On September 27, 1997 I was ordained a priest. This year marks the 20th anniversary not only of my sacerdotal ordination but also of that moment when, being a priest, I assumed a coat of arms. I had been designing, tweaking and modifying a design of my own coat of arms since i first began to settle on a design of my own in 1984. But, the various versions of a coat of arms that I had, which consisted of simply a shield and motto with no other external ornaments, was never really “used” by me. In other words, I hadn’t put it on anything or made any kind of public use of it.
This was for two reasons. First, I knew it was still a work in progress. It would take me from 1984 and that initial, rather poor, design all the way until 1992 until I was truly satisfied with the design of my coat of arms. Second, I didn’t want to adopt the arms with the usual external ornaments of helm, mantling and crest only to exchange them for a priest’s galero when the day came. I preferred to wait until I was entitled to use the galero, so I waited until ordination.
Shortly after my bishop called me in to tell me that my ordination had been decided for certain (8 months earlier than anticipated , as it turns out) I contacted the late Richard Crossett, an American heraldic artist of great talent. He got to work right away in late July, 1997 and I had the finished artwork by late August in plenty of time for my Sept. 27th ordination. His artwork was used for the program cover at my First Mass and I also registered the arms with the American College of Heraldry on whose Board I now happily serve. The blazon is: “Or, a Greek cross fleury Gules; a chief sapiné Vert“.
I always liked Mr. crossest’s interpretation of my coat of arms. I’ve been fortunate to have a couple of dozen renderings of my coat of arms done over the years but I’ve always considered this one to be special. I don’t have an “official” version of my arms since they are assumed, not granted as is perfectly acceptable and is, indeed, the norm in the context of being an American. Nevertheless, this is what I consider to be the closest thing to an official version of my personal arms, primarily because it was the first time I had them rendered by someone other than myself and because it was done in conjunction with my ordination. This coat of arms was one of the ways I marked becoming a priest.
Twenty years later that motto is still my daily prayer: “Guide Me, Lord”.