Category Archives: Abbots & Abbesses

Benedictine Abbot Primate

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Last September the Benedictine Confederation, more commonly referred to as the Order of St. Benedict, elected its 10th Abbot Primate since the institution of that office by Pope Leo XIII in 1893. They elected the fourth American monk to hold that office by choosing the Abbot of Conception Abbey in Missouri, Rt. Rev. Gregory J. Polan, OSB (67). He succeeded Notker Wolf and became Abbot of Sant’Anselmo and the Most Rev. Abbot Primate on September 10, 2016.

Seven of his eight predecessors bore a coat of arms as abbots and as Abbots Primate. Two of the Americans, Jerome Theisen, OSB a monk of St. John’s in Collegeville and Marcel Rooney, OSB also a monk of Conception chose not to be armigerous either as abbot or as Abbot Primate. (the fourth American was Rembert Weakland, OSB a monk of St. Vincent Archabbey in Pennsylvania and the Archbishop-Emeritus of Milwaukee)

At the time he became Abbot of Conception in 1996 Abbot Gregory wasn’t particularly interested in a coat of arms. But the community had a heraldic tradition and one of the monks there devised arms for him to assume keeping it very simple. The plain gold field with the single charge of a black bull’s head is a symbol associated with the abbot’s family. This was then quartered with the arms of the abbey.

Upon his election as Abbot Primate the same monk who originally designed the arms decided to prepare something the abbot could use as Abbot Primate. The personal arms are “Or, a bull’s head erased Sable; on a canton Azure a fleur-de-lis Argent”. The addition of the small augmentation of the blue canton charged with a silver fleur-de-lis, borrowed from the arms of Conception Abbey, are employed as a way of paying homage to the abbot’s Motherhouse by augmenting his personal arms rather than changing the design entirely. These personal arms are then impaled with the arms used by the Order of St. Benedict, “Azure, issuing from a trimount a patriarchal cross, overall the word “PAX” all Or“. Note that sometimes the trimount is depicted as Vert (green) rather than Or (gold).

The shield is ensigned with the usual ornaments of an abbot: black galero with twelve black tassels and a veiled crozier. The previous Abbot Primate, Notker Wolf, commissioned an artist who depicted his arms with twenty black tassels. The thinking was that, as the head of the Order the Abbot Primate should have an ornament that indicated a higher rank like an archbishop’s hat having twenty tassels instead of the twelve used by other bishops. The problem with that line of reasoning is that the Abbot Primate is not the Abbot General of the Order of St. Benedict. He is merely a figurehead; a nominal “head” but really just a visible figure to promote communication within the Order and to act as a liaison between the Order as a whole and the Holy See. Leo XIII didn’t like the decentralized nature of the Benedictines. In reality each house under its own abbot is autonomous. What binds Benedictines together is that they follow the Holy Rule of St. Benedict. Eventually, houses began to band together into federations, now called Congregations, and each of those Congregations, some of which are international but many of which are structured along national lines, adopts Constitutions and a customary observed by all the houses within the Congregation. In addition, they elect a Praeses, or Abbot President, who acts as their canonical superior with jurisdiction. The Abbot Primate, however, does not have jurisdiction over the whole Order the way a Superior General does in other Religious Orders. So, he is merely a figurehead elected by the Abbots gathered in Congress.

Not possessing a higher rank, or greater authority, or jurisdiction over all Benedictines it makes no sense for the Abbot Primate’s galero to suggest so. The Abbot Primate remains an abbot like any other, indeed during his tenure (which is a four year term renewable by re-election) he is the abbot of the Abbey of Sant’Anselmo on the Aventine Hill housing the Anselmianum where students study about the sacred liturgy. Outside of heraldry the Abbot Primate is accorded certain honors to mark his position as the Primate, namely, he is permitted to wear the purple zucchetto instead of a black one and he is addressed as “Most Reverend” instead of the usual “Right Reverend” used by other abbots.

Bruno Heim mentions in his book, Heraldry In The Catholic Church that the Church never made provisions for Archabbots, Abbots General or Abbots Primate to use a galero different from other abbots. However, some authors argue that it is Archabbots (a title of honor that confers no greater jurisdiction or powers) should use a galero with twenty tassels like archbishops. The point is open to debate. I have always believed archabbots should use the galero with twenty tassels but I know of no instances where one actually does so. Therefore, despite the compliment paid to him by the artist who depicted Abbot Primate Notker’s coat of arms Abbot Primate Gregory’s arms use the traditional galero of an abbot with twelve tassels.

