Today is the 4th anniversary of my ordination as a priest. In honor of this occasion, I received a rather unique gift. Some of my parishioners commissioned an artist to design a coat of arms for me. While Popes and bishops are required to make use of arms, it is optional for the rest of the clergy. Like bishops, however, there are official rules for how a priest’s coat of arms are designed. The primary symbol is the black hat (galero) with the two tassels.
For the elements on the shield (called “charges”) I worked with the artist to create something meaningful and that people might recognize as belonging to me. My first thought was of course to honor my patron St. John the Baptist. For this I thought of a river. It just so happens that the coat of arms for the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas has a river. I therefore decided to borrow the symbols from the archdiocesan arms. This is especially fitting since the tower by the river represents Ft. Leavenworth and I was born in Leavenworth.
The tower in my arms therefore evokes my place of birth, but also primarily the Church. Notice that the way to enter is through the gate with a keystone and 12 smaller stones. The defense of the top of the tower is marked by 4 large stones representing the 4 evangelists. Notice also that one must cross the river (baptism) to enter the church (through Jesus and the apostles). The strong tower by the river could also signify St. John standing strongly by the river and the tower is also often used as an image of Our Lady.
Those who know me will have no difficulty with the thuribles. I love the Sacred Liturgy and don’t mind some Holy Smoke every now and then. Together they represent Divine Worship and our prayer rising up to God, as well as liturgy in general.
Finally, the motto underneath is the famous line of St. Philip to Jesus, “Show us the Father” (Ostende Nobis Patrem). St. Philip is my secondary patron and the saint who put the “P” in Shawn P. Tunink. I love St. Philip’s request because when he finally gets up the courage to ask Jesus for exactly what he wants, the thing he most wants is to see God, the beatific vision. Now, Jesus kind of had to correct him a little bit, but I like that too. It shows humility and that we shouldn’t be afraid to ask for what we want, even if we don’t get it perfectly right.
The motto also expresses a prayer for a renewal of fatherhood in our world. More than ever today we need strong and holy fathers. There is truly only one Father, Our Father in heaven. If I, or any other man, am to be called father, it must be my mission to show others “The Father.”
The official description (called a blazon) and explanation follow. Much thanks to Fr. Guy Selvester for his great talent in designing these arms and to my parishioners for a perfect anniversary gift.
Blazon and Explanation
Armorial Bearings of
Rev. Fr. Shawn P. Tunink
BLAZON: Gules between two thuribles Or with smoke emanating from them Argent, a tower embattled with an open portal composed of twelve stones and a capstone Or; in base a barrulet wavy Argent.
EXPLANATION: The armorial bearings of Fr. Shawn P. Tunink reflect the local Church to which he belongs, his baptismal patrons, and his love of the Sacred Liturgy. The field is colored red; a color often associated with Divinity and with the Holy Spirit as a way of expressing the desire that all the endeavors undertaken by this armiger have God at their source. The gold tower is symbolic of the Church. Its open gate is composed of a keystone and 12 smaller stones signifying Jesus and the 12 apostles. The river below the tower, which one must cross to enter, alludes to Baptism and the bearer’s primary patron, St. John the Baptist. The tower and the river together are borrowed from the coat of arms of the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas in which the bearer is incardinated as a priest. Therein the tower and the river represent Fort Leavenworth, the bearer’s place of birth, and the Missouri River. The two smoking thuribles, evoke the incense used in divine worship as a sign of our prayers rising up to God and being pleasing in His presence, and allude to the bearer’s love of prayer and the Church’s Sacred Liturgy.
The shield is ensigned with the black galero of a priest, with black cords terminating in two black tassels in accord with the ancient custom of the Church and the decrees of the Holy See. The motto appears below the shield on a scroll saying, “Ostende Nobis Patrem” (show us the Father). This phrase, uttered by St. Philip, expresses the desire to see God and is very meaningful to the bearer as St. Philip is his secondary baptismal patron.
The armorial bearings of Fr. Shawn P. Tunink were designed and emblazoned by the Very Rev. Guy W. Selvester, a priest of the Diocese of Metuchen, NJ.