-Jeyaseelan cmf, Sri Lanka
Here is the Coat of Arms of our congregation. You may take a close look at it and ask yourself what it means for you. There are different symbols in it. What do they tell you about our being Claretians?
The official Coat of Arms (Shield/Seal) of the Congregation was approved in the XI General Chapter, celebrated in Vic in 1912 and it was presented to the members of the Congregation in its Annals of 1914.
A brief explanation of the symbols in the Coat of Arms
An Angel: in the autobiography of our Founder we find some reference to (guardian) angels and namely, his devotion to the archangel St Michael (see Aut 268, 269, 329, 332, 809). St Claret also saw his apostolate as a struggle/fight against the evil powers (of this world). At his diaconate ordination in 1834, when the bishop read the words of St Paul “For it is not against human enemies that we have to struggle, but against the Sovereignties and powers who originate the darkness in this world” (Eph 6:2), our Founder understood his vocation as a fight against the evil powers (Aut 101). Hence the inclusion of the angel in the Shield symbolizes the mission of the Congregation as struggle against the powers of evil in the world.
The Sword: The sword in the right hand of the angel signifies the Word of God with which the fight against the evil powers is waged. It is the sword of the Spirit (Eph 6.17) sharper than any double-edged sword piercing to the division of soul and spirit (Heb 4:12).
The Shield: The shield symbolizes the defense a missionary should have in the fight against the evil powers. Ultimately our shield is God (cf. Deut 33:29, Ps 3:3, Ps 18:2). We find our strength in Christ and we can say with St. Paul that we are more than conquerors through Christ and nothing can separate us from the love of God (Rome. 8. 37-39). The missionary shields himself from the overtures of the enemy through the Word of God and the Eucharist.
A Cross: The cross points to the cross of Christ and serves as a reminder to the missionary that his life is basically an identification with the suffering Christ and he glories in the cross of Christ (cf. CC 9).
A Staff: The staff symbolizes the shepherding role of the missionary following the good shepherd who lays down his life for his sheep (Jn. 10.11). In fact, when founding the Congregation Claret chose Psalm 23 for meditation which speaks of the Lord as our shepherd (Aut 490).
The Heart: The heart in the center of the Shield signifies the cordimarian dimension of Claretian spirituality. Claretians are sons of the heart of Mary (CC 1, Aut 494) and we experience her guidance and protection. We are formed in the forge of her immaculate heart.
Flowers: The flowers wreathing the heart point to the virtues a missionary is to cultivate and they give fragrance to his life and mission drawing people to Christ. (Aut. Chapters XXII to XXX). They also signify the crown of the missionary who perseveres in vocation and overcomes temptations (Aut.96 ).
Dagger: It makes reference to the pierced heart of Mary that was prophesied by Simeon in the Temple of Jerusalem (Lk 2:35). Love embraces suffering and a son of the Heart of Mary is willing to suffer for Christ.
Flame: It symbolizes the “fire of God’s love” with which a Claretian is aflame and he spreads its flames where ever he goes (CC 9, Aut 494). It signifies the apostolic love that inflames all that we do to proclaim the Gospel.
Lilies: Lilies on the top of the flame signify the glory with which God adorns a missionary as he arrays the lilies of the field (Mt 6.28). Blossoming of the lilies indicates the overflow of God’s goodness (Hos 14.5). Traditionally the lily is considered as a symbol of chastity and purity. They are also associated with Virgin Mary representing her innocence and purity. Easter lilies symbolize hope, new life and future glory.
Words: the Latin phrase “Surrexerunt filii eius et beatissimam praedicaverunt” means “Her children rose up and called her blessed.” It is a quotation from the book of Proverbs (31:28) and once more it puts emphasis on the missionary’s filiality and his love for the Blessed Virgin Mary.
The Coat of Arms is rich in the symbols which summarize the various elements of the charism and mission of the congregation. According to Fr. Jesus Alvarez Gomez CMF, the trait of the ministry of the Word in our spirituality has been somewhat overlooked in the Coat of Arms by the absence of an “open book,” representing the Bible (See Returns to the Origins, pp. 135-137). However, we must remember that the sword represents the Word of God. And all other symbols in the Shield of the Congregation are, in one way or another, images found in the Bible. It is worth taking time in the midst of our activities to meditate on these symbols and nurture our missionary spirit.