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Bishop’s regalia is rich in symbolism

You might hear about a bishop asking for a hair pin or two to keep his miter affixed against the wind, but you'll probably never hear about one asking for someone to hand down his "walking cane" — i.e. his pastoral staff or crozier.

Likewise, bishops' rings probably won't show up on ebay, similar to championship rings from down-on-their-luck, former professional athletes. And rest assured that bishops don't wear over-sized crosses to be cool (though it's most definitely that).

Pectoral crosses, croziers, miters, rings and more have a purpose, rich in symbolism and tangible signs for the Order of Bishop, which welcomed Bishop Mark S. Rivituso on May 2. Archbishop Robert J. Carlson presided in Bishop Rivituso's episcopal ordination, with Springfield-Cape Girardeau Bishop Edward M. Rice and Auxiliary Bishop-emeritus Robert J. Hermann as co-consecrators. (They preceded him as Archdiocese of St. Louis auxiliary bishops.)

Bishop-elect Rivituso processed into the Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis with only the pectoral cross in his possession. After the Rite of Ordination, Bishop Rivituso processed out with his episcopal ring, crozier and miter, all of which he received in the "Investiture" portion of the Rite of Ordination.

The staff and miter are for liturgical events, such as Mass and confirmation. The pectoral cross and ring are everyday regalia, accoutrements to signify his new clerical rank.

Pectoral cross

The pectoral cross rests on a bishop's chest, near his heart, and hangs from a chain (or a green cord for formal pictures) he wears around his neck. For Bishop Rivituso, the pectoral cross is "a tangible sign for me to live the cross in my own life, the mystery of the cross. This is what ordination is about. As priests, we're supposed to be good shepherds and lay down our lives for the sheep. The cross symbolizes that."

He got his particular cross "because I wanted something associated with Pope Francis; this is the one he wears," he said. "I wanted to remember him in a special way in my prayers because he's the one who appointed me (auxiliary bishop)."


Similar to a wedding band, the episcopal ring symbolizes a bishop's fidelity to the Church, his spouse, as a Bride of Christ. It is worn on the ring finger of the right hand. The ring once served a practical purpose, too; it bore the bishop's crest, and he used it to seal envelopes or authenticate documents, pressing it into hot wax to imprint his mark.

Bishop Rivituso received his ring from his mother, Rosemary, "so I'll remember her as well as my fidelity to the Church."

His ring also bears the image of the Good Shepherd and is similar to the ring worn by the Holy Father. "Good Shepherd is a very big image in my life," he said.


The word "miter" comes from the Greek "mitra," meaning "turban." Worn for liturgical events, a miter consists of tall and stiff (hence, the potential need for hair pins), triangular material joined to a headband, with two strips hanging from the back. The miter developed from the conical head-dress worn by the pope in the 10th century.

Bishop Rivituso already has several, gifts from various people and groups — his parish of residence, Annunciation in Webster Groves; an archdiocesan priest who traditionally gives a mitre to every St. Louis auxiliary bishop; a trio of priest friends; and the Annual Catholic Appeal for use in ceremonies at Cardinal Rigali Center. Similar to the ACA gift, the miters will be kept at locations where Bishop Rivituso regularly celebrates Mass, "instead of me being a pack mule and carrying all this stuff around," he joked.


Shopping local, Bishop Rivituso bought his pastoral staff at Catholic Supply in St. Louis. Pastoral staffs are symbolic of the Good Shepherd faithfully leading his flock, but this particular crozier also bears an imagine of the Annunciation.

"It was kind of providential," he said. "I have a very special devotion to the Blessed Mother and to the Good Shepherd image, and both are on this crozier. The Blessed Mother is very important to me and I'll remember Annunciation Parish in a special way because we have the Annunciation image. And again, the Good Shepherd image is about dying pastorally for the sheep." 

Bishop Rivituso's Coat of Arms

The episcopal heraldic achievement, or bishop's coat of arms, consists of three parts: a shield, which tells to whom the design belongs; the external ornamentation, which tells his position or rank; and his motto, placed upon a scroll. By heraldic tradition the design is described (blazoned) as if being done by the bearer with the shield being worn on the arm.

The Shield

In Bishop Mark S. Rivituso's coat of arms, the shield is azure, with gold (yellow) cross fleuretty (each arm terminates in a fleur-de-lis), which is taken from the arms of the Archdiocese of Saint Louis that Bishop Rivituso has served as a priest since his ordination in 1988, and that he will now serve in the fullness of the Holy Priesthood, as a bishop.

At the base of the shield is a silver (white) crescent amid "a semé," which is a scattering of twelve stars, six on each side of the crescent, all in silver (white). This symbolism represents the Blessed Virgin Mary, in her title of the Immaculate Conception to which she's referred in the beginning of the 12th Chapter of the Book of Revelation: "the moon under her feet and upon her head a crown of twelve stars." As Mary was at the foot of Christ's cross, her symbolism as "our other Mother," is placed within this design to know that as Christ gave His Mother to the Beloved Disciple, John, so too she is given to us as we are given to her. The crescent and stars also signify the twelve Apostles along with the crescent for Mary, Queen of the Apostles.

External ornamentation

The external ornaments are a gold (yellow) processional cross, which extends above and below the shield, and a pontifical hat, called a galero, with 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 1969.


Finally, for his motto, Bishop Rivituso has adopted the phrase "Caritas Christi Urget Nos." This Latin phrase comes from St. Paul's second letter to the Corinthians (2 Cor. 5:14), which means as Christians, believers in the totality Jesus as The Christ, in all that we do and all that we are, "The Love of Christ impels us." 

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