Heraldic Achievement of the
Most Reverend Michael F. Burbidge
Bishop of Raleigh
Per pale, dexter gules a cross lozengy argent, sinister quarterly azure and vert, a Celtic cross Or between a fleur-de-lis, a sword enflamed, a ducal coronet and a mullet argent.
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 to highlight particular aspects of Catholic faith and devotion that are important to him. Every coat of arms also includes external elements that identify the rank of the bearer. 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.
A diocesan bishop shows his commitment to the flock he shepherds by combining his personal coat of arms with that of the diocese, in a technique known as impaling. The shield is divided in half along the pale, or central vertical line. The arms of the diocese appear on the dexter side - that is, on the side of the shield to the viewer's left, which would cover the right side (in Latin, dextera) of the person carrying the shield. The arms of the bishop are on the sinister side - the bearer's left, the viewer's right.
The arms of the Diocese of Raleigh allude to those of Sir Walter Raleigh (1554–1618), the English explorer for whom the City of Raleigh is named. Sir Walter's shield was gules, a bend lozengy argent - that is, a diagonal line of white diamond shapes on a red background. The Diocese of Raleigh has kept the same tinctures, or colors, and rearranged the lozenges in the form of a cross.
The Cross of Christ is also a central element in Bishop Burbidge's personal arms, which he designed for his ordination as an auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia in 2002. The shield is divided quarterly, or per cross, into sections colored blue (azure) and green (vert). At the center point of the shield is a Celtic cross in gold (Or), which alludes to the Irish ancestry of the bishop and his family.
The small figures, or charges, around the cross reflect Bishop Burbidge's devotion to the saints:
The fleur-de-lis and the star both represent the Blessed Virgin Mary, who is known by the titles "Lily among Thorns" (cf. Song of Songs 2:2) and "Star of the Sea." The lily also calls to mind the family name of the bishop's mother, Shirley Lilley Burbidge. The star, white on a blue background, appears in the arms of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, where Bishop Burbidge was born and reared in the Catholic faith, and which he served for more than 20 years as a priest and bishop.
The flaming sword (cf. Genesis 3:24) is a symbol of Bishop Burbidge's baptismal patron saint, Michael the Archangel, who leads the hosts of God to protect His people from the Evil One (Revelation 12:7).
The ducal coronet is taken from the arms of Saint Charles Borromeo, the sixteenth-century Archbishop of Milan. As archbishop, Saint Charles worked tirelessly to restore unity in the Church and to serve the poor and the oppressed. He is the patron saint of Saint Charles Borromeo Seminary in Philadelphia, where Bishop Burbidge studied for the priesthood, and which he served as Dean of Formation and as Rector.
The motto, placed on a scroll below the shield, comes from the Book of the Prophet Micah (6:8):
"You have been told ... what the Lord requires of you: Only to do the right and to love goodness, and to walk humbly with your God."
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.