero  with black cords and six black tassels indicates the bearer is a cleric with the rank of Canon, in this case, a Collegiate Canon. Being a Knight of the Holy Sepulcher he also chose to display the badge of that Order pendant below the shield from a black ribbon.

Monsignor Francis Kelly, P.A., K.H.S.

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The arms (above) I recently completed for Monsignor Francis Kelly, PA a Canon of St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. Msgr. Kelly is a priest of the Diocese of Worcester, Massachusetts who, prior to his current service worked for many years in Washington, DC for the NCEA and was also on the faculty and later became rector of Pope St. John XXIII National Seminary in Weston, Massachusetts. After his time there he spect eight years as the Superior at the Casa Santa Maria in Rome which is the graduate division of the Pontifical North American College. In 2013 he was named Prothonotary Apostolic and a Canon of St. Peter’s Basilica by Pope Benedict XVI. I met Msgr. Kelly in 1996 when I was sent for one year of studies at Pope John Seminary. We have been friends since then.

The blazon is:

Azure, between two lions rampant respectant Or, armed and langued Gules the Greek letters Chi and Rho Argent; in base a star of six points Argent. The shield is placed on the cross of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre and is ensigned by the galero of a Prothonotary Apostolic Purpure with cords and twelve tassels disposed in three rows of one, two and three pendant on either side of the shield Gules. On a scroll below the shield is the motto: “To Live For Him”.

The blue field and gold lions are taken from the coat of arms traditionally associated with the name “Kelly”. In that coat of arms the lions are chained and they face a tower. For differencing the chains have been omitted and the tower has been replaced with the Greek letters that are a monogram for the name Christ and a star of six points. These indicate the armiger’s devotion to Christ and Our Lady.

The armiger is a Knight of the Order of the Holy Sepulcher and its cross is placed behind the shield. The purple galero with red cords and tassels indicates a Roman prelate with the rank of Prothonotary Apostolic, the highest of the three grades of prelates addressed as “Monsignor”. The members of the Chapter of the Papal Basilica of the Vatican hold this rank.

The motto expresses a sentiment the armiger has endeavored to embody throughout his entire priesthood.

Sacerdotal Coat of Arms

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The coat of arms recently completed for a very patient priest in the USA who was ordained in May of 2015. The blazon is:

Gules, an ancient harp below an ancient crown all Or; on a chief Azure fimbriated Or between two thuribles Or with two wisps of smoke rising on either side Argent, the Sacred Heart of Jesus Or, enflamed Or wounded and enfiled by a crown of thorns Sable. The shield is displayed on the cross of the EOHS and suspended below the shield is a badge of a Chaplain of Magistral Grace of the SMOM. Ensigning the shield is a priest’s galero with cords and two tassels pendant on either side all Sable. On a scroll below the shield is the motto, “Surge Domine“.

The field is composed of two colors: a red field with a blue chief so the chief is separated from the field by a gold (yellow) fimbriation to avoid violating the tincture “rule” (which, as Heim proved in his book, Or and Argent isn’t so much a rule as a custom).

The principal charge, a crowned ancient harp, alludes to the patron of the bearer, David, the King who by tradition is considered the composer of many of the Psalms. The charges on the chief allude to the bearer’s devotion to the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus and the sacred liturgy. The two thuribles with smoke rising from them represent the liturgy itself. There are references in both Scripture and Tradition of the rising incense being like our prayers in worship ascending to the Lord. In addition, incense represents a sacrificial offering such as one finds in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

The shield is ensigned with a black priest’s galero. In addition, the shield is placed on the cross of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulcher in which the bearer received the rank of Knight Grand Cross prior to his ordination. The badge of the Sovereign Military and Hospitaller Order of St. John of Jerusalem, Rhodes and Malta is suspended below the shield as the bearer was a Knight in that order prior to ordination as well. Upon being ordained a priest the armiger was “translated” from being a lay knight to being a Chaplain of Magistral Grace.

On a scroll below the shield is the motto, “Surge Domine”.

