Category Archives: Abbots & Abbesses

Norbertine Cardinals

There have been fewer cardinals in the Church from the Order of Canons Regular of Prémontré (aka Norbertines) than there have been of other orders and, as far as I can tell, two of those known to be associated with that Order were Abbots in Commendam only. The Premonstratensian Cardinals are:

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Armand Jean du Plessis, Duke de Richelieu, Bishop of Luçon, Commendatory Abbot of Prémontré, (also Territorial Abbot of Cluny and Abbot in Commendam of Citeaux)

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Johannes von Bucka, O.Praem. Archbishop of Olomouc

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Ippolito II d’Este, Archbishop of Auch, Archbishop of Arles, Commendatory Abbot of Prémontré

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Benedictine Cardinals

Throughout the Church’s history there have been many members of the hierarchy who were members of Religious Communities. The present pope is a member of the Society of Jesus (Jesuits) and the first from that Order elected to the papacy. One of the oldest Orders in the Western Church is the Order of St. Benedict. Many monks have been made bishops and quite a few have been raised to the Sacred Purple as Cardinals. The following is by no means exhaustive but gives a sampling of some of the Benedictine Cardinals in recent history. (My gratitude to the fine website called Araldica Vaticana for many of these examples.

Enjoy!

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Gregory Cardinal Chiaramonte, OSB (later Pope Pius VII)

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Jean Cardinal Pitra, OSB

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Placido Cardinal Schiaffino, OSB Oliv

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Celestine Cardinal Ganglbauer, OSB (Archbishop of Vienna)

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Aidan Cardinal Gasquet, OSB (Vatican Archivist)

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Bl. Giuseppe Cardinal Dusmet, OSB (Archbishop of Catania)

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Kolos Cardinal Vaszary, OSB (Primate of Hungary)

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Francisco de S. Luiz Cardinal Soraiva, OSB (Patriarch of Lisbon)

NOTE: Cardinal Soraiva also had a version of his arms with a galero but also used the triple tiara as was customary for the Patriarchs of Lisbon until very recently.

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Domenico Cardinal Serafini, OSB

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Ildephonse Cardinal Schuster, OSB (Abbot of St. Paul Outside-the-Walls and later Archbishop of Milan)

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Justinian Cardinal Seredi, OSB (Primate of Hungary)

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Joachim Cardinal Albareda y Ramoneda, OSB (Vatican Librarian)

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Benno Cardinal Gut, OSB

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Basil Cardinal Hume, OSB (Archbishop of Westminster)

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Hans Herman Cardinal Groer, OSB (Archbishop of Vienna)

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Paul Augustine Cardinal Mayer, OSB

Abbot-General of the Norbertines

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The armorial bearings of the newly elected Abbot-General of the Order of Canons Regular of Prèmontrè (aka the Norbertines) the Most Rev. Josef Wouters, O.Praem., former abbot of Averbode. This coat of arms was originally designed by Luc Duerloo and contains charges on a fess normally associated with the Community at Averbode with the addition of personal symbols (the lance head and plow blade). The impalement here is with the arms of the Order. I understand that, as Abbot-General, he has decided to use some other arrangement which, oddly, combines the symbols for Averbode with the arms of the Order and omits any personal symbols whatsoever.

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+Rt. Rev. Giles Hayes, OSB R.I.P.

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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.

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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.

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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)

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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.

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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.

+Rt. Rev. Paul Maher, OSB: RIP

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Archabbot Paul R. Maher, O.S.B., the tenth Archabbot of Saint Vincent Archabbey, Latrobe, Pennsylvania died Thursday, June 29, 2017, the Solemnity of Ss. Peter & Paul. He was 91 years old. A native of Latrobe, Pennsylvania, he served as Archabbot from 1983 until 1990.

Archabbot Paul received his early schooling in Latrobe, where he attended Holy Family School and was an altar server in Holy Family Parish. Having completed elementary school, he went to Saint Vincent Preparatory School for his secondary education. He graduated from Saint Vincent Prep in 1943, in the middle of the Second World War. Just turned 18 years old, he joined the U.S. Army Air Corps. For the next two years he served in the European Theater as tail gunner on a B-24 bomber. He flew 21 combat missions over southern Germany and Austria and was honorably discharged at the end of the war.

