Bishops choose coats of arms

By Chicago Catholic
Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Each bishop has his own coat of arms that bears his episcopal motto — often a quote from Scripture — and symbols that have some personal significance to the man. These coats of arms are used on documents and letterhead and other items pertaining to that bishop. Below are the coats of arms and their descriptions for the three new bishops. The designs were created and explained by Father Guy Selvester, a priest of the Diocese of Metuchen, New Jersey.

The episcopal heraldic achievement, or bishop’s coat of arms, is composed of a shield with its charges (symbols), a motto scroll and the external ornamentation. The shield is the central and most important feature of any heraldic device.

The achievement is completed with the external ornaments, which are a gold processional cross that is placed in back of and which extends above and below the shield, and the pontifical hat, called a “galero,” with its six tassels, in three rows, on either side of the shield, all in green. These are the heraldic insignia of a prelate of the rank of bishop.

Bishop Birmingham

Blazon: Per fess indented vert and argent, in chief a chalice, or, draped with a priestly stole, argent, fringed or and charged at each end with a fleur-de-lis gules; in base, three roses gules barbed and seeded proper.

Explanation: Bishop Birmingham’s design represents his family name and symbols of his own devotional life. The division of the shield uses a jagged line called “indented” in heraldry and is borrowed from the arms associated with the Birmingham family and which is also used in several places that bear the name Birmingham.

The upper half is green with a gold (yellow) chalice and white priest’s stole. These symbols represent priestly life and ministry and specifically allude to St. John Vianney, the patron saint of priests, to whom the bishop has had a lifelong devotion. On the ends of the stole are red fleurs-de-lis. This symbol is associated with France, where St. John Vianney lived and died, and are also borrowed from the original coat of arms of the Archdiocese of Chicago, where the bishop has spent his life and priestly ministry.

The lower half shows three red roses on a silver (white) background. They represent Our Lady of Guadalupe, patroness of the Americas. The miraculous blooming of roses in December occurred in connection with her appearance to Juan Diego. Two days after his ordination as a priest, the bishop traveled to Mexico City and celebrated his second Mass as a priest at the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe. Throughout his priesthood he has had a strong devotion to Mary under this title.

The motto below the shield is “Tend my people” (adapted from Jn 21:16).

Bishop Grob

Blazon: Azure, the blade of a plow, or; in chief between two fleurs-de-lis a crescent all argent. Shield ensigned with an episcopal cross, or (gold).

Explanation: Bishop Grob’s design symbolizes his origins, his personal devotion and the place in which he has spent his ministry as a priest. The field is azure, or blue, and the main charge is a large gold (yellow) plow blade facing the viewer. This not only alludes to the ministry of spreading the Gospel as symbolized by plowing a field to prepare for seed to be sown, but is an allusion to the bishop’s early life growing up on a Wisconsin dairy farm. Above the plow blade are a silver (white) crescent, a symbol of Our Lady under her title of the Immaculate Conception, which is the patronal feast of the United States.

The two silver (white) fleurs-de-lis represent several things. First, they are a symbol of St. Joseph, to whom the bishop has a special devotion as a kind of patron saint because he was born on the Solemnity of St. Joseph, March 19. The fleur-de-lis is a stylized version of the lily, and St. Joseph is often depicted holding a staff from which lilies are blossoming. Second, they allude to St. John XXIII, who used them in his own coat of arms. The bishop has a devotion to this great 20th century saint. Finally, there are two fleurs-de-lis in the original coat of arms of the Archdiocese of Chicago, where the bishop has served as a priest and will now serve as a bishop.

The motto below the shield is “Jesus the vine.”

Bishop Lombardo

Blazon: Chape ployé, argent and azure; in dexter chief, the crossed arms of Jesus Christ and St. Francis proper wounded gules; in sinister chief, the monogram of the Virgin Mary composed of the letter “M” interlaced with a cross azure; in base above two barrulets wavy argent, a cross-shaped monstrance or charged with a plate.

Explanation: Bishop Lombardo’s design reflects his religious community, his Marian devotion and the centrality of the Eucharist. The shield is divided into three sections by a dividing line that suggests an open cape. In the upper left on a silver (white) background is the customary symbol of Franciscans the world over, composed of the right bare arm of Jesus and the left clothed arm of St. Francis of Assisi. Both show the hands bearing the nail mark of the crucifixion because St. Francis received the stigmata prior to his death. The color of the sleeve on the arm of Francis reflects the grey/blue habit worn by the CFR Franciscans. This color more closely approximates the color of the robe actually worn by St. Francis himself. Bishop Lombardo is the first member of his community to be named a bishop.

The upper right depicts a traditional monogram of the Blessed Virgin Mary. It is composed of the letter M interlaced with a cross. The whole is depicted blue, a color frequently associated with the Blessed Mother, on a silver (white) field. This emblem is also found on the reverse of the Miraculous Medal of Our Lady, which the bishop received years ago in Lourdes and has worn every day since.

The lower, main, portion of the shield is blue with a gold (yellow) cross-shaped monstrance holding the sacred Host above blue and silver (white) waves. The waves allude to the Atlantic Ocean of the East Coast of the U.S., where the bishop was born, and also to Lake Michigan, where Chicago is located and where he has done priestly and, now, episcopal ministry, as well as to the Mediterranean Sea near Salerno and Calabria in Italy, from which his ancestors came. The central figure is a simple monstrance in the shape of the cross containing the Eucharist. This symbolizes the central place in the bishop’s life of the Eucharist and also the eucharistic retreats undertaken by the friars of his community all over the world.

The motto below the shield is “My God and my all.”



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