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 ornaments. The shield is the central and most important feature of any heraldic device. By heraldic tradition, the arms of the bishop of a diocese are joined (impaled) with the arms of his jurisdiction, which are seen in the dexter impalement (left side) of the shield. In this case, these are the arms of the Diocese of St. Augustine.
The coat of arms of the Diocese of St. Augustine reflects the diocese’s titular patron – St. Augustine of Hippo (d. 430) – as well as the history of the area of Florida that comprises the diocese. The field, or background, quartered red (gules) and silver (argent) are reminiscent of the Spanish roots of Florida and the see city of St. Augustine which was founded in 1565. In the royal arms of Spain the fields of Castile and Leon are of these tinctures. The arms of Castile have a red field while those of Leon have one of silver. The main symbol of the field, a flaming heart transfixed by an arrow in gold (or), is of the human heart transfixed by Divine Love. This is the traditional emblem of St. Augustine of Hippo depicting his famous quotation from Confessions, chapter 1: “Our hearts shall ever restless be, until they find their rest in Thee.”
The personal coat of arms of Bishop Estévez, which appear on the right (sinister) side of the shield, were designed by his nephew Dr. Adam Estévez. The field is blue (azul) honoring Mary, the Mother of our Lord, whose fiat, “Let it be done to me according to your word,” (Luke 1:38) made possible the mystery of the Incarnation. Her prayerful and unique presence in the paschal mystery enables us to call her the “woman of the Eucharist.” (See John Paul II, Ecclesia de Eucharistia, 2003, no. 53)
The primary symbol (charge) is a set of hands that come from above. They symbolize majestic verticality as well as the gratuity of the mission of Jesus Christ from His heavenly Father in the Incarnation. As the source and purpose of the episcopal ministry, the bishop participates in Christ’s selfless love for the Church. (See Ephesians 5:25) The Son of God reveals the unseen Father (see John 14:9) and, in turn, the Son loves us to the end. (See John 13:1) The hands also express what is most familiar in our gestures of communication. Liturgically this is expressed in the Eucharistic Prayer for Masses of Reconciliation I – “When we were lost and could not find the way to you, you loved us more than ever: Jesus, your Son …gave himself into our hands.”
The hands also symbolize the humble condescension of Christ to take on our human nature. The hands bear the wound marks of the crucifixion – Christ’s passion and death for our salvation. These wounds are a saving place for all sinners, a place of rich mercy for all. Contemplating this holy mystery, St. Ignatius of Loyola exclaimed, “In your wounds hide me.” (See Anima Christi) As well, the wounds are glorious because they, too, participate in the resurrection of the Lord of glory. In the prophecy of Isaiah we read, “By his wounds we were healed.” (Isaiah 53:5) The Risen Lord showed his wounds invited the unbelieving apostles to “put your finger here and see my hands; …Do not be unbelieving, but believe.” (John 20:27)
The hands hold the earthly gifts of wheat and grapes to honor the Creator of heaven and earth. These gifts affirm the goodness of the fruits of the earth and of the work of those who till the soil. The Didache (also known as The Teaching of the Twelve Apostles, c. late 1st or early 2nd century) declares in chapter 10 – “You created all things to the glory of your name and gave men the satisfaction of food and drink for their enjoyment so that they give you thanks. But to us you gave spiritual food and drink and eternal life by your Servant.” Thus, these also symbolize the Eucharist, the sacrificial banquet, by which bread and wine become the Body and Blood of Christ. “In this gift, Jesus Christ gave the Church the perennial actualization of the paschal mystery…which is included, anticipated and concentrated forever in the Eucharistic gift.” (Ecclesia de Eucharistia, no. 5)
Bishop Estévez’ Episcopal motto is “In Finem Delixet Eos” (“He loved them to the end”) which is taken from John 13:1. This verse, which opens the story of the washing of the feet of the disciples, expresses the deep, abiding and enduring love that Jesus Christ, the humble servant of God and Savior of the world, has for all.
The exterior ornaments include a processional cross which is a replica of the Great Cross that stands on the grounds of the Mission Nombre de Dios in St. Augustine, Fla. Erected in 1965 and known as “the beacon of faith,” it stands as a reminder of the humble beginnings of Christianity in this new land. The cross links the episcopal ministry of Bishop Estévez today to the very beginning of the evangelization in Florida by the Spanish missionaries who accompanied Don Pedro Menéndez de Avilés on the expedition that founded St. Augustine in 1565. The arms are completed with a 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.