Bishop's Kevin Dorans Episcopal Coat of Arms
The Coat of Arms
There is a long established tradition that a bishop has a coat of arms. It is not strictly necessary and some may wonder what purpose it serves. With its rich symbolism, a coat of arms can serve as a kind of contract with the people of the diocese and as a reminder to the bishop himself of what his mission is about.
In the heraldic tradition of the Roman Catholic Church, the Coat of Arms of a Bishop is normally composed of:
- a shield with its charges (symbols) drawn from family, geographic, religious and historical significance and/or related to the name of the Bishop;
- a golden processional cross, with one traversal bar, to represent the rank of the Bishop, “impaled” (vertically) behind the shield;
- a green hat (galero) with 12 (six on each side) attached tassels, ordained 1; 2; 3; from the top;
- a scroll with the motto, written in black, below.
In this case a samnitic shape shield, frequently used in the heraldry of the Roman Catholic Church, has been chosen, along with a celtic processional cross with five red stones to represent the Five Wounds of Christ, reminding Bishop Kevin that he will be called upon to imitate Christ the Good Shepherd, in “laying down his life” for the flock.
Blazonry (heraldic description)
“Party per pale. Dexter: gules, two croziers in saltire or, surmounting a lamb couchant argent in base. Sinister: of the last, an anchor vert, sustaining a blackbird sable, beaked or, holding in his beak a copper pot proper, four wavy barrulets azure in base”
Motto “UNUM CORPUS IN CHRISTO ” (Romans 12,5)
For his episcopal motto Bishop Kevin has chosen these words taken from the letter to the Romans. While it reflects the theme of the 50th International Eucharistic Congress, it is primarily a reference to the ministry of the bishop to be the “servant of communion” and the vocation of the diocese to be One Body in Christ.
In the right side of the shield (seen from the point of view of the one holding the shield) we find represented the Coat of Arms of the Diocese of Elphin; two golden crossed croziers surmounting a lamb as the central symbol reflecting Jesus, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. The imagery of sheep and shepherds is well understood throughout the diocese, as it was in the Judean and Galilean countryside of Jesus time. The red (gules) colour is the colour of love, of blood; the infinite love of the Father who sent the Son to shed His blood for us, the ultimate act of love.
The personal arms of Bishop Kevin occupy the left side. This part of the shield is in silver (argent), the colour of transparency, truth and justice, which are fundamental to the Bishop’s pastoral ministry. The anchor, symbol of hope, is taken from the Doran family motto, Spes Ancora Vitae (Hope is the Anchor of Life). It is important to distinguish between hope and mere optimism or wishful thinking. Hope is rooted in a realistic expectation of promises that will be fulfilled. As Christians, our hope is rooted in God who is always faithful to his promises. The anchor is in green (vert), the symbolic colour of hope.
The blackbird references the legend of St. Kevin and the Blackbird, which is so well captured in the poem by Seamus Heaney. It reminds Bishop Kevin of the importance of fidelity to prayer and the relationship between prayer, compassion and service. The blackbird carries in his beak a copper pot, symbol of St Asicus, patron saint of the diocese of Elphin. St. Asicus was a coppersmith.
Fr. Kevin spent some years as parish priest of Glendalough, Co. Wicklow (The Valley of the Two Lakes). As he ministered to parishioners and pilgrims around the lakeshore, he was often reminded of the ministry of Jesus, much of which took place around the lake (or sea) of Galilee. It was a ministry of “launching out into the deep”, inviting people to discipleship and “crossing over to the other side”. As he undertakes his new mission in the Diocese of Elphin, (a diocese with no shortage of lakes, bounded on one end by the River Shannon and on the other by the Atlantic Ocean), he takes the ministry of Jesus as his model and inspiration. This is the symbolism of the wavelets in the lower part of the shield.