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Bishop Edward J. Burns January 24, 2017

Coat of Arms for Bishop Edward J. Burns

Ecclesiastical heraldry refers to the use of heraldry within the Christian Church for dioceses and Christian clergy. Initially used to mark documents, ecclesiastical heraldry evolved as a system for identifying people and dioceses. It is most formalized within the Catholic Church where most bishops, including the Pope, have a personal coat of arms. Learn about the symbolism and meaning contained in the Coat of Arms for our bishop-elect, Bishop Edward J. Burns.

In according to the Roman Catholic Church heraldic tradition, the Coat of Arms of a Bishop is normally composed by:

  • shield with its charges (symbols) coming from family, geographic, religious and historical meanings and/or referred to the name of the Bishop;
  • golden processional  cross, with one traversal bar, to represent the rank of the Bishop, “impaled” (vertically) behind the shield;
  • green hat (galero) with 12 (six on each side) attached tassels, ordained 1; 2; 3; from the top;
  • scroll with the motto, written in black, below everything.

Here it has been chosen a samnitic shape shield, frequently used in Roman Catholic Church heraldry and a botonny processional cross with five red stones to represent the Five Wounds of Christ.


For his motto Bishop Burns has chosen the familiar words from the liturgy that so often serve as an invitation to prayer and they reflect the words of the Apostle and Evangelist John encouraging believers to be confident that the Lord will hear us when we pray: 

“And we have this confidence in him, that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.  And if we know that he hears us in regard to whatever we ask, we know that what we have asked him for is ours.” 
1 John 5:14-15

It also reflects the passage in the Gospel of Luke, known as the gospel of prayer, where Jesus teaches his disciples to pray:

And I tell you, ask and you will receive; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives; and the one who seeks, finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.
Luke 11:9-10

Blazonry (heraldic description) of the Coat of Arms

“Impaled. Dexter: Gules, on a fess per bend wavy Argent three fleurs-de-lis Azure; in the sinister chief two crossed swords of the second, in the dexter base a mullet of the same; sinister: per bend sinister of the third and Or, a seven points star encircled by a rosary of the same in the dexter chief and a bugle-horn Sable, stringed of the first in the sinister base; three wavy barrulets of the third in base, thereupon a fishnet of the fifth”


In the right side of the shield (in the heraldic shield, right and left are exchanged from the observer point of view since we have to consider the right and the left of the soldier who holds his own shield) we find represented the Coat of Arms of the Diocese of Dallas; it has a red (Gules) field in honor of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

The diagonal white bend represents the Trinity River located within the diocese (the placement of the bend, from top left to bottom right, somewhat resembles the northwest-southeast direction the river takes through the state).

The fleurs-de-lis within the bend are in honor of Pope Leo XIII (who was Pope when the diocese was established) and are taken from his coat of arms. The fleur-de-lis is repeated three times to represent the Holy Trinity.

The solitary star represents Dallas and also pays tribute to Texas' nickname, "The Lone Star State". The two swords honor St. Paul, who is the patron saint of the first Catholic settlement in Northeast Texas.

In the left side there is the personal Coat of Arms of Bishop Burns: this part of the shield is divided in two colours: the blue (Azure) symbolizes the separation from the worldly values and the ascent of the soul toward God, therefore the run of the Celestial Virtues which raise themselves from the things of the earth toward the sky. On this field we can see a star enclosed in a rosary, in honour of Our Lady of the Rosary whose feast is on October 7th, day of birth of Bishop Burns, while the last part of the shield is coloured in gold (Or), the most noble metal, symbol then of the first Virtue, the Faith: indeed, is due to Faith that Bishop Burns became a “fisher of men”, a service he has till now developed as a priest, a vocation director, Rector of the Seminary of Pittsburgh and as Bishop; the net recalls opportunely the Lord’s charge to St. Peter to be a “fisher of men” and the importance of this ministry in the Diocese of Dallas.  The black (Sablehorn, in heraldic shape, comes from the coat of arms of the Burns family and the three waves of water in blue (azure) want to remind the three rivers of the Diocese of Pittsburgh, where Bishop Burns comes from.