Sunday, October 06, 2019

The Cardinal, the Coat of Arms, and Compassion

Photo: America/CNS

I know virtually nothing about the process by which Roman Catholic priests are appointed as bishops or as cardinals. I was intrigued to hear that a Canadian Jesuit priest Michael Czerny was ordained as a bishop, then as a cardinal within roughly 24 hours this past week. Pope Francis anointed each new bishop with oil and gave them each the signs of their ministry: a ring that represents faithfulness to Christ's church, the miter that reminds them of their call to holiness and the crosier (shepherd's crook) as a sign of their ministry as shepherd.

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Czerny made choices for his personalized coat of arms, motto and pectoral cross which demonstrate his commitment to care for creation and the protection of migrants and refugees. The shield in the centre (is that the correct term?) has a green background for Creation care for our "common home" as Pope Francis describes the Earth. There is also a small boat on stylized waves as a reminder about those who undertake perilous journeys as migrants. His own family emigrated from Czechoslovakia in 1948.  His cross is made from wood from one of those migrant boats. Here is the official description:

The boat evokes a common means for displaced persons to seek a better life in another location. It is also a traditional image of the Church, the Bark of Peter, which has a mandate from Our Lord to ‘receive the foreigner’ (Mt 25:35), regardless of where the Church finds herself. Further, like the symbol of the L’Arche movement, the boat is a reminder of the works of mercy towards all who are excluded, forgotten or disadvantaged.

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I found this quite moving, both the symbolism and the thoughtfulness behind it. I wondered what I might include in a coat of arms, should I be invited to create one. I certainly couldn't do any better as a Christian than the choices Czerny made. Now, how do I get my hands on one of those miters?...


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