Monday, March 18, 2013

Some Thoughts on Pope Francis' Coat of Arms

Today the pope's new coat of arms has been released.

Specifically, the coat of arms includes the following:  
  1. A simple miter (instead of the traditional papal tiara; Benedict used the same imagery).
  2. Keys, evocative of Jesus' words to Peter in Matthew 16:18-19. The image is standard for the papal coat of arms. 
  3. The emblem of the Jesuit order, the "Society of Jesus". "IHS" represents the first three letters in the name of Jesus in Greek ("I" = J; "H" = "E"). One can't help but notice that the sunburst surrounding the Christogram also, fortuitously, evokes the flag of Argentina, Pope Francis' homeland (see below). 
  4. A star, a symbol of Mary. Mary, like Daughter Zion in the Old Testament, embodies the biblical hope that the saints will shine like the stars, cf. Dan. 12:3.
  5. The nard flower (yes, I know they look like grapes), a symbol traditionally used for Joseph's holy purity. The Joseph imagery rounds out the imagery of the Holy Family (Jesus, Mary, Joseph). Notably, Francis has invoked the imagery of the Holy Family in his opposition to legalizing homosexual marriage in Argentina.   
  6. Pope Francis' coat of arms.  
The Flag of Argentina. Note the similarity of the sunburst
to that found in the Jesuit emblem. 

We should also take notice of Pope Francis' episcopal motto: miserando atque eligendo, which is Latin for, “by having mercy, by choosing him.”

The line is taken from an eighth century sermon delivered by the Venerable Bede's on the conversion of St. Matthew: “Jesus saw the tax collector and by having mercy chose him as an Apostle saying to him: Follow me.”

According to Vatican Radio, Bede's homily, which stresses divine mercy, has long been near to the heart of Cardinal Bergoglio (Pope Francis).

Notably, Bede's homily also stresses Matthew's abandonment of his wealth to follow Jesus--something a man who would choose to be called "Francis" no doubt finds especially significant!
There is no reason for surprise that the tax collector abandoned earthly wealth as soon as the Lord commanded him. Nor should one be amazed that neglecting his wealth, he joined a band of men whose leader had, on Mathew’s assessment, no riches at all. Our Lord summoned Matthew by speaking to him in words. By an invisible, interior impulse flooding his mind with the light ofgrace, he instructed him to walk in his footsteps. In this way Matthew could understand that Christ, who was summoning him away from earthly possessions, had incorruptible treasures of heaven in his gift.
In fact, it was on St. Matthew's feast day in 1953 that Pope Francis first heard the call to the priesthood. 


Sara Harold said...

I think the star also represents Mary's title as "Star of Evangelization," which Pope Francis invoked as Cardinal. He also used the title in his address to journalists last Saturday.

Jeremy Priest said...

Although the triple tiara itself was not used by Pope Benedict, the triple crown that is superimposed on the mitre perdures in both of their coats of arms.

I thought it would be nice to have a link to Brant's great post on the link between the triple crown and the high priesthood: