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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:

THERE IS NO OFFICIALLY SANCTIONED EXTERNAL HERALDIC ORNAMENT TO ENSIGN THE ARMORIAL BEARINGS OF DEACONS IN THE LATIN RITE ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH.

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.

NO, THEY DON’T.

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

DEACONS HAVE NO EXTERNAL ORNAMENT PROPER TO THEM IN ROMAN CATHOLIC HERALDRY!!!!

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A Gallery of Banality

In January several new Auxiliary Bishops have been ordained in the USA. Their choices regarding armorial bearings have been, shall we say, underwhelming. I am not commenting on the quality of the artwork, at least not for the moment. This post is concerned with the content and composition of these coats of arms from a heraldically correct viewpoint. Let’s have a look.

Most Rev. Timothy Freyer, Auxiliary of Orange, CA (ordained January 17)

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Meh.

Most Rev. Mark Brennan, Auxiliary of Baltimore, MD (ordained January 19)

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Busy.

Most Rev. Adam Parker, Auxiliary of Baltimore, MD (ordained January 19)

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Gag. (and not entitled to the quarter of the Order of the Holy Sepulcher)

Most Rev. Gerard Battersby, Auxiliary of Detroit, MI (ordained January 25)

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Yuck.

Most Rev. Robert Fisher, Auxiliary of Detroit, MI (ordained January 25)

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Blech.

“Christmas” Heraldry

Each year at this time I always seem to get involved in a conversation with at least one other heraldry enthusiast about coats of arms associated with Christmas or the Christmas season. Here are a few tidbits I offer for your amusement. (Keep in mind the ancient custom of attributed arms, that is, coats of arms attributed to people who were not necessarily armigerous themselves, especially if they lived prior to the advent of heraldry and/or coats of arms devised for and attributed to people who may or may not be fictitious!)

Santa Claus (Saint Nicholas)

Here is a a coat of arms recently devised by a friend for St. Nicholas

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Here is another said to be of “Father Christmas”

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The Three Wise Men (or Kings)

The arms attributed to Kaspar, Balthasaar and Melchior (depicted beautifully by the Italian heraldic artist, Marco Foppoli)

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The Blessed Virgin Mary

A coat of arms attributed to the Mother of Jesus, Mary

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Jesus (you know…the One whose birthday we’re celebrating?)

This is just one of many different attributed arms for Jesus, the Christ depicting the implements of His passion.

Arms of Christ

The Holy Family

A wonderful Christmas scene showing all the principal armigerous figures of the story of the Nativity with their corresponding attributed arms. (by daSilva)

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Edmund Cardinal Szoka, RIP

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His Eminence Edmund Cardinal Szoka, a priest of Marquette Michigan, Former Bishop of Gaylord, Michigan, Former Archbishop of Detroit, Michigan, Cardinal Priest of Sant’Andrea e Gregorio al Monte Celio, Former President of the Prefecture for the Economic Affairs of the Holy See, Former President of the Pontifical Commission for the Vatican City-State and President-Emeritus of the Governorate of the Vatican City-State has passed away. His coat of arms underwent several changes as he moved from Gaylord, to Detroit to the Holy See. The last version of his arms is below. May he rest in peace.

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Really? Again?

I know what you’re thinking. A blog…again Fr. Guy? Haven’t we been down this road before? Well, yes, we have but what I was always attempting to do with the other blogs was, frankly, too much. I don’t have the time to do a blog that is updated several times a day everyday. I don’t have the resources to do a blog that is a source of news and information about the Church, the USA, the world or anything else for that matter. I don’t have a lively enough interest in lots of different things to do a blog about, you know, lots of different things.

So, why am I betting (read: hoping) that the third time is a charm? Because this time I’ve decided to do a blog that I think will be more manageable. It’s about heraldry. The overriding passion, avocation really, of my life has been my abiding and ever-deepening interest in heraldry in general and ecclesiastical heraldry in particular. So, this blog is about just that: heraldry. Because that is a topic that elicits every reaction from enthusiastic agreement to mild amusement to searching for the quickest exit without making any sharp or jerking movements from those with whom I share it I know that it is never going to become anyone’s “go to” blog for anything. In addition, its not like heraldry has got breaking stories every hour of the day so there will be no need for me to attend to it all the time.

When there is something I want to write or something I want to share or something I want to criticize or something I want to bring to your attention, I will. For those of you who already like heraldry and have some knowledge of it that should be fun. For those of you who may be looking to learn more about heraldry I hope it will teach you a thing or two. For those who have just a passing interest in the subject and/or might be searching for information for a particular reason I hope this blog may prove helpful. For those of you who haven’t got the slightest interest in this topic: why are you still reading?

Oh! And for those wondering about the name. It is “heraldry” in one of the many translations into Latin that are considered acceptable.