+Rt. Rev. Giles Hayes, OSB R.I.P.


The Right Reverend Giles Hayes, OSB (79) the Tenth Abbot of St. Mary’s Abbey in Morristown, New Jersey (founded in 1884 as St. Mary’s Abbey in Newark, a daughter house of St. Vincent Archabbey in Pennsylvania and later moved to Morristown) passed away on March 7, 2018.

He was elected Abbot in 2006 at which time he commissioned me to design and execute his abbatial coat of arms. He led the community until 2014.

The arms of the Abbey (in the first and fourth quarters above) are clearly based on those of the community’s motherhouse.

May he Rest in Peace.


Archabbots of St. Vincent

St. Vincent Archabbey in Latrobe, Pennsylvania, the oldest monastery in the United States, was founded in 1846 by monks from St. Michael’s Abbey in Metten, Bavaria under the leadership of Fr. Boniface Wimmer. They came to Pennsylvania funded by the Ludwigs-Missionverein, an organization started by the King Ludwig I of Bavaria to minister to German immigrants throughout the world.

When the community had grown large enough to be elevated to the status of an independent abbey in 1855 it was decided to designate it an archabbey and Father Boniface was named Archabbot for life by Bl. Pius IX. His coat of arms (below) looks to be based in a quartering of the arms of the royal family of Bavaria, the House of Wittelsbach. The lion holding the banner of Christ was used not only by Archabbot Boniface as his coat of arms but also by the community as the heraldic symbol of the archabbey. It seems as though Wimmer’s first three successors, Archabbot Andrew Hintenach (1888-1892), Archabbot Leander Schnerr (1892-1918) and Archabbot Aurelius Stehle (1918-1930) also used this coat of arms. I have not been able to locate any other coats of arms for them.


In 1930 with the election of St. Vincent’s fifth Archabbot, Alfred Koch (1930-1949), things changed. At that time the community decided to adopt a corporate coat of arms, which borrowed the blue and white fusils in bend from another Wittelsbach quartering and took the three plates on a black fess from the arms of William Penn, turned the fess into an inverted chevron (to create the letter “V” for “Vincent”) and charged the three plates with Benedictine crosses. Archabbot Alfred impaled this with a personal coat of arms. Thereafter, his successors did likewise.

Image 26

Archabbot Dennis Strittmatter (1949-1963)

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Coadjutor Archabbot Rembert Weakland (1963-1967) later Abbot-Primate and Archbishop of Milwaukee

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Archabbot Egbert Donavan (1967-1979)

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Archabbot Leopold Krul (1979-1983)

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Archabbot Paul Maher (1983-1990)

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Archabbot Douglas Nowicki (1991-present)

Image 5

During the tenure of Archabbot Egbert Bl. Paul VI changed the customary rules governing the external ornaments of prelates indicating that the mitre was no longer to be used in coats of arms. In addition, he called for the discontinuation of the crozier in arms of bishops. The crozier used to be included in the achievements of bishops in addition to the episcopal cross. Paul VI indicated in was the cross alone that would continue to be used in the arms of bishops and that the crozier should be excluded. This was interpreted by some, wrongly, to mean the crozier should no longer be used in the arms of abbots as well. However, it is the veiled crozier, not the galero, which indicates the rank of abbot in heraldry. Archabbots Leopold and Paul were advised incorrectly to leave the crozier out of their achievements. It was, however, restored to use in the coat of arms of Archabbot Douglas which was designed by me.

Abbot of Averbode

The Right Reverend Marc Fierens O.Praem. will be blessed and installed as the 53rd Abbot of Averbode, Belgium on March 11. This design was devised by the Abbot in consultation with with someone very well versed in heraldry. The drawing is by Prisca Van Dessel.


It has long been customary for the Abbots of Religious Orders that wear a white or mostly white habit to use an abbatial galero that corresponds to the color of their habit. Since the Praemonstratensians wear a habit which is entirely white their abbots have traditionally used a white galero.

Personally, I have never agreed with this tradition. The color of the galero does not have to correspond with what is actually worn. Rather, in heraldry, color as well as number of tassels is an indication of rank. For example, bishops and archbishops use a green galero. This has its origin in the belief that the original color worn by bishops was green. However, when Roman purple was later adopted by bishops for their manner of dress the galero, which is after all symbolic, remained green for bishops and archbishops in heraldry.