Bishop Parkes of St. Petersburg

On Wednesday, January 4, 2017 the Most Rev. Gregory Parkes a 52-year-old Long Island native who has, since 2012 served as Bishop of Pensacola-Tallahassee, Florida will be installed as the fifth bishop of St. Petersburg, Florida.

At the time he was ordained a bishop and installed as the fifth bishop of Pensacola-Tallahassee he assumed a coat of arms (below) designed for him by the well-known Italian heraldic artist, Marco Foppoli:

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Since the arms of the See of Pensacola-Tallahassee, a dual diocese with co-cathedrals, is divided per fess with each of the See’s two cities occupying, as it were, a quartering of the shield the bishop assumed personal arms that were similarly divided per fess so that when impaled on the same shield the overall effect suggests a quartered shield with a rather pleasing effect.

Upon his translation to the See of St. Petersburg the bishop had his arms rendered by a different artist and, according to the usual North American custom, impaled his arms with those of the very nicely designed and handsome arms of the See:

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However, we can now see that the bishop has decided to change his personal arms. Firstly, he has decided to add the charge of the Sacred Heart of Jesus in base as an allusion to the coat of arms of his former diocese, Pensacola-Tallahassee. This is not wholly a horrible idea. Rather, it serves almost as a kind of augmentation. However, having said that it also feeds into a very bad habit also present among many of the American bishops today who end up serving in more than one diocese over the course of their episcopal ministry. That is, deciding to add a charge from each place where they have served as though collecting charms for a charm bracelet throughout their lives. This, too, also gets back to the poor idea of having one’s coat of arms serve as a pictorial CV…which it decidedly is not.

I don’t know for certain but the desire to include the Sacred Heart charge which is usually emblazoned as “Proper” (shown in its natural color of red) could perhaps explain the otherwise inexplicable decision to change the tinctures of the section of the bishop’s personal arms in base from “Gules a chi-rho Or” to “Or a chi-rho Gules and the Sacred Heart Proper in bend“.

I think the bishop would have ended up with something better if he had augmented his arms by placing the Sacred Heart on an escutcheon or a bezant or plate imposed over the crossing of the chi-rho or possibly by simply placing it on a canton as a genuine augmentation. In that way he could have left the original tinctures intact and avoided what he essentially has now: an entirely new coat of arms!

Again, the translation to a new diocese is not sufficient justification for redesigning and changing a coat of arms in use for four years.

It’s sad that the age of the internet has created all sorts of new opportunities for the heraldic enthusiast as well as contributed to the proliferation of newly proclaimed heraldic “experts” and yet has, ironically and somewhat paradoxically, also led to the degradation of the quality of heraldic knowledge that is prevalent among those assisting with the preparation of coats of arms, in particular in ecclesiastical circles.

Archbishop Etienne’s Mistake

On November 9, 2016 the Most Reverend Paul D. Etienne was installed as the fourth Metropolitan Archbishop of Anchorage, Alaska. Since December of 2009, the 57-year-old Indiana native had been serving as the Bishop of Cheyenne, Wyoming. At the time of his election as a bishop he assumed a coat of arms which he bore during his tenure as Bishop of Cheyenne:

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The design was, in my opinion, a bit crowded and fell victim to the usual problem with most of the heraldry of the American hierarchy. Namely, he tried to include too much. Time and time again I warn on this blog and elsewhere against the practice of trying to have a coat of arms be a “CV in pictures”. Sadly, that advice seems to frequently go unheeded.

I noticed that when His Excellency was translated and promoted to Anchorage that he has assumed a new personal coat of arms:

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I must say that the overall design is surely more simple and more clear. In addition, it seems apparent that upon further reflection he realized that he had included too many charges and decided that there were, indeed, some he could live without. I think its unfortunate that he decided to discard the green field because just as it contrasted so nicely with the red-dominated arms of the See of Cheyenne, similarly, the contrast with the predominantly blue arms of the See of Anchorage would have been more striking.