Both the design and the very nice artwork were done by Dom Pachomius Meade, OSB of Conception Abbey in Missouri.

Abbot of Conception, Missouri

On January 15 the Most Rev. James Johnston of Kansas City-St. Joseph, Missouri bestowed the abbatial blessing on the Rt. Rev. Benedict Neenan, OSB, the tenth abbot of Conception Abbey who was elected by the members of his community in November, 2016 to succeed Abbot Gregory Polan who had been elected as the Abbot Primate of the Benedictine Confederation.

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Abbot Benedict’s coat of arms, assumed upon election, are blazoned and explained as:

“Blazon: A field azure, a Canadian pale argent dovetailed, in chief ten goutte de sang (gules) (palewise two, three, three, two), in base a fountain (a roundle barry wavy argent and azure).”

The main charges of the shield (escutcheon) have particular significance for Abbot Benedict and his ministry to the monastic community. The circle with blue and white waves is called a fountain, and symbolizes the abbot’s hometown, Kansas City, the City of Fountains. The 10 blood droplets (goutte de sang) above it represent the self-sacrificial office of the abbot for the community. Ten droplets signify that he is the tenth abbot of Conception Abbey, which was founded in 1873. Abbot Benedict holds a doctorate in Church history and the two main charges —the fountain and the blood droplets — taken together evoke the Paschal Mystery that birthed the Church and which is the center of all human history, for “This is the one who came through water and blood, Jesus Christ, not by water alone, but by water and blood.” (1 John 5:6) Again, both the fountain and blood drops suggest baptism; the monastic life is often called a “second baptism” due to its deepening of the commitment to baptismal vows.

The white (argent or silver) division of the shield vertically is bordered in a dovetail pattern, calling to mind furniture joints. This alludes to the abbot’s training as a woodworker in Bavaria. The blue (azure) on either side of the central white composition represents the Blessed Virgin Mary. A traditional devotional image of the Virgin is the Madonna of Mercy, in which she spreads her mantle as protection over a group of the faithful. This symbolizes the patroness of the abbey’s protection over its monks.

-from the website of “The Catholic Key“.

Abbot Elias Lorenzo, OSB

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.

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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).

St. Benedict’s Abbey, Still River

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The monastic community of St. Benedict in Still River, Massachusetts decided recently to modify their existing coat of arms which was originally designed by the late, great, Dom Wilfrid Bayne, OSB of St. Anselm’s Abbey in Rhode Island. The coat of arms was designed some sixty plus years ago for the St. Benedict Center on Bow and Arrow streets in Cambridge, MA which was the origin of the community that eventually grew into St. Benedict’s Abbey today. There was originally no external ornament in the achievement. The community simply bore a shield with the coat of arms.

The decision was undertaken recently to add an abbatial crozier as an external ornament to bring the achievement into conformity with what is usual for a monastery with the rank of Abbey. While it is the usual custom to depict a sudarium, or veil, pendant from the crozier in the coat of arms of an abbot usually when depicting the arms of an abbey, a corporate body, the sudarium is omitted.

Mother M. Angelica, RIP

On Easter Sunday, March 27, 2016, Mother M. Angelica Rizzo, PCPA passed away. She was the Abbess of the Poor Clares of Perpetual Adoration in Alabama and the Foundress and first CEO of EWTN, the global Catholic television and radio network.

Several years ago she adopted a coat of arms. (below in black and white and in color) It is significant in that despite Poor Clare abbesses not making use of a crozier they are, nevertheless, entitled to use one as a heraldic emblem with the veil attached correctly. In addition, the chaplet surrounding the shield indicates the arms of a Professed Religious and the crown of thorns surrounding the shield is also common in the heraldic achievements of female religious.

May she rest in peace.

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Abbess of Regina Laudis

The coat of arms used by the Third Abbess of the Abbey of Regina Laudis in Connecticut, Rev. Mother Lucia Kuppens, OSB. She was elected February 1 of 2015 and received the abbatial blessing on the following May 10th from the Archbishop of Hartford.

