Category Archives: Priests

Heraldry For Parish History

Among the various ways that a parish community can record and mark its history is through the use of heraldry. Many are familiar with the custom of churches having incorporated into the architecture of the building, or in a church building’s decoration, the coat of arms of the reigning pope and the bishop at the time the church was constructed or consecrated. The use of the coats of arms of the pastors who have served the parish can be similarly used.

In a previous assignment where I served as Rector of a Shrine Church I entered into a project to devise what would be considered attributed arms for all of my predecessors so that the tenure of each Rector could be remembered by means of a coat of arms for each displayed in the Rectory Office. I was even able to devise a coat of arms for my successor as well!

I arrived at my current parish assignment as Parish Administrator, a common practice in many dioceses including my own. The idea is to have a new priest serve as Administrator (a temporary appointment) for a time until it is determined if the man is a “good fit” for the parish at which time, usually one year, he would be appointed Pastor with a six-year renewable term. In my case I served as Administrator for two years because as the end of my first year was approaching our bishop resigned and a new bishop arrived who wanted to take some time himself to settle in to the diocese before making any major decisions.

At the time my tenure as Administrator began I devised a coat of arms for the parish community. In June of this year I was appointed Pastor of the parish and my official Installation takes place later this month. To mark this start of a new chapter I decided to undertake a similar project of devising coats of arms for my predecessors to be displayed in a suitable place somewhere in one of the parish buildings.

There have been 23 priests in charge of St. Joseph Church, Washington, New Jersey since its establishment as an independent parish in 1871. Of those 23 one of them, Rev. John Eagan, served here for only 11 months in 1943 as Administrator. In addition, one of the priests, Rev. John Auchter, actually served here for six years but was never an incardinated priest of the Metuchen Diocese. Rather, he was and always remained, a priest of the neighboring diocese of Allentown, Pennsylvania on loan to the Metuchen Diocese. Consequently, he only had the title “Administrator” but was, for all intents and purposes, the Pastor of this parish as much as any of the others. So, while Fr. Eagan is not counted among the Pastors of St. Joseph Fr. Auchter is counted among their number. As a result I find myself now as the 22nd Pastor of St. Joseph.

For the purposes of this project I found it rather daunting to face the prospect of devising 21 attributed coats of arms. Therefore, I decided to try and pare down the list. But, what criteria should I use to do so. I decided to look at the entire history of the parish in stages. At its foundation in 1871, by Bishop James Roosevelt Bayley, the nephew of St. Elizabeth Ann (Bayley) Seton, the parish was part of the then Diocese of Newark which, at that time, covered the entire state of New Jersey. Just ten years later, in 1881, the parish became part of the newly established Diocese of Trenton encompassing eight counties in the central part of New Jersey. A century later St. John Paul II decided to separate the four northern counties of Trenton and erect the Diocese of Metuchen in November of 1981. Once again, the parish of St. Joseph found itself in a new diocese. It was this last separation, becoming part of the diocese in which it currently finds itself, that I decided to use as my dividing line. At least for the time being this project encompasses the coats of arms of the seven Pastors the parish has had since the erection of the Diocese of Metuchen. At some point in the future other coats of arms can be added until all the Pastors are represented.

Creating attributed arms is both a challenge and a lot of fun. All but two of my predecessors are deceased and the living ones could not be easily consulted. In addition, two of the seven who served here since 1981 are non-armigerous because, sadly, they both were convicted of crimes and sentenced to prison. As such, it is not appropriate to devise coats of arms for them and had they been armigerous the privilege of having a coat of arms would have been lost to them.

In each case the attributed arms contains charges that allude to their names or to some other strong association with them. That way, each is somewhat easily associated with the priest it represents. In all cases their personal arms are emblazoned impaled with the arms assumed for the parish itself and the shield is ensigned with a simple priest’s galero. No mottoes were used in the depiction of these achievements.

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The Arms of St. Joseph Parish, Washington, New Jersey (est. 1871)

The arms are based on those of George Washington for whom the Borough and Township where the parish is located are named. His arms showed two red bars on a silver (white) field with three red stars above. Here the colors have been reversed and the stars changed to three fleurs-de-lis, a symbol of St. Joseph.

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Rev. William Roos 16th Pastor 1979-1983

The name “Roos” alludes to a rose in Dutch, hence the three roses.

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Rev. (later Monsignor) John A. Auchter (Administrator) 1983-1989

The lamp is from a German coat of arms associated with the family name. The chief contains the arms of the Diocese of Allentown, PA of which Fr. Auchter was an incardinated priest. After his time in New Jersey he returned to his own diocese and was later promoted to Prelate of Honor with the title “Rev. Monsignor”. However, when serving here he was still simply a priest.

