Bishop Timothy L. Doherty’s
coat of arms and episcopal motto
The coat of arms of Bishop Timothy L. Doherty, sixth bishop of the Diocese of Lafayette-in-Indiana, represents a marriage of his personal arms and those of the diocese he was chosen by Pope Benedict XVI to lead.
Bishop Doherty developed the basic concept for his personal arms. The unique design was created by James-Charles Noonan Jr., of Gwynedd Valley, Pa., a Church historian and expert in ecclesial heraldry. It was then painted by Canadian artist Linda Nicholson.
The arms of the diocese
The arms of the diocese comprise the left side of the shield. The crescent at the top is the emblem of the Blessed Virgin under the title of the Immaculate Conception. She is the patroness of the diocese and its cathedral, the Cathedral of St. Mary of the Immaculate Conception. The use of lunar symbolism to represent the Blessed Mother is common, and comes from the Scriptures that say: “... and a great sign appeared in the sky — a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of 12 stars.” (Revelation 12:1) The crescent moon also is found in the arms of the Diocese of Fort Wayne, mother diocese of the Diocese of Lafayette-in-Indiana.
The crenellated dividing line, just below the crescent, suggests the wall of a castle or fort. The same motif is found in the coat of arms for the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend, to represent the historic Fort Wayne. But for the Diocese of Lafayette-in-Indiana, it likely pays homage to Fort Ouiatenon, a French trading fort that once stood near the Wabash River, south of modern-day West Lafayette. There, as early as 1717, Catholicism came to what is now northcentral Indiana.
The bottom section of the diocesan arms features a field of bell-like devices in silver (or white) and blue. On that field is a red shield with a diagonal gold bar: the arms of the Marquis de Lafayette, a French nobleman who became a major general in the colonial Army under General George Washington during the American Revolution. General Lafayette was touring the United States in 1825, when the frontier town of Lafayette was platted and named in his honor; the use of the marquis’ personal arms thus identifies Lafayette, Indiana, as the diocesan see city.
The personal arms of Bishop Doherty
The personal arms of Bishop Doherty comprise the right side of the shield.
The division line between the top and bottom halves is known as a “per pale double arch.” It was selected to symbolize an open book, the Sacred Scriptures; to complement the bishop’s motto: “The Word of God Is Not Chained,” and to symbolize Bishop Doherty’s personal devotion to the Sacred Scriptures.
The section of the arms above the double arch is colored deep blue, in honor of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Blue also is the heraldic color for philosophy, which has come to symbolize the teaching authority of the bishop.
The upper right portion of the field pays homage to the Blessed Virgin in the form of a “fleur de lis.” It is worked in gold, one of the two heavenly metals or attributes.
The background of the lower section, below the division line, is also rendered in gold to symbolize the wisdom of God the Father, the divinity of Christ the Son and the spiritual fervor of the Holy Spirit.
A single emblem appears in the gold field: the Sacred Heart of Jesus, enflamed and surrounded by a crown of thorns.
Symbolically, Bishop Doherty’s coat of arms honors Jesus Christ, the Blessed Virgin Mary and the Holy Word of God.
In heraldry, a motto has been both a personal philosophy of life and a family dictum, and sometimes even a battle cry. But in Church heraldry, a bishop’s personal motto represents his personal spirituality and theologically based philosophy of life. It is often grounded in Sacred Scripture or in a prominent prayer or litany.
Bishop Doherty selected for his motto the Latin phrase, “sed verbum Dei non est alligatum,” which, when translated into English, reads, “but the word of God is not chained,” from 2 Timothy 2:9. He chose to present it in English as a gesture of friendship to other Christians in the diocese.
The coat of arms contains other elements, or “externals,” outside the shield itself. Atop the episcopal shield is a depiction of the pilgrim’s hat, or galero, the heraldic emblem for all prelates and priests of the Latin rite of the Catholic Church for more than 1,000 years. Such hats were worn by bishops at solemn conclaves until 1870. The bishop’s galero is always colored deep green, the true color of the Office of Bishop. The scarlet silk lining has been the norm for all clerics in the Catholic Church since the Renaissance. The 12 tassels, or fiocchi, denote the rank and office of bishop.
Behind Bishop Doherty’s coat of arms is the episcopal cross, which may be depicted as jeweled or plain. For the rank of bishop, the cross has one traverse arm and resembles the processional cross used at Mass. The bishop wanted a reference to the Blessed Trinity, so the Trinitarian emblem known as the “triquetra” was added. The three interlocking spheres first came to represent the Trinity in the fourth century. By placing the emblem in such a prominent position, Bishop Doherty expressed his profound deference and filial respect for the Three Persons of God.