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The Abbess describes the design (executed by Mother Alma Egger, OSB) as follows:

The book symbolizes my maternal ancestry, one hundred percent Irish, from Galway in the west of Ireland. A strong Celtic influence permeated my home. From these roots I received my love of the word, of poetry, of learning, education, culture, and music. The book could be interpreted to represent Scripture, or The Rule, literature itself or the works of Shakespeare, the particular focus of my doctoral dissertation. On a practical level, the book refers to much of my work in the Abbey, which includes supporting others in their studies, hosting student groups, directing the Monastic Internship Program, and when called for, writing about the Abbey. My Clothing and Profession ceremonies were both on the Advent feast of “O Sapientia” in celebration of Wisdom. The book is open, conveying the imagination and intellect open to the Wisdom of the Holy Spirit.

The roof truss at the top of the shield symbolizes my paternal ancestry. The dominant national identity in my father’s family was Alsatian, from northeastern France, just a stone’s throw from the German border. They were a people who suffered and survived much in war, as their borders continually changed. From my father’s family comes a rootedness in the earth, an appreciation of manual work, a respect for practical solutions and love for what is essential in life. From him comes my attraction to the other main area of my monastic service, the Cellarer’s Office. Until fairly recently my father worked all over the Abbey helping repair and build things. Through my involvement with a Lay Oblate Community (The Closed Community) prior to entering the Abbey, I had many experiences of participating in building on the Abbey land, notably the Chapter House on the Hill. Since 2009 I have been working with others to renovate the original monastic buildings and envision this being a major work for the whole community for the next ten years.

Continuity with Lady Abbess and Abbess David is represented by the wavy line in the center that marks the pine hill, which was on both of their shields as well. The hill is the central feature of our land. It is where our church was built and it represents the spiritual center and heart of the monastery. The three stars, which also appeared on Abbess David’s shield represent the continued commitment to build the triadic nature of our authority structure composed of Abbess, Prioress, and Subprioress.

The consecration lamp is an ancient and rich symbol of consecrated virginity and therefore seemed an apt symbol for representing the light of St. Lucy, Virgin and Martyr. Each nun receives such a lamp, made by our potter, at the time of her Consecration, when the church bestows its blessing and affirmation on the fruitfulness of her vows. The burning oil lamp symbolizes the gift of self, consumed in the fire of love. Two flames rise from this lamp symbolizing for me that the gift of one’s love to Christ is never solitary, but is given in relationship to others. The consecration lamp unifies the whole shield, mediating between the speculative and practical polarities of my genealogy and bringing our attention to the meaning of the motto, which is taken from the Office of St. Scholastica, sister of St. Benedict and a consecrated virgin. As told in the Dialogues of St. Gregory the Great, one night she prevailed on her brother to disobey his Rule and instead of returning to his monastery, stay with her talking and praying. Though she did not tell him why, she knew her death was near. He refused her, but her tears of supplication to God caused a sudden storm that prevented St. Benedict from leaving. Thus in that moment, she prevailed over him and St. Gregory says of her, ‘Plus potuit quia plus amavit,’ which is translated: ‘She was able to do more because she loved more.’ The banner of the motto embraces the whole shield and all the symbols on it, signifying that all we do is possible only through love and the grace of God.

Why the decision to use a simple oval shield alone without the external ornament of the veiled crozier pale wise behind the shield is a mystery. It is the only heraldic ornament that would mark this as the coat of arms of an abbess. Without it, these are simply the arms of a woman and a motto. Similarly, the previous abbess’ coat of arms used no crozier but employed supporters! It causes one to wonder if there is a lack of proper heraldic knowledge amongst the nuns. It is a shame they have not been advised better.

The abbey itself has a fine coat of arms designed and emblazoned by the late great practitioner of the science and art of heraldry, Dom Wilfrid Bayne, OSB, a monk of Portsmouth Abbey in R.I.

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Heraldic Achievements of the “Junior Clergy” in the Catholic Tradition

A Presentation delivered to the NYG&B Heraldry Committee and the College of Arms Foundation

January 28, 2016

Many people know that I have been involved in the study and creation of both the science and art of heraldry for over thirty years. Not surprisingly, my particular area of interest is the heraldic customs of the Roman Catholic Church. In fact, in many ways I owe my abiding interest in heraldry to the Church.