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Rev. Michael Santillo 18th Pastor 1989-1992

He does not have a personal coat of arms so the parish arms are impaled with a blank shield. The design on that half of the shield is a technique to fill empty space in heraldry called “diapering” and it is merely decorative.

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Rev. Michael A. Kochon 19th Pastor 1992-1999

Father Kochon’s arms consist of a flaming sword which is symbolic of his patron, St. Michael the Archangel and a wild hog’s head erased. In French the word cochon, similar to his surname Kochon, means pig so his personal arms allude to his given and family names.

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Rev. (later Mr.) Robert J. Ascolese 20th Pastor 1999-2006

He does not have a personal coat of arms so the parish arms are impaled with a blank shield. The design on that half of the shield is a technique to fill empty space in heraldry called “diapering” and it is merely decorative.

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Rev. Blaise R. Baran 21st Pastor 2006-2015

Father Baran’s name means “rain” in Persian, hence the raindrops. His patron, St. Blaise, is alluded to by the two candles crossed in saltire which are used to give the Blessing of Throats on the feast day of St. Blaise.

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Rev. Guy W. Selvester (Administrator 2015-2017) 22nd Pastor 2017 – 

Readers of this blog should know the symbolism of my arms by now but the division line sapiné (shaped like fir trees) alludes to my family name which was originally Silvestri (later anglicized to Selvester) which means a forest dweller or woodsman. The green and gold (yellow) tinctures are for my Irish ancestry and the cross for the centrality of my faith in my life. It is a cross fleury so that the fleurs-de-lis are references to both the Holy Trinity and Our Lady.

Coat of Arms of a Priest

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The newly-assumed armorial bearings of the Rev. Jon Tveit of the Archdiocese of New York (above).

The main portion of the shield depicts a gold (yellow) field surrounded by a green border the edge of which is scalloped with convex semicircles. This is done to suggest a clearing in a forested area, the trees represented by the green border and the clearing by the gold field. The armiger’s surname, Tveit, is from the Old Norse that translates to, “a field cleared from a forest” or a person who dwells in such a place. (A similar name in English would be Thwaite). In the middle of this “clearing” is a red scallop shell. This is primarily a symbol of the armiger’s principal baptismal patron, St. John the Baptist. In addition, the shell is a charge in the coat of arms of Benedict XVI, the Pope-Emeritus, whom the armiger greatly admires. It was during the pontificate of Benedict XVI that Fr. Jon came to a deeper understanding of his faith, discerned his priestly vocation and entered the seminary to begin his preparation for priesthood.

The upper third of the shield, called a “chief” is silver (white) and on it are two red hearts with a red fleur-de-lis between them. The colors red and white are taken from the coat of arms of the Archdiocese of New York for which the armiger was ordained and in which he engages in his priestly ministry. In addition, the white background is a color often associated with the virtue of Purity to which the armiger always aspires and tries to cultivate in his own life. He has a great devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary in his personal devotional life so the hearts symbolize that. The fleur-de-lis has long been used heraldically as a symbol of both Our Lady and her spouse, St. Joseph. Fr. Tveit attended St. Joseph seminary in Dunwoodie, NY.

The only external ornament is the black, broad-brimmed pilgrim hat called a “galero”. In heraldry this is used in place of the traditional helmet, mantling and crest to indicate that the bearer of the coat of arms is a cleric. The color of the hat, the cords and the tassels as well as the number of tassels developed over the centuries to differ depending on the rank of the bearer. A black hat with black cords and one black tassel suspended on either side of the shield indicate the armiger is a priest.

The motto, “Non in Arcu Meo Sperabo” below the shield is taken from Psalm 43:7 and translates to, “For I will not trust in my bow”.

Cathedral Dean

Here is the coat of arms of the Very Rev. Fr. Donald Richardson, BTh, STB, MA, KCHS who is presently the Dean of the Cathedral and Basilican Church of the Immaculate Mother of God, Help of Christians  more commonly known as St. Mary’s Cathedral in Sydney, Australia. He has long been armigerous being a heraldry enthusiast himself and the cathedral church has made use of a corporate coat of arms different from that of the Archdiocese for a long time. When he was appointed Dean I told him I would prepare a nice emblazonment with his own arms impaled with the cathedral arms.

