By DEACON PAUL J. SULLIVAN, Commentary | Published August 3, 2017
The episcopal heraldic achievement, or bishop’s coat of arms, is composed of a shield, that is the central and most important part of the design and tells to whom the design belongs, the external ornamentation, that tells the owner’s position or rank, and a motto, placed upon a scroll.
By heraldic tradition the design is described (blazoned) as if being done by the bearer with the shield being worn on the arm. Thus, where it applies the terms “sinister” (left) and “dexter” (right) are reversed as the design is viewed from the front.
For the bishop who is without jurisdiction, as an Auxiliary Bishop, the entire shield of his design is given over to his personal arms.
Based on the arms of Bishop Shlesinger’s home diocese of Raleigh, North Carolina, by reversing the color to be red on silver (white), is a cross of The Faith that is composed of eight diamonds (heraldically called “lozenges”). Upon these lozenges is a gold escutchen (small shield within the major shield) that is charged with the symbolism of the Sacred Heart. To the lower right, base sinister, is a blue “M,” of the Virgin Mary, taken from the arms of His Holiness, Pope St. John Paul II, symbolizing that all comes to Jesus by way of Mary.
For his motto, His Excellency, Bishop Shlesinger has adopted the Latin phrase “Christum Oportet Crescere,” that is taken from the 30th verse of the third chapter of St. John’s Gospel. In this passage, St. John the Baptist admonishes the readers that for our deep and effective faith in Jesus, “Christ Must Increase” as our intentions “must decrease.”
The achievement is completed with the external ornaments that are a gold (yellow) processional cross, that extends above and below the shield and a 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 by instruction of the Holy See, of March 1969.
Rev. Mr. Sullivan is a permanent deacon of the Diocese of Providence, Rhode Island.