Heraldic Achievement of
MOST REVEREND NELSON J. PEREZ
Titular Bishop of Catrum
Auxiliary Bishop of Rockville Centre
Azure, a fess sable fimbriated argent charged with an Agnus Dei Or supporting a palm frond of the last and a vexillium proper, with in chief a mullet argent, and in base seven piles Or conjoined in point surmounted by a bezant issuant from the base.
In designing the shield—the central element in what is formally called the heraldic achievement—a bishop has an opportunity to depict symbolically various aspects of his own life and heritage, and particular elements of Catholic faith and devotion. The formal description of a coat of arms, known as the blazon, uses a technical language, derived from medieval French and English terms, which allows the appearance and position of each element in the achievement to be recorded precisely.
The background of the shield is painted blue (azure), the color of the morning sky. At the base of the shield is seen a rising Sun, to represent Christ the Savior, “the dawn from on high” (Luke 1:78). This depiction of the rising Sun also recalls the coat of arms of the Republic of Cuba, adopted in 1906, which bears a rising Sun in the upper part of the shield or chief. Bishop Perez’s parents emigrated from Cuba to the United States a few months before his birth.
In the chief of the Bishop’s shield is seen a five-pointed star, painted white (a mullet argent). Placed above the rising sun, it depicts the Morning Star, which appears on the eastern horizon each day in the hours before dawn. It has long been a symbol of Our Lady, whose own Immaculate Conception heralded the birth of the coming Messiah, and who, as his most perfect disciple, always points the way to Christ. A white star in the same position appears in the arms of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, where Bishop Perez served as a priest for 23 years.
The scroll below the shield echoes the symbolism of the Morning Star and the rising Sun. “Confide et spera,” it says, “trust and hope” — words that recall and summarize many exhortations of Scripture to “trust in the Lord” and to find peace by placing every need and worry in the hands of the One for whom all things work for good (Jeremiah 17:7; cf. Psalm 37:7; Romans 8:28; Philippians 4:4-7; 1 Peter 5:7). Our Lady, Mother of Holy Hope (Roman Missal), is a model for every disciple, and teaches her children to place confident trust in her Son.
Another reference to the arms of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia is the wide black stripe across the center of the shield, bordered in white (a fess sable fimbriated argent). On this stripe appears a Paschal Lamb in gold; the colors used recall the coat of arms of the Perez family in Cuba, whose shield depicts five black wolves on a gold shield. The lamb, representing Jesus the Lamb of God (cf. John 1:36; Revelation 5:6, etc.) looks back over his shoulder, to lead those who will follow his example and to “guide them to springs of the water of life” (Revelation 7:17).
As the “firstborn from the dead” (Colossians 1:18), Jesus the Lamb has become the “inspiration and example for every martyr” (Liturgy of the Hours). The lamb on Bishop Perez’s shield also recalls Saint Agnes, the twelve-year-old Roman martyr who was killed in 304. (The saint’s name sounds like the Latin word agnus, which means “lamb.”) Saint Agnes is the patroness of the Diocese of Rockville Centre, for which Bishop Perez is being ordained an auxiliary bishop, and a lamb’s head, painted gold, appears on the arms of the Diocese. She is also the patroness of the parish in West Chester, Pennsylvania, where the Bishop was serving as pastor at the time of his appointment.
In addition to its typical attribute—a banner marked with a cross—the lamb also carries a palm branch, which in Roman times was used to adorn the burial places of martyrs. It also alludes to the coat of arms of Bishop Perez’s maternal relatives, the Ginart family, whose coat of arms shows a gold lion on a blue field, clasping a palm branch.
The shield is ensigned with external elements that identify the bearer as a bishop. A gold processional cross appears behind the shield. The galero or “pilgrim’s hat” is used heraldically in various colors and with specific numbers of tassels to indicate the rank of a bearer of a coat of arms. A bishop uses a green galero with three rows of green tassels