The delegates to the general chapter of the American-Cassinese Congregation, from June 19-24, 2016 elected Father Elias Lorenzo OSB, monk of St. Mary’s Abbey, Morristown, NJ as their new Abbot-President (Abbot-Praeses). For seven years Abbot President Elias had been Prior at Collegio Sant’Anselmo, Rome. Thursday, June 23, 2016, the Rt. Rev. Douglas R. Nowicki OSB, Archabbot of St. Vincent Archabbey, Latrobe, PA, motherhouse of the congregation, conferred the abbatial blessing during the chapter. Abbot Elias returned to Sant’Anselmo for the Congress of Abbots, September 2016 and thereafter he will reside in Morristown.
Shortly after his election, Abbot Elias contacted me to ask that I assist him in designing his coat of arms. The explanation I also provided for him is:
The shield is divided by a line shaped like a chevron. This creates the general shape alluding to a mountain, in this case Mount Carmel, the mountain associated with the prophet Elijah from whom the name Elias is derived. The large tongue of fire in the center of the lower portion of the shield (referred to as “in base”) combined with the mountain allude to St. Elias.
In addition, the blue and silver (white) checked pattern also has a multi-layered meaning. The American-Cassinese Congregation was founded by Benedictines from St. Michael’s Abbey in Bavaria. The motherhouse of the Congregation, St. Vincent Archabbey in Pennsylvania, makes use of the blue and silver fusils (a kind of elongated diamond pattern) from the coat of arms of Bavaria in its own coat of arms. Several other monasteries in the Congregation which are daughter houses or grand-daughter houses of St. Vincent also make use of this pattern. One such abbey is St. Mary’s in Morristown, New Jersey. At this monastery Abbot Elias entered monastic life, made his profession of vows and was ordained. In his coat of arms the blue and silver (white) fusils have been turned sideways forming a grid of blue and white squares or checks. The grid pattern suggests the gridiron on which St. Lawrence was roasted alive as the means of his martyrdom. This is an allusion to the Abbot’s surname, “Lorenzo” which in Italian means “Lawrence”. The grid of blue and white squares combined with the fire represents St. Lawrence while at the same time the blue and white squares are a slightly differenced reference to the coat of arms of St. Mary’s Abbey as well as Bavaria in general as the homeland of the Congregation’s founders.
At the center of the flame there is a red rounded cross. This cross is taken from the coat of arms of Sant’Anselmo in Rome where, for seven years before his election as Abbot-President, the armiger was serving as Prior of the monastic community.
Above the chevron in the upper portion of the shield (referred to as “in chief”) there are two blue crescents. The crescent has long been associated with Our Lady in particular under her title of the Immaculate Conception. That title is also the one by which Mary is the Patroness of the United States of America. While the Congregation is made up of American monasteries as well as some communities outside the U.S. it was, nevertheless, founded in the U.S. so the reference to the patroness of that country is fitting. In addition, crescents appear in the coat of arms of St. Mary’s Abbey and the coat of arms of the Delbarton School, the Abbey’s principal apostolate, both of with which Abbot Elias is closely associated.
The motto below the shield is taken from Luke 1:37 and is translated as, “Nothing is impossible with God”.
The shield is also ensigned with those external ornaments that indicate the bearer is an abbot. The gold (yellow) crozier 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 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 as distinguishing the crozier of an abbot. The use of pontificals by an abbot is regulated in the Motu Proprio, “Pontificalia Insignia” of June 21, 1968 (Acta Apostolicae Sedis 60 (1968) 374-377 Not 4 (1968) 224-226). Because abbots make use of the crozier they may use it as an external ornament in their coats of arms. The prohibition against the use of croziers in heraldry found in the Instruction of the Secretariat of State of the Holy See, “Ut Sive” of 31 March, 1969 (Acta Apostolicae Sedis 61 (1969) 334-40) does not apply to abbatial heraldry. 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. “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…Prelates who are regulars do not, as a rule, wear purple. (Abbots’) ceremonial garb is normally black and, in consequence, their heraldic hats are also black.” (Heim, Bruno B., Heraldry in the Catholic Church, 1978, page 114).