Burning Hearts Disciples Blog

The Burning Hearts Disciples Blog is a place where you will find faith-based reflections on current events, reviews on the newest Catholic resources, and is the heart of the Burning Hearts community. 

Inspiring, Equipping, and Supporting Disciples

Radical Missionary Discipleship: "I Want That!"

on Monday, 24 July 2017. Maureen Anderson Posted in New Evangelization, Burning Hearts Disciples

3 Takeaways from the Convocation of Catholic Leaders

Radical Missionary Discipleship:

3 members of the Burning Hearts Disciples team joined almost 3,500 participants at the USCCB's 2017 Convocation of Catholic Leaders.  The goal of the gathering was to assemble Catholic leaders for a strategic conversation, under the leadership of the bishops, on forming missionary disciples to animate the Church and to engage the culture.

Called by the bishops, the historic convocation will find more than 3,000 Catholic leaders — bishops, clergy, religious and laypeople — meeting July 1-4 in Orlando, Florida, to focus on how the pope’s 2013 apostolic exhortation, “Evangelii Gaudium” (“The Joy of the Gospel”), applies in the United States.

Over the next few weeks we'll be sharing some of our personal insights from the Convocation, the impact this national strategic conversation will have on our apostolate's mission, and our hope for the long-term fruits that will result in the American Catholic Church. 

UPDATE:  Watch the videos of the Plenary Sessions at USCCB Video On Demand.

Takeaway #1:  Unity As the Body of Christ

Immediately upon arriving at the Convocation, it was clear that the first day's theme of "unity" was going to be more than just a buzzword.  3,500 bishops, clergy, religious and laity, including five of the six residential cardinals in the country - featuring delegations from more than 80 percent of the dioceses in the county and all 50 states - were gathered with one unified purpose:  to explore The Joy of the Gospel and how to live it out in the Church in the United States. 

It was very profound and moving to be in one space with all those fellow Catholic Disciples listening to our Apostolic leaders, and having them listen to us.  As we prayed and celebrated the opening Mass, I felt Jesus' love for us and our love for him and each other throughout the room.  I found myself thinking,

This is what it means to BE the Body of Christ; although we don’t live it perfectly, we are all the same body of Christ.

Convocation of Catholic Leaders: The Joy of the Gospel in America

on Thursday, 29 June 2017. Kristin Bird Posted in New Evangelization, Burning Hearts Disciples

Convocation of Catholic Leaders: The Joy of the Gospel in America

Next week, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops are convening an unprecedented gathering of key leaders from dioceses and Catholic organizations from all across the country in order to assess the evangelization challenges and opportunities of our time, particularly in the context of the Church in the United States.

The goal of the gathering is to assemble Catholic leaders for a strategic conversation, under the leadership of the bishops, on forming missionary disciples to animate the Church and to engage the culture.

Called by the bishops, the historic convocation will find more than 3,000 Catholic leaders — bishops, clergy, religious and laypeople — meeting July 1-4 in Orlando, Florida, to focus on how the pope’s 2013 apostolic exhortation, “Evangelii Gaudium” (“The Joy of the Gospel”), applies in the United States.

From Catholic News Service

Burning Hearts Disciples is honored to have accepted an invitation from the USCCB to participate in this conversation.  We will be one of approx 160 collaborating organizations who see evangelization as integral to our mission. We will be among more than 3,000 Catholic leaders from other evangelizing organizations as well as delegations invited from each diocese. 

“This group of people would never be in the same strategic conversations together if it weren’t for the bishops calling them together. They are in all kinds of ministries throughout the church. They are professionals in all the different fields, education, business, teachers. We have people from all socioeconomic groups.”

Jonathan Reyes (executive director of the U.S. bishops’ Department of Justice, Peace and Human Development and convocation planner)

The public sessions and keynote addresses of the Convocation will be live streamed on EWTN and the USCCB website. A schedule of these addresses can be found here.

Please join us in praying for this historic and unprecendented gathering:

Prayer for the 2017 Convocation of Catholic Leaders

(July 1 – 4, 2017)

O Holy Spirit, you who first enkindled in our hearts the
joy of the Gospel, renew that same joy in those who are
preparing for the Convocation of Catholic Leaders.

Enflame the hearts of our bishops and their diocesan
delegations; leaders of national organizations and
movements; clergy, religious and laity; all who make
this event possible; and Catholic leaders across the
United States.

Move us to welcome the word of life in the
depths of our hearts and respond to the call of
missionary discipleship.