I became interested in heraldry as a boy, as many do, because we were studying the Middle Ages in school. Then, it was much more tied up in a romantic interest in chivalry and, as a result, it seemed like something from long ago and far away. After all I was an American (pronounce that ‘Mur-can’) and we had thrown off the shackles of tyranny by abolishing the monarchy on this side of the pond and tossed onto the dustbin of history all the trappings and frummery of kings, aristocracy and the like.

However, one day in the children’s section of my public library I came across a biography of the then reigning pope, now Bl. Paul VI. The book contained a beautiful line drawing of his coat of arms. My eldest brother, some ten years my senior, who was a font of knowledge for me on all manner of things told me, when I remarked on it, that it was the usual practice for all popes to have coats of arms. In fact, he went on to explain that all bishops and dioceses had coats of arms and he even pointed out to me the examples from our own church and parochial school where heraldic images could be found.

It was as if someone had opened a door to a secret garden for me. Suddenly, heraldry no longer seemed long ago or far away. Even as a boy I had already felt a vocation and the Church was very much a part of my daily life. Now, thanks to that little book and my brother’s copious general knowledge I had discovered that heraldry was alive and well and living in the Church all over the world…including right here in the USA. Now two things which occupied a great deal of my thought and interest; my religion and coats of arms, found a happy marriage and from that point on (I was about eleven years old at the time) I was hooked on what would go on to be the enduring passion and avocation of a lifetime.

Jumping ahead to my high school years I began to be a little frustrated with learning more about Church heraldry because most of the source material was limited to secular heraldry and almost all of it either about English or Scottish heraldic customs. (not that there’s anything wrong with THAT!) In the majority of these books the mention of ecclesiastical heraldry at all was scant and, frequently, limited to a brief discussion of the heraldic practices of the Church of England. I kept wondering why no one had ever written a book about heraldry as used in the Catholic Church. This was several years before I had even heard of Woodward’s “Treatise” or Galbreath’s “Papal Heraldry”. Then in 1979 I came across, again in that same wonderful public library to which I will always be so grateful, a book entitled, “Heraldry in the Catholic Church: It’s Origins, Customs and Laws” by the late Archbishop Bruno Heim. I couldn’t believe my eyes! Here in one volume which I later discovered was the first English printing of an expanded version of his earlier work, “Coutumes et Droits Heraldiques de l’Eglise” (published in 1949). It was the book I had been hoping and wishing for. The extraordinary “Year of Three Popes” (1978) during which Heim had designed the coats of arms of John Paul I and St. John Paul II occasioned its publication. It went on to become my “bible” of sorts and Heim came to be held in very high esteem by me, as well as a host of others, not only because of this book for for other personal reasons.

It was because of Heim that I went on to discover the history and traditions of Roman Catholic Church heraldry in the Western and Eastern rites as well as a bit more about Anglican heraldry. This book revealed that it wasn’t only popes, bishops and dioceses that made use of armorial bearings but all the ranks and levels of clergy. It blew away the idea, comparable in secular heraldry, that coats of arms are only for the mighty and powerful; the upper echelon of society. Heim explained that it is not only those at the highest end of the elaborate hierarchy within the Church who are entitled to use heraldic ensigns but all the clergy. Wanting very much to be a priest but never presuming to aspire to the episcopate I had imagined that just as only knights, barons and princes used coats of arms in the secular realm so, too, the lower rank of clergy to which I aspired would not be permitted a coat of arms. Now, I had come to realize that I couldn’t be more wrong. I realized that as a priest I could have and use a coat of arms!

This was a big deal (to me anyway).

In 1987 I was living in Latrobe, PA in a Benedictine monastery and studying in the seminary for the priesthood. The diocese in which that monastery was located, Greensburg, PA, was receiving a new bishop. All the printed matter concerning his installation contained his new coat of arms which I immediately recognized had been emblazoned by Bruno Heim. The explanation went on to say the coat of arms had been designed by a Dr. Geza Grosschmid, Ph.D. of Duquesne University in Pittsburgh. I resolved to contact Dr. Grosschmid, a long-time friend and collaborator of Abp. Heim it turns out as I was later to discover, to see if he could teach me more. Thus began an sort of unofficial “apprenticeship” for me that lasted until his untimely death in 1992. He was the one who helped to direct and focus my studies, critique my designs (with an eye he gained from working with Heim) and expand the scope of my research. Through him I gained a connection, albeit a slight one, to Heim.