The influence of his older brother William, who had become a diocesan priest, and his older sister Rita, who became a Religious Sister of Mercy nun, helped him reach the decision to study for the Benedictine priesthood. In 1945 he returned to Saint Vincent and began his studies at Saint Vincent College as a candidate for the Benedictine Order. In 1947 he was admitted to the Order as a novice and made his simple profession of monastic vows on July 2, 1948. He professed solemn vows three years later, on July 11, 1951.

Archabbot Paul received his A.B. Degree from Saint Vincent College in 1950 and immediately began his studies of theology in Saint Vincent Seminary. In 1951 Archabbot Denis Strittmatter, O.S.B. sent the young Benedictine brother to Rome to complete his theological studies at the Pontifical Atheneum of Sant’ Anselmo. Two years later, he was ordained to the priesthood by Bishop Placido Nicolini, O.S.B., at the Basilica of Saint Francis in Assisi on June 21, 1953. After ordination, he continued graduate studies at Sant’ Anselmo for another four years, earning a Ph.D. in philosophy in 1957.

Upon completion of his doctorate, Father Paul returned to Saint Vincent, where he taught philosophy in the College and Seminary from 1957 to 1966, serving as chairman of the College’s Department of Philosophy from 1961 to 1966. During his years of teaching at Saint Vincent, he also served as moderator of one of the College’s residence halls (1958 to 1960), socius (superior) of the monastery’s junior monks (1960 to 1963), and vice rector of Saint Vincent Seminary (1963 to 1966).

In 1966, Archabbot Paul was named prior (superior) of Saint Vincent’s mission to China and a member of the faculty of Fu Jen Catholic University, Taiwan. He remained in Taiwan as monastic superior and university professor for seventeen years.

He was elected Archabbot on June 7, 1983, and on June 30, 1983, received the abbatial blessing in the Archabbey Basilica from Bishop William G. Connare of Greensburg, Pennsylvania. Among those present at his blessing were Archbishop Rembert Weakland of Milwaukee; Bishop Norbert Gaughan, auxiliary bishop of Greensburg; Bishop Rene Gracida of Corpus Christi, Texas; and the two retired Archabbots of Saint Vincent, Archabbot Egbert Donovan and Archabbot Leopold Krul.

Mark W. McGinnis, author of the book The Wisdom of the Benedictine Elders, described Archabbot Paul as a “very intelligent, highly experienced abbot who has the demeanor, gentleness, and openness of an ideal priest.” His brother monks would agree with this and add that he was an ideal monk: humble, generous, thoughtful of others, and devoted to the Benedictine life of prayer and work.

Following his retirement in 1990, Archabbot Paul became a parish assistant at Saint Benedict Church, Carrolltown, Pennsylvania, where he resided until 1996. He returned to the Archabbey that year to serve as guestmaster and archivist until 2009. Archabbot Paul was the son of the late William A. Maher and Edna G. (Hunt) Maher. He was one of twelve children, two of whom are currently residing in Latrobe.

He was a very humble man eschewing the use of pontificalia as he was entitled by his office. He only grudgingly agreed to have a coat of arms at the behest of the archivist of the community, the late Fr. Omer U. Kline, OSB. His coat of arms was designed in consultation with the late Br. Nathan Cochran, OSB of St. Vincent and alludes to the traditional Irish arms associated with the name Maher; his baptismal and monastic patron, St. Paul (the sword) and his missionary work via the double-barred Scheyern cross being used at St. Vincent as the “mission cross” given to those monks sent out into the mission fields. From a lack of correct heraldic custom the crozier (veiled or otherwise) was omitted from the achievement and the extra knots and loop of cords below the galero was a bit of license by the artist who wished to fill the space left by the lack of a crozier. The motto, “Resonare Christum” (Echo Christ) was also used by the late John Cardinal Wright of Pittsburgh.

May he rest in peace.