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, which is the central and most important feature of any heraldic device, is described (blazoned) in 12th century terms, that are archaic to our modern language, and this description is presented as if given by the bearer with the shield being worn on the arm. Thus, where it applies, the terms dexter and sinister are reversed as the device is viewed from the front.
By heraldic tradition the arms of the bishop are joined, impaled, with the arms of his jurisdiction. In this case, these are the arms of the Diocese of Marquette, that are seen in the dexter impalement (left side) of the shield.
These arms are composed of a red field on which are seen two silver (white) keys between two racks of stag’s horns, also silver (white). The keys are the traditional symbol of St. Peter, titular of the cathedral-church in the See City and principal patron of the Diocese of Marquette, and they are placed between two sets of stag’s horns taken from the arms of the State of Michigan and emblematic of the wildlife that abounds in the state.
The upper portion, known as a chief is silver (white) and has displayed on it two red fleur-de-lis to honor the early French missionaries and explorers, especially Father Jacques Marquette, S.J. and Louis Joliet, who came to the region of Michigan to spread the faith. The fleur-de-lis are placed between three “Passion nails,” which are taken from the insignia of the Society of Jesus (Jesuits) who were responsible for the early evangelization of the upper Great Lakes region.
For his personal arms, His Excellency, Bishop Sample employs a design that represents his heritage and his ministry in Christ’s holy Priesthood.
The design is composed of three main elements. The lower portion of the design is a blue field on which is seen a random scattering of silver (white) fleur-de-lis as presented in the mantle of the Blessed Virgin Mary in her title of Our Lady of Czestochowa, the Madonna displayed in the monastery at Jasna Góra in Poland. This symbolism is used to represent the Bishop’s filial devotion to Mary, the Mother of God and to honor the Polish heritage that has come to him from his mother, Joyce Dory Sample.
The upper portion of the design is a red field with a gold (yellow) border composed of two bars and fleur-de-lis pointing in opposite directions. This charge is called a “tressure flory and counter flory” and it has been part of the Royal Scottish arms for generations. It is employed to signify the Bishop’s Scottish heritage that he received from his father, also named Alexander King Sample. On the red field is a gold (yellow) monstrance, the device used for public veneration of the Most Blessed Sacrament, used here to signify the centrality of the Holy Eucharist in Christianity, being the source and summit of the Church’s life and mission as well as the central activity of the ministerial priesthood.
For his motto, Bishop Sample uses the Latin phrase, “VULTUM CHRISTI CONTEMPLARI” (“to contemplate the face of Christ”). This theme is taken from the writings of Pope John Paul II (Novo Millennio Ineunte and Ecclesia de Eucharistia), in which the Holy Father reminded us that it is the task of the Church to make the face of Christ shine before the generations of the new millennium. The Holy Father further reflected: “Our witness, however, would be hopelessly inadequate if we ourselves had not first contemplated his face.”
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 “gallero,” 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 31, 1969.