Indeed, abbots do not, nor have they ever, wear a galero! It’s use in their heraldic achievements is purely symbolic. This is a further reason that it need not correspond to the color of their habit. The black galero with 12 tassels indicates the bearer is a Religious Superior, in this case an abbot, regardless of what we wears. The galero need not indicate the Order to which he belongs, just his rank. In abbatial heraldry it is the veiled crozier which indicates the arms are those of an abbot because the black galero with 12 tassels may be used by any Major Religious Superior of any Order, Institute or Congregation, as well as by secular Vicars General and Vicars Episcopal. Similarly, the galero that indicates the armiger is a priest is black with 2 black tassels regardless of whether the bearer is a secular clergyman or a member of a Religious Community. Franciscan priests do not use a brown galero, Sylvestrine priests do not use a blue galero,  Dominican priests do not use a white galero, etc. Nevertheless, among the Canons Regular of Premontré the canons, like their abbots, do indeed make use of a white galero.

I may not be in favor of it but it is, regardless of my personal opinion, a long-standing tradition in heraldry and done on a regular basis. The length of time this custom has been observed has made it into the commonly accepted practice. My contrary opinion is but wishful thinking on my part. I wish it otherwise and I have good reasons to support that opinion. Alas, it is not and I have to live with disappointment.

Bishop Aviles

The Most Rev. Mario Aviles, C.O. (48) former Procurator General of the Confederation of Oratorians of St. Philip Neri, was ordained Titular Bishop of Cataquas and will serve as the first Auxiliary Bishop of Brownsville, Texas on February 22, 2018.


The Armorial Bearings of Roman Catholic Deacons

I’ve have once again come across several images of the coats of arms of Deacons in the Roman Catholic Church on the internet which moves me to write, yet again, that:


One simply does NOT exist. None, nada, zilch, zip, bupkus. Anyone who asserts otherwise is a liar and should be horse whipped (with a horse whip).

In the Roman Catholic Church there are two types of Deacons. Transitional Deacons are ordained to that lowest rank in Holy Orders as a final step prior to their Presbyteral ordination. There are also those who are called to enter into ordained ministry as Deacons with the intent of remaining so permanently. For neither type is there an external heraldic ornament sanctioned by the Holy See, which is the only authority within the Catholic Church capable of making such a determination and assigning such an ornament.

Some of you are perhaps saying to yourselves, “No, hang on, Father, that’s not so. Deacons use a black galero that has no tassels on it.” Now, I want you to read the next sentence carefully.


In the Christian churches of the West, especially among those with a sacramental/liturgical style of worship such a heraldic ornament does exist in the Church of England. An entire system of hats for the use of the clergy of the Church of England was devised and adopted by the English College of Arms by an Earl Marshal’s Warrant of 1976. By extension, what is done in the Church of England is frequently, though not universally, done throughout the Anglican Communion. So, a black galero with no tassels is used heraldically by Deacons in the Anglican Tradition.

That has no effect on Roman Catholic Church heraldry.

Again, there is NO approved external ornament for Deacons in the Roman Catholic Church. Those who adopt the galero with no tassels are incorrect because it is an Anglican custom. Those who simply decide to make up out of whole cloth some other external ornament to function as a “Deacon’s crest” or to add a special augmentation to the shield of the arms of a Deacon like a chief indicating diaconal ministry are also quite wrong to do so. Those who claim such things are sanctioned by the Holy See are lying. Full stop.

So, what option is there for a Deacon? Well, for Transitional Deacons (a state which usually last no more than 12 months) they should wait until they are ordained Priest and ensign their arms with a Priest’s galero. For Permanent Deacons they have the option of using arms ensigned with helm, mantle and crest as laymen do (which is appropriate if they have descendants who will inherit the arms some day) or they may bear arms consisting of the shield and motto alone without any other ornament.

A coat of arms is a mark of identification not a perk to indicate your job or function. The Church has said very little on heraldry for clergy below the rank of Bishop and most of what we have by way of “rules” for the lower clergy comes from immemorial custom. Because the Permanent Diaconate was dormant for several centuries, including those centuries when heraldry developed, there are no customs for the arms of Permanent Deacons. It is hoped that the Holy See will address this at some point but until it does


New Ordinaries in USA

The Most Rev. J. Mark Spalding (53) was ordained a bishop and installed as twelfth Bishop of Nashville on February 2, 2018.


The Most Rev. William Shawn McKnight (49) was ordained a bishop and installed on February 6, 2018 as the fourth Bishop of Jefferson City, Missouri.


Well…at least it IS uncomplicated and clear.