Blazon and Crest




The Crest of The Rt. Rev. Michael R. Beckett, OPI

In heraldry and heraldic vexillology, a blazon is a formal description of a coat of arms, flag or similar emblem, from which the reader can reconstruct the appropriate image.  The verb ‘to blazon’ means to create such a description.

Herein is the blazon of the Coat of Arms of The Rt. Rev. Michael R. Beckett, OPI.

The shield is divided into 4 fields, in purple and white.  Liturgically speaking, purple is the color of penance and of repentance and white is the color of celebration.  In the upper left hand field is the State Crest of the Great State of West Virginia, where Bishop Beckett will always refer to as ‘home.’

In the upper right hand corner are the thistle, the rose, and the shamrock, signifying his Scotch-Irish-English heritage.

In the lower left field, there an image of crossed keys to represent the metaphorical keys of the office of Saint Peter, the keys of heaven, or the keys of the kingdom of Heaven, that, according to Catholic teaching, Jesus promised to Saint Peter, empowering him to take binding actions.  In the Gospel of Matthew 16:19, Jesus says to Peter, “I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on Earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on Earth shall be loosed in heaven.”  The keys are also symbolic of Apostolic Succession.

In the lower right field there is an ancient symbol of the Dominican Order, The Order of Preachers, Independent.  St. Dominic, the founder of the Order of Preachers was born of wealthy Spanish nobility, the son of Blessed Joan of Aza and Felix Guzman,.  During the course of her pregnancy, his mother had a vision that her unborn child was a dog who would set the world on fire with the Word of God, symbolized by a torch it carried in its mouth.  A dog with a torch in its mouth became a symbol for the order which he founded, the Dominicans.

In the center of the crest is the Dominican Cross.  The Dominican Cross is a Gyronny Cross of the Ordo Praedicatorum (Order of Preachers). The order was founded by St. Dominic to preach to the Cathars of

southern France in the early 13th century. The French connection is seen in the Fleur de lis on the end of each cross limb.

The Gyronny Cross reflects the characteristic Dominican habit, largely unchanged for 800 years: a long white tunic, contrasting with a black cloak, cappa (shoulder cape) and/or scapular. The black and white represents truth over heresy. In addition, the white reflects the joy and the purity of Christ, and the black reminds servants of the Lord of their humility and obligation for penance. These black cloaks led to the term ‘Blackfriars’, as opposed to Whitefriars (Carmelites) or Greyfriars (Franciscans).

Supporting the shield, there is a crozier.  The crozier is the symbol of the shepherd, the role that the a bishop plays in the care of the church by leading, guiding, and protecting the church.

Surmounting the shield is the bishop’s galero.  A galero is the traditional hat of all clergy.  Bishops use a green hat with green cords.  Because he is the Presiding Bishop of the church, the hat in Bishop Beckett’s crest has ten green tassels on each side instead of the usual six.

Below the shield is a banner with the Latin words, “Dixit auditor sermonum Dei aure me rogel fidei.”  This means “With the ear of faith I hear what God asks of me.”