The overall appearance of the coat of arms as it is now is most definitely better. However, the “mistake” I believe the archbishop has made is in entirely changing the original design. He has, in fact, assumed a second new coat of arms. Many prelates feel that when they change assignments that this is a perfectly acceptable practice. It’s as if “a new coat of arms for the new job” is their thought. In addition, after having assumed arms originally, often hastily because of the unfortunate expectation that a bishop in the USA will have his coat of arms prepared and ready to be displayed at the time of his ordination and/or installation, which is an unreasonable and unnecessary expectation, the armiger has had a chance for second thoughts and wishes to make modifications. But there is a problem.

You CANNOT.

That is to say, you really REALLY shouldn’t. A coat of arms isn’t a “logo” which companies often feel free to update, modify or even discard in favor of a new one. A coat of arms is a personal mark of identification and it becomes identified with the particular armiger to whom it belongs. In places like the USA where arms are not granted by a heraldic authority but are legally and quite appropriately assumed (i.e. adopted) great care must be taken to design a coat of arms with which the armiger is happy at the time they are assumed and made public.

In the case of a bishop the personal arms should not be designed to harmonize with the arms of the See with which they will be impaled for the simple reason that bishops sometimes move and re-designing the personal arms to “go better” with the arms of the See is ill-advised. (see the three different versions of the personal arms borne by Cardinal Cupich of Chicago or Bishop Libasci of Manchester, NH. Cardinal O’Brien, the Grandmaster of the Order of the Holy Sepulcher has changed his coat of arms no less than four times!). Part of the problem is the truncated timeline with which so many bishops have to contend when the design process begins. It is not unheard of for there to be as little as six weeks in between the announcement of his appointment and the ordination/installation. The poor heraldic designer must then contend with constant pressure from diocesan officials and committee members demanding the finished artwork for use on things like invitations, programs and in press packets.

But, designing a good coat of arms takes time. Frequently the designer and the armiger will go through three or four sketches (or more) before settling on a proper design. More frequently because of the time constraint (and occasionally because of a complete lack of interest in the subject on the part of the new bishop) something deemed to be “good enough” is cobbled together in a slap-dash manner and the result is, at best, a less-than-perfect design and, at worst, downright ugly and/or ridiculous!

When designing a coat of arms for someone who is not on a three week deadline I often encourage them to use what is jokingly referred to as “the refrigerator test”. That is, they are asked to take a sketch of the coat of arms and put it somewhere, like their refrigerator, where they will see it everyday. The idea is to live with it for a time and keep seeing it over and over to see if the initial ideas have staying power. In the case of Archbishop Etienne such a test might have enabled him to see that the original design was cluttered and that those things he wanted to represent in his coat of arms could have been done with a simpler design. Part of the solution here is to abandon the idea that a new bishop’s coat of arms must be available immediately, in a manner of weeks, and in time for his ordination/installation. I can assure you that in places where arms are granted by a heraldic authority such an authority feels no obligation to do their work with such a ridiculous deadline. There is absolutely nothing that requires a bishop’s coat of arms to be finished and ready by the day of his ordination/installation. A few more weeks to get it right won’t kill anybody.

Part of this problem could be solved by bishops seeking the advice of those competent and well-versed in the principles, customs and traditions of good heraldic practice. More often than not they don’t. They need to stop turning to the myriad of lawyers, engineers, seminarians and other enthusiasts who have read “a whole book” on heraldry and have declared themselves to be “expert” in heraldic design. In addition, the computer age has also led to the advent of a plethora of the heraldic equivalent of the singer/songwriter: those people who are competent artists but who don’t really know the first thing about heraldry or its rules. They can create really nice artistic renderings but should be collaborating with a competent designer instead of trying to do it all. Expertise in DESIGNING a coat of arms and in DEPICTING that design are two very different things.

