The Coat of Arms of His Excellency the Most Reverend Thomas Joseph Tobin, D.D., 8th Bishop of Providence
Arms impaled. Dexter: Azure, three moline crosses Argent. Sinister: Azure, issuant from the base of a pile Gules, a Christ candle enflamed Proper; in base a semé of three oak leaves Or.
The episcopal heraldic achievement or bishop’s coat of arms is composed of a shield with its charges (symbols), a motto scroll and the external ornamentation. The shield, which is the central and most important feature of any heraldic device, is described (blazoned) in 12th century terms, that are archaic to our modern language, and this description is presented as if given by the bearer with the shield being worn on the arm. Thus, where it applies, the terms dexter and sinister are reversed as the device is viewed from the front.
By heraldic tradition the arms of the bishop of a diocese, called the “Ordinary,” are joined, impaled, with the arms of his jurisdiction. In this case, these are the arms of the Diocese of Providence.
These arms are composed of a blue field on which are placed three silver (white) crosses with arms that appear to terminate in anchors. These crosses, heraldically known as “moline crosses,” are used to signify, by employing the symbol of the State of Rhode Island, the anchor, that the Diocese of Providence encompasses all of the state it was established to serve. The crosses, in the number that signifies The Trinity, are rendered in the traditional colors of water (blue and silver (white)) because of the importance that water plays in the life of “The Ocean State.” These colors are also the traditional colors for the representation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, who, in her title of Our Lady of Providence, is Patroness of the Diocese and of the See City.
For his personal arms, His Excellency, Bishop Tobin has retained the design that was adopted at the time of his selection to receive the fullness of Christ’s most holy priesthood, when he became an Auxiliary Bishop for the Diocese of Pittsburgh and which he continued to use during his tenure as Bishop of Youngstown, in Ohio.
The design is composed of blue field with a red “pile” (a “V” coming forth from the top of the design). Issuant from the base of the pile is a “Christ candle,” a silver (white) candle that is charged with the Greek letters Chi-Rho (X –P), the first letters of the Greek word for Christ (XPICTOC) and which is enflamed with a gold tongue of fire, to signify that Christ is the Light of the World. The candle is presented on a triangular, Trinitarian device to signify that it is only under the guidance of the One God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, that the spiritual journeys of our lives can hope to achieve their ultimate goal which is the eternity with God that He has planned for those who love Him. The triangle is also a reminder of the Bishop’s home in Pittsburgh where two rivers, the Allegheny and the Monongahela, meet at the “The Golden Triangle,” as they come together to form a third river, the Ohio.
The blue background of the design is to represent the Virgin Mary, for whom the Bishop’s mother Mary was named, and on the blue field are three golden oak leaves that are common in the Tobin family arms.
For his motto, His Excellency, Bishop Tobin employs the words for three of the virtues that are found in Saint Paul’s Second Letter to Timothy. These words, STRONG – LOVING – WISE, are used to serve as directions for how The Bishop is to serve Christ in his role as shepherd of God’s Holy People gathered in the diocese entrusted to his care.
The achievement is completed with the external ornaments which are a gold processional cross, that is placed in back of and which extends above and below the shield, and the pontifical hat, called a “gallero,” with its six tassels, in three rows, on either side of the shield, all in green. These are the heraldic insignia of a prelate of the rank of bishop by instruction of The Holy See of March 31, 1969.
by: Deacon Paul J. Sullivan
N.B. The author and designer respectfully requests appropriate acknowledgement for the public use of these efforts. Rev. Mr. Sullivan is a Permanent Deacon of the Diocese of Providence.
Deacon Paul J. Sullivan, President
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