Heraldry with its origins in the XII C. we know began as something employed by those who engaged in battle as a means of identification. It entered the Church primarily via its use on armorial seals employed by the clergy in their capacity as magistrates. We shall not go into a lengthy explanation of either of those origins today as it has been treated extensively elsewhere and in several other talks given in this venue, including more than one by me! Canon Law regulates the use of seals in no less than fifteen separate Canons and, by extrapolation, that provides some regulation of armorial bearings as well. In addition, various Rules, Instructions and Regulations of the Roman Curia, as well as various official Instructions and Letters Motu Priorio of the Supreme Pontiffs have “regulated” heraldry in the Church.

However, two important points remain inescapably true: 1) The Catholic Church does not “grant” arms to the clergy of the Church (and respects the jurisdiction of those heraldic authorities in existence over the clerical as well as the lay people within their jurisdictions) and 2) there is NO heraldic authority (as a body) within the Roman Catholic Church. The various regulations concern themselves primarily with the external ornaments in a heraldic achievement as these indicate rank, office or special privilege. The Church does NOT concern itself with regulating the design on the shield (i.e. the blazon) which explains the appalling state of so much Catholic ecclesiastical heraldry.

For example, there is the decree of Innocent X in 1644 which forbade the use of secular marks of dignity (like crowns) in the arms of cardinals and the further decree of Benedict XV in 1915 extending that prohibition to all bishops (and by interpretation to all prelates…but not to all clergy, interestingly enough); the Motu Proprio of St. Pius X “Inter Multiplices Curas” of 1905 that regulates the insignia of many of the prelates and the confirmation of the validity of that document in 1934 by Pius XI in the Apostolic Constitution “Ad Incrementum Decoris” as well as the Instruction of the Secretariat of State under Bl. Paul VI on the vesture, titles and insignia proper to cardinals, Bishops and Prelates of the Minor Orders issued in 1969 (which discontinued the use of mitre and crozier in the arms of Cardinals and Bishops).

But what of all the so-called “Junior Clergy”, those below the rank of bishop? Some maintain that there is no heraldry proper to them and they couldn’t be more wrong. Let’s briefly examine what has evolved over time to indicate in heraldry the varying ranks of the lower clergy within the Catholic Church.

PRIEST: In his excellent book Heim states plainly, “Those who object to a simple priest using an ecclesiastical hat (on his coat of arms) hold this position arbitrarily, and without the support of any ecclesiastical decision, code or regulation. It must be remembered that all priests belong to the same ecclesiastical order and are thus possessed of equal sacerdotal and other privileges.” (p.125) So, the priest ensigns the shield with a simple black galero that has two tassels pendant from it.

DEANS & MINOR SUPERIORS: These are priests who do not necessarily hold any ecclesiastical rank higher than that of priest but whose functions (office) place them in a special category. They make use of a black galero with four tassels pendant from it. The tassels may be arranged one hanging below the other or they may hang side by side from a median knot. This true for secular offices (like Dean or Rector) and also for offices held by Professed Religious, such as Provincial Superior or Prior.

CANONS: Whether Religious (Canons Regular) or secular Canons attached to a Collegiate or Cathedral church, none of which exist in the USA, they make use of a black galero with six tassels pendant on either side. Some contend that Canons Regular may use a galero of whichever color corresponds to the color of their habit. For example Norbertine Canons wear a habit that is all white so the galero and tassels would all be white. As the heraldic privilege is attached to the rank of Canon and not to a particular Religious Community I don’t agree with such a custom. Nevertheless, it exists as a valid argument.

MAJOR SUPERIORS: Here we mean those clerics who exercise Ordinary Jurisdiction over persons in the internal and external forum, hence, canonically considered prelates. These would include Vicars General, Vicars Episcopal and Abbots. They all make use of a black galero from which hangs twelve black tassels from black cords. The same rule about the color of the habit determining the color of the galero, cords and tassels used for Canons Regular is also frequently applied to Abbots as well but I don’t agree for the same reason as above.

