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Symbols galore on coat of arms
Staff Writer

Every new bishop chooses a coat of arms that represents him and his diocese, a custom that dates back to medieval times when knights rode into battle carrying shields with their king's coat of arms displayed. Because a bishop is considered the shepherd of the faithful in his diocese, his shield is symbolic of protection.

In 1977, Bishop Howard J. Hubbard selected his coat of arms to represent where his Diocese is located, who he is in terms of personal lineage, and what his hopes and dreams were for the people he served.

A beaver, crescent moon, heart, cross, crosier and scalloped shell adorn the Bishop's coat of arms. Over the shield is a hat with 12 tassels, while the Bishop's motto --"Rejoice, We Are God's People" -- lies underneath.

"I chose the motto from the 100th Psalm," Bishop Hubbard told The Evangelist.

"I chose the word 'rejoice' because of the fact that we are a people chosen by God, called to ministry to serve not only God but each other. We look at this calling not as a burden, but as a great joy. To me, the second part -- 'We Are God's People' -- emphasizes who we are and that [through the Second Vatican Council] each of us is called to ministry."

The left half of the shield represents the Diocese. The beaver is taken from the coat of arms of the City of Albany. Albany was originally called Beverwyck, or "Beaver Town," because the city was the exchange point of the inland fur trade. This symbol dates back to the 17th century.

The beaver grasps a pastoral staff, or crosier, to represent the rank of bishop. The crescent moon symbolizes the Blessed Virgin, who, under the title of the Immaculate Conception, is the patroness of the Diocese. The lunar symbol is derived from the Apocalypse (Rev 12:1): "And a great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon was under her feet."

The other side of the shield consists of the personal arms of Bishop Hubbard. Research in 1977 discovered that both his first and last names had the word "heart" in their origins.

The shell is the symbol of St. James, one of Bishop Hubbard's patron saints and his middle name. The cross is taken from the arms of the Burke family, the maternal lineage of the Bishop.

Atop the coat of arms is a pontifical hat that was worn at all solemn processions before 1870. The number of tassels designates the rank of the prelate, differentiating pope, cardinal, archbishop and bishop. All bishops' coats of arms display the pontifical hat.

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