Arms impaled. Dexter: Or, a cross potent Gules; a base bary wavy of four Azure and Argent. Sinister: Tierced per graft, Gules, Argent and Azure; to chief dexter, upon an open volume of the second, edged Or, a broadsword, tip to base of the last; to chief sinister a rose of the first, barbed and seeded Proper; in base, upon a sunburst of the fourth a Chi-Rho of the first.
The episcopal heraldic achievement, or bishop’s coat of arms, is composed of a shield, which is the central and most important part of the design, a scroll with a motto and the external ornamentation. The design is described (blazoned) in 12th century terms that are archaic to our modern language, and is given as if by the bearer (from behind) with the shield being worn on the left arms. Thus, it must be remembered, where it applies, as the device is viewed from the front, the terms sinister and dexter are reversed.
By heraldic tradition, the arms of the bishop of a diocese, called a “diocesan bishop” are joined (impaled) with the arms of his jurisdiction, in this case the Diocese of Jackson, that are seen in the dexter impalement (left side) of the design.
These arms are composed of a gold (yellow) field on which is displayed a red cross potent, of The Faith. The cross is placed above “a base” that is composed of blue and silver (white) alternating wavy bars that is the classic representation of water and is used here to signify the great importance of the Mississippi River to the region and the state of which Jackson is the state capital.
For his personal arms, His Excellency, Bishop Kopacz has adopted a design to signify the important aspects of his life as he is called to receive the fullness of Christ’s priesthood as a bishop.
These arms are composed three sections (tierced) being red, silver (white) and blue. The section to the upper left (chief dexter) has an open book, of The Scriptures, on which is place a gold (yellow) sword. (This relates to the letter to the Hebrews 4:12. The Word of God is alive and active, sharper than any double edged sword; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.) Likewise this relates to Paul’s admonition in the 6th Chapter of his Letter to the Ephesians, where he instructs the followers of Christ to put on the armor of God to fight with the sword and The Word of The Spirit against all of the tactics of The Devil and his actions in the world.
The second section of the design has a red rose on a silver (white) field to honor Our Blessed Mother, in her title of Our Lady of Guadalupe, to whom The Bishop has particular devotion, especially as she is Queen of Mexico and Empress of The Americas. (Likewise the rose symbolizes life at all stages of human development until its fulfillment in eternity.) The third section is blue with a gold (yellow) sunburst, taken from the arms of our Holy Father, Pope Francis, who named Bishop Kopacz to be advanced to the Order of Bishop, and upon the sunburst are the Greek letters Chi and Rho, a traditional representation of the name of Jesus. It is with this symbolism that His Excellency, Bishop Kopacz expresses, with his episcopal motto, FIAT LUX, taken from the 3rd verse of the 1st Chapter of the Book of Genesis, which translated from the Latin means, “let there be light,” that Jesus, the Christ, is the light that must come through the work of all Christians for their own and for the salvation of the world.
The achievement in completed by the external ornamentation which are a gold (yellow) processional cross, that is placed in back of the shield and which extends above and below the shield, and the pontifical hat, called a “galero,” 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.
Deacon Paul J. Sullivan, Diocese of Providence