In addition, the Abbot employs the use of a veiled crozier placed vertically behind the shield. The veil or sudarium, dates from a time when abbots did not yet enjoy the privilege of all the pontificals, including pontifical gloves, and the veil served to protect the staff of the crozier from soil and perspiration. It remains now in heraldry only and marks one of the few exceptions to the use of the crozier in the coats of arms of persons.

There is also the office of Ordinary of a specific Ordinariate (such as the newly formed Anglican Ordinariates). Such Ordinaries, although not bishops, enjoy the use of pontifical insignia. Therefore, it was suggested by some, including myself, that they should make use of external ornaments that include the black galero with twelve black tassels and the crozier (to indicate their status as an Ordinary) but without the sudarium to differentiate it from the crozier of an Abbot.

It is worth noting that many who hold these offices, Abbots excepted, often are promoted to a rank of one of the three kinds of Roman Prelates and in such cases would make use of a galero proper to that rank.

MONSIGNORI: These are the clergy who have received Roman Honors from the Pope and, as such, are technically members of the Pontifical Household. There are three levels or ranks and all are addressed as “Reverend Monsignor”.

Prothonotaries Apostolic: They are further divided into Prothonotaries Apostolic “de numero” (participatium) and Prothonotaries Apostolic Supernumerary. The Former make up the College of Notaries of the Church and also serve as Canons of the Papal Basilicas in Rome; the latter are those prelates so honored around the world. They all make use of a purple galero from which twelve amaranth red tassels hang from amaranth red cords.

Prelates of Honor: This middle level makes use of a purple galero with twelve purple tassels hanging from purple cords.

Chaplains to His Holiness: This lowest level make use of a black galero from which hang twelve purple tassels from purple cords.

DEACONS: There is no officially sanctioned external heraldic ornament for Permanent Deacons in the Catholic Church. This is partly so because when heraldry first grew and flourished the office of Permanent Deacon did not exist in the Church. Rather, by that time it had receded to being the final step on the way to priesthood and, as such, only Transitional Deacons existed. It was not considered necessary to devise a heraldic emblem for an office held only temporarily. With the revival of the Permanent Diaconate in 1970 the matter should probably well have been addressed but has not been.

There are some authors who contend that on the authority of the Holy See Deacons are to make use of a crest of a ciborium surrounded by a humeral veil like mantling and include on the shield a chief with a bend to suggest a stole worn diagonally in the manner of Deacons. This is FALSE. Such a contention is made up out of whole cloth entirely and enjoys no sanction from the Church. It is ludicrous to suggest that after replacing the secular crest with the ecclesial galero the Church would then devise a crest specific to a particular rank of clergy, especially when a heraldic crest is specific to an individual. In addition, it makes no sense to think that the Church which, again, does not concern itself with the blazon on the shield, would now mandate a chief to be added to the armorial blazon of the arms of Deacons especially when one considers that married men may be ordained to the Diaconate and this could very well mean that such a chief would then be borne by their children, who may not be Deacons, when they inherit the arms from their father.

In the Church of England (and by extension the whole Anglican Communion) there is a provision for Deacons to ensign the shield with a black galero that has no tassels or cords. This was determined by a 1976 Earl Marshal’s Warrant. There are those who contend that such an ensign should be adopted for use by Deacons in the Roman Catholic Church as well. I have not yet fully made up my mind. I don’t oppose the idea from a heraldic or artistic standpoint. As an external ornament it would not be “inheritable” by a Deacon’s heirs but I would rather the Holy See issue an Instruction to clarify the matter or otherwise it remains simply borrowing from another heraldic tradition.

When asked I recommend that armigerous Deacons do one of the following: a) Make use of the shield and motto alone. There is no hard and fast rule that one MUST employ helm, mantle and crest in a heraldic achievement. Indeed the only thing “necessary” is the shield. b) Make use of a “secular” manner of a coat of arms with helm, mantle and crest, especially if the arms are destined to be inherited. c) Compromise by making use of both an ecclesiastical and a secular version of the coat of arms. d) Employ some kind of heraldic augmentation to the shield which would be removed when the arms are inherited (such as an escutcheon in pretense or a canton) or incorporate a charge into the design of the arms that alludes to Diaconal ministry but would not seem inappropriate or offensive when the arms are used by later generations not unlike charges that allude to the occupation of the original bearer but do not indicate the occupation of subsequent generations who inherit the coat of arms.