Symbolism in the Achievement of the Coat of Arms
The design of the coat of arms of the Most Reverend Stephen J. Berg set out to achieve numerous spiritual and theological symbolisms important to him. The design was arrived at after several days of consultation with James-Charles Noonan, Jr, Catholic heraldic authority and author. The heraldic achievement of a residential bishop in the United States continues the ancient custom of impaling the bishop’s personal coat of arms with the arms of the diocese in what long ago became synonymous with the symbolic marriage between a new bishop and his new see. Just as a man and woman merge their family coat of arms into one at marriage, so too do bishops with their sees. This was the custom of the church universal for many centuries but today only the bishops of the United States keep to this custom. In an impalement of the bishop’s arms, the diocese’s arms appear on the left side as one views the design and his personal coat of arms appears on the right side as one views the achievement.
In this design, the diocese of Pueblo coat of arms appears on the left as it is viewed. The diocesan arms were first designed when the diocese was established in 1941 by Pope Pius XII. There are several versions of the Pueblo diocesan arms available for study on the internet. Some of these use white for the two roses and the wall depicted in the coat of arms and many others use silver which may cause confusion. It should be known that in heraldry silver and white are one in the same. Silver tarnishes and so many centuries ago white became its substitute. Technically, there is no white in heraldry, when it appears it is silver that is intended. In Bishop Berg’s design, white had to be selected wherever silver was represented in the diocesan arms (although it remains technically silver) because on his personal side of the coat of arms a representation of the Holy Eucharist has been selected and this must always be rendered in white, perhaps with gold embellishments as in this case. It may never be rendered in silver and as this Host is worked properly in white, the diocesan shield’s silver must likewise be worked in white… again, they are one in the same technically speaking.
Bishop Berg’s personal arms are seen at right. The bishop’s personal design can be explained as follows: His portion of the shield is further divided by a division line known as per chevron embowed. This means that the shield has an inverted “V” that reaches upward but does not encroach to the top of the inside of the shield in a way that subtly suggests a single mountain peak. The name Berg translates from the original Swedish to mountain and so this division line was selected to pay homage to his family and family name. This homage in heraldry is known as canting arms.
The coat of arm for Bishop Berg however takes this yet further for additional heritage homage. Half of the bishop’s lineage is French and half is Swedish and so to honor one, he must honor the other. And so at the tip of the point of the per chevron embowed is found a fleur de Lys as part of the actual division line, versus having an emblem of an actual fleur de Lys somewhere else in the design. Because the line suggests a fleur de Lys and is part of the division line itself, the color beneath this line is also pulled up and into the space suggesting the fleur de Lys. As the color below the division line is blue for the Blessed Virgin Mary, the division line suggesting the fleur de Lys at the tip of the mountain is blue as well. And in this a dual homage results—homage to the BVM and homage to the French heritage that is part of the bishop’s family history.
Below this division line the color blue for the Blessed Virgin Mary has been selected as already stated. Upon this blue field appears a Eucharist, white edged gold with the Chi Rho worked in gold emblazoned upon it. This Christological emblem is radiated, that is to say lines of brilliant gold pour forth from it, symbolizing both the radiating and abundant graces given believers in the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist and it brings homage to the title of the Son of God in the image of the Radiant Sun. This placed upon a blue Marian field brings together the Son of God and His Mother as always Mary leads Her devotees to Her Son. The Chi Rho is the most important Christological monogram in Catholic heraldry, all the more so engraved upon the Sacred Eucharist.
Above this field, in the area above the division line and the suggested fleur de lys at center point, the field has been worked in real liquid gold. On this gold field the blue fleur de lys holds the eye at the center point. To either side, however, appear two green palm fronds, one on either side of the mountain created by the per chevron embowed line. Both are rendered naturally, or proper, which in this case is green. The palm frond is the prime symbol for Saint Stephen the Martyr, patronal saint for Bishop Berg. The selection of two palm fronds was deliberate; the second one represents horticulture and farming which was dear to the new bishop and to his family.
Thus concludes the interior symbolism of the bishop’s personal arms. The diocesan symbolism is known by historic record of long standing.
In heraldry, a motto has been a personal philosophy of life as well as a family dictum, and sometimes even a cry for battle. But in Church heraldry, a cleric's personal motto has always been intended to represent his personal spirituality and theologically based philosophy of life and is most frequently grounded in Sacred Scripture or in a prominent prayer or litany. For Bishop Berg, this symbolism is found in four simple yet powerful words:
THY WILL BE DONE
which come to the church in The Lord’s Prayer. Bishop Berg chose to render his motto in English so that it would be readily known my many in his diocese. With this motto as his guide, Bishop Berg undertakes his episcopal ministry in the see of Pueblo.
There are external elements to every coat of arms design that must also be explained. This is also so in ecclesial heraldry. Surmounting the shield of both a Residential and Auxiliary Bishop is the pilgrim's hat, the heraldic emblem for all prelates and priests of the Latin Rite of the Roman Catholic Church. For the rank of bishop, titular and residential, the pilgrim's hat is always worked in deep forest green. For this rank and office in the episcopacy there are six tassels suspended on either side of the hat in a pyramidal style. The hat is properly known as the galero and the tassels take the name fiocchi. These cords (cordiere) and tassels are worked in the same hue of green and the interior of the hat is always rendered in red, and has been so for eleven centuries, red representing the clergy’s possible martyrdom for the vocation that they have adopted in life.
Behind Bishop Berg’s coat of arms is found the episcopal cross. For the bishops, this cross has only one transverse arm. The cross may be jeweled or depicted as plain and most resembles the processional cross commonly used in liturgies. The episcopal cross found behind and above this coat of arms is known as the Angelic Cross. It is worked in gold but within the arms of the cross-both horizontal and vertical- are found faint etchings of golden wings. The wings are very subtle but, are intended for a special homage. It was said that Saint Cecelia, the patroness of all sacred musicians, and secular musicians as well, was to be so near to perfection, so close to Heaven while on earth, that she could hear the choirs of angels singing all the day long.
And so, to honor the bishop’s love for music, especially the piano, homage to St Cecilia has been included in the form of her closeness to God and to His angels in their adoration of Him.
At the center of the processional cross is a stone, as per normal. In this case a blue stone has been selected, the star sapphire as the star in this tone, although not a traditional shaped star, is symbolic of the star of Texas the bishop’s home state and it also is symbolic of the star of Bethlehem. The choice of this blue stone also is to further honor Texas in that the state flower is the bluebonnet, a small flower of deep blue hue.
Overall, Bishop Berg’s episcopal coat of arms has remained faithful to the style of Church heraldry originally developed in the Middle Ages. It is this ancient style that the Church continues to demand in the seals of office of each diocesan bishop, and of the co-adjutors and the titular bishops as well, whose seals traditionally derive from the design of the personal coat of arms.