'God’s Mercy Endures Forever'
Coat of arms features motto, history, Scripture and fidelity
The following description of the episcopal coat of arms of Bishop William J. Justice is written in the vocabulary of heraldry as expressed in the Old English language by way of its French roots:
Deep azure field with double wave charge vert banded by pure argent. Chief honor point displayed, extending to the middle chief fesspoint, a scepter charge, banded in sable, topped with a Fleur-De-Lis. In field of waves proper, pair poisson (Tawny) charges respecting one another urinant in sinister, entangled in net of dull argent suspended from the sinister chief point through fesse point to the dexter base point. At nombril of navel point, a charge of chevron scallop fare (Rubi) with fan pointing downward.
The shield itself is parallel straight lined with a tipped bottom. It is diagonally divided by both a set of waves and a fisherman’s net. The background of the shield is midnight blue. This field color is also featured in the shield of the Justice Family as found in the British Isles. In this context, however, the midnight blue is also an allusion to the Gospels of John 21:3 and Luke 5:5 where the apostles fish through the dark night, and at dawn find hope in the risen Lord and answer his call.
The central charge, or symbol, of the shield is a "scepter of justice." This is a "cant" or visual pun on the bishop’s name. In keeping with Scripture, the “scepter of justice” symbolizes Christ’s function as administrator and judge. In keeping with a first century cultural-theological worldview of a righteous messiah, the symbol of the scepter emphasizes the administrative judgments of Jesus to be ethically right. This symbol is displayed in both Psalm 45:6 and in Hebrews 1-8.
In Middle English, the name "Justice" came to be associated with a fair-minded person. In Old French, the word "justice" meant "equity." It was also an occupational name for a judge, as this metonymic use of the word is attested from as early as the 12th century. By extension, the life and ministry of Bishop Justice is meant to be seen as one of righteousness, equity and good judgment. In things temporal and spiritual, a bishop shares in the “power of the keys,” to bind and loose things in this world and the next.
The set of waves in Bishop Justice’s coat of arms signifies the two oceans of the Americas: the Atlantic, where Bishop Justice began his life (Lawrence, Mass.) and the Pacific, where he grew to maturity and answered the call to follow the Lord.
Bishop Justice emphasizes the "the importance of water" in his ministry "as it is through baptism that we become part of Christ’s mission." The scallop at the bottom of the shield represents the missionary nature of the episcopal ministry and its willingness to enculturate different heritages and peoples.
The scallop also pays homage to Bishop Justice’s ongoing service to people of Spanish-speaking cultures. The scallop is an icon of the pilgrim apostle, Santiago, who went to the (then-known) ends of the earth to preach the Gospel. The shell also aligns its solidarity to the coat of arms of His Holiness, Benedict XVI. It was His Holiness, Benedict XVI who chose Bishop Justice to share in the apostolic ministry of the Church in April, 2008, on the eve of the Pope Emeritus' first papal visit to the United States – a visit in which Bishop Justice then participated. The pair of fish and the net makes yet another reference to the apostolic ministry of a bishop. In Mark 6:41, Jesus miraculously feeds a multitude on just two fish and five loaves of bread. This Eucharistic foreshadowing directs us to the bishop’s role as chief celebrant of the Eucharist and his ministry to those who are in need.
At the top of the shield, and used in episcopal heraldry since the 10th century, is the "Gallero." In English, a Gallero is also known as a pilgrim’s hat because its wide brim was commonly used to protect travelers from the heat of the sun. In this context, the Gallero indicates a person’s willingness to journey to different places for the faith, at the same time expecting to be protected by the shadow of God, as noted in Psalm 84:11.
The Gallero has a cord attached to it which ends in a set of tassels, or "fiocchi." Tradition dictates that a bishop's Gallero and cord are pictured in the color green and flanked by two sets of six tassels ordered in three rows, indicating episcopal rank in the hierarchy of the Church.
Above and behind the shield of Bishop Justice, there appears a Celtic processional cross, which pays tribute to the bishop’s ancestry. At the junction of the horizontal and vertical members of this cross, there is a hollow-out, circular space representing eternity. This serves as a reminder to the bishop that he should always be seeing things above the ordinary and mundane, as noted in Colossians 3:1-4, 6.
The last device of this episcopal coat of arms is a banner unfurled along the bottom of the display which contains a mission statement or motto chosen by Bishop Justice to express his ministry. It is a paraphrase of Psalm 136, which declares, "For His mercy endures forever." This one sentence is repeated 26 times in the 26 verses of that Psalm. It therefore tells us a truth of great importance which Bishop Justice wants us to witness to in his ministry. God so loved the world that he sent us his only son to give us life. In his son, God’s mercy is ever present.