Description of the Coat of Arms of The Most Reverend John F. Doerfler
In accordance with 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) coming from family, geographic, religious and historical meanings and/or referred 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 wide-brimmed green pilgrim’s hat (galero) with 12 attached tassels, (six on each side, with one in the top row, two in the second and three on the bottom);
- A scroll with the Bishop’s motto, written generally in black and appearing below everything.
For his shield, Bishop Doerfler has chosen a samnitic shape, frequently used in Roman Catholic Church heraldry, and a processional bottony cross with five red stones to represent the five Wounds of Christ.
The words of the motto chosen by Bishop Doerfler, “Evangelii Gaudium”- (“The joy of the Gospel”) are the title in Latin of the first Apostolic Exhortation of Pope Francis, issued on November 24, 2013 and written in response to the most recent meeting of the Synod of Bishops, which took place in October 2012 devoted to the subject of the new evangelization. Thus, the subject of Evangelii Gaudium is evangelization, and the Holy Father opens with the document with these words.
The joy of the Gospel fills the hearts and lives of all who encounter Jesus. Those who accept his offer of salvation are set free from sin, sorrow, inner emptiness and loneliness. With Christ joy is constantly born anew.
Blazon of the Coat of Arms of Bishop Doerfler
“Party per pale. Dexter: Gules, two keys palewise wards outwards between two stag’s attires Argent on a chief of the same two fleur de lys between three passion nails of the first. Sinister: Azure, a cross Or between a star of seven points Argent in the first canton and a lion rampant Or in the fourth canton”
In the right side of the shield (in the heraldic shield, right and left are exchanged from the observer point of view since we have to consider the right and the left of the soldier who holds his own shield) we find represented the Coat of Arms of the Diocese of Marquette. These arms are composed of a red (Gules) field on which are seen two silver (Argent) keys between two racks of stag’s horns, also silver. The keys are the traditional symbol of St. Peter, the patron saint of the Cathedral in the See City and 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 of this state. The upper portion, known in heraldry as “chief”, is silver and has displayed on it two red fleur de lys to honour the early French missionaries, especially Father Marquette, S.I. and Louis Joliet who came to the region of Michigan to spread the Faith. The fleur de lys are placed between three “Passion nails”, taken from the insignia of the Society of Jesus (Jesuits) who were responsible for the early evangelization of the upper Great Lakes region.
In the left side of the shield we have the personal coat of arms of Bishop Doerfler: the color of the field is blue (Azure in heraldic ancient terminology), which symbolizes the separation from the worldly values and the ascent of the soul toward God; therefore, the run of the Celestial Virtues which raise themselves from the things of the earth toward the sky. On it we have a golden (Or) cross to recall the patron saint of Bishop Doerfler, St. John of the Cross. The cross is in gold, the most noble metal, and symbol then of the first Virtue: the Faith. In fact, it is by Faith that we believe in the mystery of the Cross, symbol of the Redemption and of the Salvation. The silver (Argent) star recalls the Blessed Virgin Mary, star of the Evangelization. The star is in silver, the color of transparency, thus of purity, the purity of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The rampant lion is also a symbol frequently used in Roman Catholic Church heraldic tradition. In fact, a popular tradition maintains that Saint Anthony gave a prayer to a poor woman who sought help against evil temptations. Pope Sixtus V, a Franciscan, had the prayer carved at the base of the obelisk, which he erected in St. Peter's Square in Rome. Here is the original Latin:
Ecce Crucem Domini!
Fugite partes adversae!
Vicit Leo de tribu Juda,
Radix David! Alleluia!
Here is the English translation:
Behold the Cross of the Lord!
Be gone all evil powers!
The Lion of the tribe of Judah,
The root of David has conquered! Alleluia!
Beside this, the lion also recalls the family of the Bishop: in fact, the rampant lion appears in the Doerfler family’s coat of arms.