Finally, it has to be said that, in the Church anyway, it is unfortunate that those who make the most use of heraldry, prelates, are frequently the ones who both know the least about it and also frequently have little interest in learning about its proper use and application. (You know, once they make you a bishop they take the bone out of your head that allows you to remember you can occasionally still be taught something). As mentioned above, a coat of arms can’t simply be changed after several years because one feels like it. Despite the fact that it belongs to the armiger and, in many cases, was devised by him as well as adopted by him he is not free capriciously to change the design on a whim especially not after having borne a particular coat of arms for years. It is akin to deciding to use an alias after years of being known as something else. While there is no “heraldry police” in the Church to stop you it is, nevertheless, wrong to change the design of a personal coat of arms even when such changes result in the general improvement of the design.

Rather, the task is to have a well-designed and pleasing coat of arms the first time around and to use that same coat of arms no matter how often a bishop might be transferred to a new diocese. It is important to remember that impaling the personal arms with the arms of the See is a custom, not a requirement, and not even a universal one at that. It predominates in N. America but it is far from the usual custom throughout the world. When impalement is employed bishops need to remember that the dexter impalement (the arms of the See) does not become part of their coat of arms. Instead, by impaling there are two distinct coats of arms being displayed on one shield. It is a form of marshaling two or more coats of arms and even at that it lasts only for their tenure in that office. A bishop-emeritus of a given diocese has no right whatsoever to continue impaling his personal arms with the arms of the See once he has resigned that See.

The best process to use is the same one which circumstance forces onto those bishops who first become Auxiliary Bishops. Namely, they design and assume a personal coat of arms alone which fills the entire shield. Later, if they are promoted to be a Diocesan Bishop then they may choose to impale their personal arms with the arms of their diocese. If, by chance, such an impalement makes for an aesthetically unpleasing combination then the solution is NOT to change their personal arms (or the diocesan one for that matter). The better option would be for the bishop in question simply to bear his personal arms alone and not impale them at all. It is important, however, for the armiger to maintain that coat of arms which he first assumed and which has become identified with him as much as his signature or the appearance of his face. As already stated above even when the temptation is strong to re-design the coat of arms for the purpose of improving the design after further reflection such an impulse must be stifled and ignored. Once the arms have been assumed it is, frankly, too late. That’s why its better to be sure of what is being assumed in the first place; it cannot, and should not be changed later.

I have written in these pages extensively about the idea of employing various versions of a coat of arms to suit the occasion and/or office held. Sometimes, coats of arms receive legitimate augmentations to reflect some event or change in status. Frequently, the external ornaments in a heraldic achievement, even of a bishop, change or are added to in order to reflect an honor received. All of these are legitimate modifications. However, for a bishop who has assumed a coat of arms and several years later is then moved to a different diocese or some other such position within the Church simply to say to himself, “You know, I’ve had second thoughts about including thus-and-such in my coat of arms. If I had to do it over again I’d use something different. Let me take advantage of this change and the fact that new artwork has to be prepared to redesign the whole thing” is egregiously wrong and is, realistically, a gigantic abuse of his authority. After all, in the Church what a bishop wants is rarely questioned and even more rarely denied.

Nevertheless, it is of utmost importance to get it right the first time, that is, at the time of assuming the coat of arms. Changing it later ISN’T an option and bishops who ignore that are making a mistake.

(The artwork for Archbishop Etienne’s coats of arms is by Deacon Paul Sullivan)

 

 

Cardinal Tobin of Newark

On Friday, January 6, 2017 His Eminence, Joseph Cardinal Tobin,  CSsR the Cardinal Priest of Santa Maria delle Grazie a Via Trionfale and former metropolitan archbishop of Indianapolis, age 64, will be installed as the tenth bishop and sixth metropolitan archbishop of Newark, New Jersey.

A Redemptorist by Religious Profession he makes the same, long-standing error of including the arms of his Religious Order in his personal arms implying jurisdiction over it. At one time he did actually serve as General Superior of his Order and could have arguably impaled a personal coat of arms with the Order’s arms. However, he did not become a bishop, and assume a coat of arms, until after his tenure as General. As I say, it is a common error for Religious prelates but it is, nevertheless, most definitely an error.

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