O Holy Spirit, transform our hearts and enable us to
enter into the perfect communion that you share with
the Father and the Son.*

Mary, Star of the New Evangelization, pray for us. 


*cf. EG 117.

Our Lady, Star of the New Evangelization, pray for us!
Our Lady, First Disciple of Jesus Christ, pray for us!
Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception, patroness of our country, pray for us!

Prayer copyright © 2017, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Washington, DC. All rights reserved.  Used with permission.


8 Ways to Be an Awesome Dad

on Friday, 16 June 2017. Posted in For Parents, Family Faith

8 Ways to Be an Awesome Dad

Pope Francis has called Jesus’ Beatitudes our “guide on the path of Christian life.” They reveal something about the ways God the Father relates to us, his children. Seen in this light, the Beatitudes present a unique opportunity for Christian men to become fathers after the Father’s own heart.

That’s why I wrote The BeDADitudes: 8 Ways to Be an Awesome Dad, which looks at how the Beatitudes can shed light on a uniquely Christian vision of masculinity, in general, and fatherhood, in particular. Here’s how the eight Beatitudes can help you be the father God is calling you to be.

How Do You Pray? 5 Daily Prayers for Busy Families

on Friday, 16 June 2017. Amy Brooks Posted in How Do You Pray?, Family Faith, Prayer

How Do You Pray?  5 Daily Prayers for Busy Families

Our family life is hectic, chaotic and disorganized.  And that was before we were blessed with children.

There are certain times we do come together to pray on a consistent basis, and, well – if we can do it, then I am sure you can too!

When do we pray?

We pray consistently before meals and before bedtime.

We make a serious effort to eat dinner as a family. Lately, it has been a challenge and it doesn’t always happen, but that is not the norm. One thing we do well is family dinner time.

If having dinner together in your family is the norm, that makes praying beforehand a completely attainable goal.

We also pray before bedtime.

Part of our “tucking in” routine involves bedtime prayer. In our house it usually is just one parent at this stage, but we have done this as a family as well.

How Do You Pray? A Stay-At-Home Mom's Prayer Routine

on Wednesday, 24 May 2017. Brittany Miller Posted in How Do You Pray?, Praying with Children, Family Faith, Prayer

How Do You Pray?  A Stay-At-Home Mom's Prayer Routine

For our family, prayer is always present, but very changeable. Our routine may change due to preference, a change in liturgical season, welcoming a baby and making prayer fit with the changing ages of our children. Though our prayer routine fluctuates often, we never go a day without praying at least a little bit.

Mary Gardens

on Monday, 15 May 2017. Posted in Easter, Seasons

Mary Gardens

As the weather turns warm with the coming of spring, many people are beginning to make plans for the coming gardening season. Most avid gardeners will tell you that they feel closer to God while working in their gardens than they do anywhere else. Planting, weeding, pruning, weeding, mulching, weeding, harvesting, and weeding are all opportunities to reconnect to God’s ongoing work of creation. Gardens are places to work the soil, but they can also be places to pray and seek a few moments of solitude.


From the earliest centuries of the Christian faith, people have seen in various plants echoes of religious and spiritual themes. Many of these are reflected in gardening folklore and even in the names of the flowers and herbs themselves: Mary’s Bedstraw, Ladder-to-Heaven, Penitent’s Rose, or Crown of Thorns. Like living stained glass, these flower and herbs became symbols of faith. And cultivating them became a means of prayer and contemplation.  Today, many gardeners plant whole gardens dedicated to religious and biblical themes.


Among Catholics, “Mary’s Gardens” are popular and are filled with plants whose names and folklore mention the Virgin Mary. In Washington, DC, the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception has a large Mary’s Garden, given to the Shrine by the National Council of Catholic Women.  (Rev. Larry Rice, CSP*)

If you’d like to start a Mary’s Garden at your church or in your own yard, there are lots of resources available on the internet. You can find lists of plants, references for folklore, photos, design suggestions, and information on plants and their symbolism. 

For example:

Living Easter as a Parish

on Tuesday, 02 May 2017. Fr. Herb Weber Posted in For Parish Leaders, Easter

Living Easter as a Parish

Shortly after I was ordained, I was asked to give a tour of our parish church to an interdenominational group.  A woman stopped me and asked, “Don’t Catholics believe in the resurrection of Jesus?” I assured that we not only believed, but that that doctrine is central to our understanding of salvation. 

At that, the woman pointed to the crucifix and added, “Then why do you still depict Jesus dying instead of having an empty cross?”