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Because his personal arms are so similar to the arms of the cathedral I chose to use a line of separation in a color other than black since black wouldn’t provide a clear enough separation. There’s nothing wrong with this. many other artists and authors have advocated it as well. (See: Carl Alexander Vov Volborth’s works, Heraldry: Customs, Rules and Styles and The Art of Heraldry)

In addition, while Fr. Richardson does not possess a Roman Honor his arms are ensigned with the galero used for what is collectively known as “Minor Officials” which would include cathedral deans and/or rectors, rectors of shrine churches or seminaries, basilica rectors, Vicars Forane, Religious Superiors, etc. This galero has two tassels pendant on either side of the shield and they may be shown hanging one below the other or, as here, side by side from a median knot. Father will bear these arms “pro hac vice”, that is to say, during his tenure as Dean of the Cathedral only.

The cross of Jerusalem is included in the achievement to note that he is a Knight Commander in the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre. The motto means, “Lord, It Is Good For Us to Be Here” (Matt. 17:4)

Sacerdotal Coat of Arms

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The coat of arms recently completed for a very patient priest in the USA who was ordained in May of 2015. The blazon is:

Gules, an ancient harp below an ancient crown all Or; on a chief Azure fimbriated Or between two thuribles Or with two wisps of smoke rising on either side Argent, the Sacred Heart of Jesus Or, enflamed Or wounded and enfiled by a crown of thorns Sable. The shield is displayed on the cross of the EOHS and suspended below the shield is a badge of a Chaplain of Magistral Grace of the SMOM. Ensigning the shield is a priest’s galero with cords and two tassels pendant on either side all Sable. On a scroll below the shield is the motto, “Surge Domine“.

The field is composed of two colors: a red field with a blue chief so the chief is separated from the field by a gold (yellow) fimbriation to avoid violating the tincture “rule” (which, as Heim proved in his book, Or and Argent isn’t so much a rule as a custom).

The principal charge, a crowned ancient harp, alludes to the patron of the bearer, David, the King who by tradition is considered the composer of many of the Psalms. The charges on the chief allude to the bearer’s devotion to the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus and the sacred liturgy. The two thuribles with smoke rising from them represent the liturgy itself. There are references in both Scripture and Tradition of the rising incense being like our prayers in worship ascending to the Lord. In addition, incense represents a sacrificial offering such as one finds in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

The shield is ensigned with a black priest’s galero. In addition, the shield is placed on the cross of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulcher in which the bearer received the rank of Knight Grand Cross prior to his ordination. The badge of the Sovereign Military and Hospitaller Order of St. John of Jerusalem, Rhodes and Malta is suspended below the shield as the bearer was a Knight in that order prior to ordination as well. Upon being ordained a priest the armiger was “translated” from being a lay knight to being a Chaplain of Magistral Grace.

On a scroll below the shield is the motto, “Surge Domine”.

Coat of Arms for a Priest

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The arms (above) were recently designed and emblazoned by me for an American priest who is also a member of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre.

The priest has a devotion to St. Anthony, his baptismal patron, and is a Third Order Dominican. The gyronny of eight that makes up the field is taken from the arms of the Order of Preachers. In addition, the black and white recalls the arms of the city of Lisbon where St. Anthony was born. The plate charged with a red cross at the center alludes to the arms of the city of Padua, where St. Anthony died and is buried. In addition, this charge represents the sacred Host used at Mass because the armiger has advanced studies in the sacred liturgy. Finally, the counterchanged wavy bar in base alludes to three things: the lake at Mundelein where the liturgical studies were undertaken at the Liturgical Institute there; his home state, Michigan, which is situated in the Great Lakes; a charge in the arms of the diocese in which he serves.

The shield is ensigned with the motto meaning “In Spirit and in Truth”, the priest’s galero and the cross of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre.

Coat of Arms of a Priest

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Above is the coat of arms for an American Benedictine monk and priest. Disappointed that there was not any external ornament in Catholic heraldry that would specifically and immediately identify a coat of arms as belonging to a Benedictine as, for example, the cross fleury behind the shield used by Dominicans, and cognizant that it was inappropriate simply to marshal his own arms to those of his Order (as far too many Religious mistakenly do) I was asked by him to come up with a design that reflected his membership in the Order of St. Benedict.

The principal charge, a raven, is a symbol of St. Benedict and the heart it holds in its beak is a reflection of both a personal devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus on the part of the armiger as well as an allusion to the motto which means “Bend my Heart” or “Incline my Heart” which is also inspired by a line in the Holy Rule of St. Benedict.

The background is a variation of the blue and silver fusils in bend that can be found in the arms of Bavaria. The monastery to which he belongs is one of several in the U.S. founded by Bavarian monks who came to the U.S. as missionaries in the mid 19th C. and it also forms part of the monastery’s own coat of arms. Here the fusils are placed in a straight vertical position rather than in bend and the field draws in close to create a single fusil in the center as the background for the raven.

This coat of arms was designed by me in 2014 and most recently and very beautifully rendered by the Italian heraldic artist, Marco Foppoli.

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.