Monthly Archives: February 2018

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.


Bishop Robert Coyle

This morning Pope Francis named the Most Rev. Robert Coyle (53), Titular Bishop of Zabi,  originally a priest of the Diocese of Rockville Centre, NY who has been Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese for the US Military since 2013 to be the Auxiliary Bishop of Rockville Centre. Welcome home Bishop Coyle!

His arms (below) were designed by me in 2013.



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.