I admit that I was surprised by the woman’s assumption, but since then I have become grateful for her questioning. Having grown up Catholic and having looked at a lifetime of crucifixes, I had never found any contradiction in seeing Jesus on the Cross and believing that Jesus rose from the dead.

How Do You Pray?

on Tuesday, 25 April 2017. Posted in How Do You Pray?, Family Faith, Prayer

Daily Prayer Routines

How Do You Pray?

Life makes many demands on today’s families, and lives are often full and hectic. Finding the time for prayer can seem difficult - especially if you aren’t sure where to begin or how to pray as a family.

Make a Plan

John Piper, in his book Desiring God, says that a main hindrance to prayer is our lack of planning:

"If you want to take a four-week vacation, you don't just get up one summer morning and say, 'Hey, let's go today!' You won't have anything ready. You won't know where to go. Nothing has been planned."

Take the time to create a plan for your own personal prayer life.  It doesn’t have to be rigidly followed, but can serve as a grounding reminder -- a thriving, regular, consistent time of worship of and communion with God in prayer.

Tools to Help

We have developed four tools to help you get started developing your personal prayer routine...

The Easter Bunny: Pagan Symbol or Christian Metaphor?

on Tuesday, 28 March 2017. Josh Noem Posted in For Parents, Easter, Seasons

Cultural Symbols of Important Christian Holidays

The Easter Bunny: Pagan Symbol or Christian Metaphor?

Someone at work recently asked me if the Easter bunny still visits our house (our youngest is in third grade). I replied, “Our kids are pretty smart. They know when they have a good thing going, so they don’t ask unnecessary questions.”

In other words, we have an unspoken “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. While we don’t go over the top to encourage the fiction (such as the elf on a shelf nonsense), we also preserve it by hiding gifts and baskets.

We do our utmost to ensure that the most important realities of the Christian holidays are not overshadowed by these symbolic characters—our kids are crystal clear about what these Christian feasts mean for our faith and religious practice. The Easter bunny and Santa are obvious side-shows to our observance of Jesus’ birth, Death, and Resurrection.

We invest a lot of time and energy into Advent and Lent, so when Christmas and Easter come around, we are prepared to celebrate them properly and whole-heartedly. Those preparation seasons include more intensive moments of family prayer (10-15 minutes of quiet prayer individually each night before our normal night prayers), and intentional acts of almsgiving and fasting.  In comparison, visits by the Easter bunny and Santa Claus end up feeling like a nice metaphor.

Recently, I was caught writing clues for the scavenger hunt created by the Easter bunny to lead each child to their basket. The kids simply noted that they saw me writing clues, and left it at that. I was contemplating this and came to an important conclusion.

Lent: A Journey of Encounter

on Monday, 20 March 2017. Eric Clayton Posted in Seasons, Lent

To build a culture of encounter, we must start from within ourselves, from our personal call to discipleship. God knows our true selves, desiring that we, too, discover the person God has called us to be. Through prayer, we encounter ourselves before God; we see ourselves as God sees us. And we realize that God delights in every member of our human family because God is truly present in each of us.


Jesus reminds us, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Mk 12:31). To love another, we must come to know our own selves, our own hurts and triumphs, our own joys and challenges. What begins as an interior encounter necessarily goes beyond ourselves, challenging us to live in solidarity with people we may never meet. How can we hope to go to the margins, to accompany those who are most vulnerable and in need, if we haven’t properly wrestled with our own vulnerability, our own need? Only then can we recognize that each person we encounter can share with us some unique insight about our world, about ourselves, and ultimately, about our God.

Observing Lent? Try a Team Approach

on Tuesday, 28 February 2017. Posted in Family Faith, Seasons, Lent

Accompaniment and Lent

Observing Lent? Try a Team Approach


The forty days of Lent can seem like a long time, especially if one is giving up a favorite food or video game. It's helpful to have a friend to keep us going. He or she can encourage us, challenge us, and pick us up if we falter. And if that friend happens to be our spouse, so much the better!

This year, consider approaching Lent as a team. That doesn't mean you have to give up—or do—the same things as your spouse, although that's a possibility. It does mean sharing your Lenten resolution(s) and asking for each other's prayers and active support.  People often find that they're much more likely to keep their resolutions when they hold themselves accountable to another person. Knowing that someone walks with us, even if it's not exactly the same path, can be a great comfort and motivator.

If you're thinking about Lenten resolutions, consider the traditional practices of prayer, fasting and almsgiving (works of charity). Here are some ideas to get started.


Examination of Conscience for Evangelizers

on Wednesday, 01 February 2017. Kristin Bird Posted in New Evangelization, For Parish Leaders, Burning Hearts Disciples

Examination of Conscience for Evangelizers

“Every Christian is challenged, here and now, to be actively engaged in evangelization. Every Christian is a missionary to the extent that he or she has encountered the love of God in Christ Jesus: ... we are always ‘missionary disciples’. So what are we waiting for?” (Pope Francis, The Joy of the Gospel, 120)

I am an evangelization fraud

It's true.  While I am regularly reading books on the New Evangelization, and am firmly committed to the 'art of accompaniment' as a theory, I’m not very good at it in practice.

Pope Francis has some harsh words for me in Evangelii Gaudium:

“Not to put the word into practice, not to make it reality, is to build on sand, to remain in the realm of pure ideas and to end up in a lifeless and unfruitful self-centredness and Gnosticism.” (EG, 233)

Fortunately, I am not alone.  I ran across an excellent article by Dcn. Charles Fernandes of the Diocese of Hamilton where he admits to also being a "faithful—but sometimes overly passive—Catholic." 

Our own intransigence, our unwillingness to evangelize, is by far the harshest theme in Evangelii Gaudium, the most difficult for me personally to hear.

In his lengthy personal response to reading and praying through The Joy of The Gospel, Deacon Frenandes pulls out a particularly useful examination of conscience for those of us invovled in the promotion, work, and support of evangelization.


Resource Review: A Church on the Move

on Wednesday, 18 January 2017. Kristin Bird Posted in For Parish Leaders, Resource Reviews

A Church on the Move:  52 Ways to Get Mission and Mercy in Motion
by Joe Paprocki

A Church on the Move by Joe Paprocki

A Church on the Move offers 52 practical strategies for moving parishes forward, principally by focusing on the one thing the Church can offer that the world-at-large cannot: Jesus Christ.


Brace Yourselves: The Christmas Jesus Juke is Coming

on Monday, 05 December 2016. Kristin Bird Posted in Christmas, Family Faith, Seasons, Advent

Have you heard of the Jesus Juke?

The Jesus Juke is a great way to tell a friend, "I wish you possessed the uber holiness I do and were instead talking about sweet baby Jesus in this conversation." It's like a tiny little "shame grenade," you throw it into an otherwise harmless conversation and then watch it splatter everyone in guilt and condemnation. (From Stuff Christians Like)

It seems like Christmas (and maybe Easter) brings out the worst of the Jesus Jukes. Combine it with intentionally controversial or inflammatory blog post headlines and memes, and it can suck the Christmas joy right out of jolly ol' Saint Nick himself.

Jesus Juke
Jesus Juke:  St. Nick just made that sad trumpet sound: "whaaaa, waaaa."

Don't get me wrong, I love to be challenged to think a little differently. And I need to be reminded of the sacredness of this season when I am bombarded with advertisements that breed anxiety and foster materialism.

However, I don't love to be told that the way I celebrate the season is wrong.  I don't love the implication that some traditions are holier and more Catholic (yours) than others (mine).

Being challenged to think and re-grounded in faith leaves me open to becoming a better person.  Being Jesus Juked over family traditions leaves me closed and defensive.

Jesus Jukes can be dropped like a bomb on my Facebook status or in an email and I can walk away.  Loving reminders and gentle promptings take the time and effort of a genuine relationship. 

Insults and controversial headlines attract attention and are often amusing.  Genuine awareness of the holiness of the season inspires humility and a willingness to admit where I've missed the boat.

Let Peace Begin With Me

I'll be the first to admit that I've made this mistake.

Advent: Unprepared to be Prepared

on Monday, 28 November 2016. Kristin Bird Posted in Family Faith, Advent, Prayer, Seasons

A Season of Preparation, Holy Waiting, and Hopeful Anticipation

First Sunday of Advent

It's the First Week of Advent, but you wouldn't know it at our house. The wreath and calendar are still packed away in the basement. I have made no plans for what additions I will make to my prayer life for the next few weeks. Apart from the fantastic seasonal nail art I helped my 7 year old with last night, I have not even discussed the season of Advent with my children.

advent nail art
Advent nail art gives a whole new meaning to wearing your faith on your sleeve!

The wreath lighting at Mass this morning made me realize that I had procrastinated too long. Advent has started, and I'm not ready.

Then came this morning's social media onslaught. My news feeds were filled with blog posts, book reviews, youtube videos, and list after list of the best ways to enter into the season...


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