Author Archives | Sharon O'Connell-Wilson

About Sharon O'Connell-Wilson

I am a wife to my husband Dave and mother to my children Courtney and Gabe. I have a degree in education and have worked as a teacher, in advertising, radio, retail buyer and in youth advocacy – I even rode an elephant in the circus once! I am a “cradle” Catholic who didn’t really know my faith until my adulthood. On fire with my faith and love for God I dove into parish life at Divine Mercy Catholic Church in Faribault, Minnesota. Once I dove in, I began to realized I needed to learn how to swim! Patient priests and friends as well as the Archbishop Harry J. Flynn Catechetical Institute helped me to learn the strokes. I love talking about my faith and learning more about the great gift of being Catholic. Find me at www.sharonagneswilson.com

The Fifth and Sixth Stations of the Cross

March 26, 2018

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Walk with Jesus and meditate on the fifth and sixth stations today as we journey toward the Passion.

The Fifth Station

On their way out they met a Cyrenian named Simon; this man they pressed into service to carry the cross.

God has created me to do him some definite service;

He has committed some work to me,

which he has not committed to another.

I have my mission;

I may never know it in this life, but I shall be told it in the next.

I have a part in a great work;

I am a link in a chain, a bond of connection between persons.

He has not created me for naught.

I shall do good, I shall do His work;

I shall be an angel of peace,

a preacher of truth in my own place,

while not intending it,

if I do but keep His commandments

and serve Him in my calling.

~I Have a Mission, Blessed John Henry Newman, 18011890

 

The Sixth Station

Veronica hastily went near Jesus and wiped His face with a piece of cloth. The face of Jesus was imprinted in the cloth.

Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace.

Where there is hatred, let me sow love;

where there is injury, pardon;

where there is doubt, faith;

where there is despair, hope;

where there is darkness, light;

where there is sadness, joy.

O, Divine Master,

grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console;

to be understood as to understand;

to be loved as to love.

For it is in giving that we receive;

it is in pardoning that we are pardoned;

it is in dying that we are born again to eternal life.

~Attributed to Saint Francis of Assisi, 1181 – 1226

 

Copyright A Walk of Mercy 2016

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The Third and Fourth Stations of the Cross

March 25, 2018

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Continue your journey to the passion and slowly meditate on the Third and Fourth Stations of the Cross.

The Third Station

Weakened, prodded, cursed, and fallen, His whole Body bruised and swollen, Jesus tripped and lay in pain because of our sins. Dust and blood were seen in His Holy Face when He looked up to heaven asking God the Father to let Him redeem us sinners.

Behold me, my beloved Jesus,

weighed down under the burden of my trials and sufferings,

I cast myself at your feet, that you may renew my strength and my courage, while I rest here in your Presence.
Permit me to lay down my cross in your Sacred Heart,

for only your infinite goodness can sustain me;

only your love can help me bear my cross;

only your powerful hand can lighten its weight.
O Divine King, Jesus, whose heart is so compassionate to the afflicted,

I wish to live in you; suffer and die in you.

During my life be to me my model and my support;

at the hour of my death, be my hope and my refuge. Amen.

~Anonymous

 

The Fourth Station

There on the road to Calvary, Jesus met His afflicted Mother. They         looked at each other’s teary eyes. Oh, what sadness our loving Virgin Mother felt in meeting her suffering Son; truly, a sword pierced her heart.

Holy Mary, Mother of God, preserve in me the heart of a child,

pure and transparent as a spring.

Obtain for me a simple heart that does not brood over sorrows;

A heart generous in giving itself,

Quick to feel compassion;

A faithful, generous heart that forgets no favor and holds no grudge.

Give me a humble, gentle heart.

Loving without asking any return;
A great indomitable heart, that no ingratitude can close,

No indifference can weary;

A heart tortured by its desire for the glory of Jesus Christ.

Pierced by His love –

With a wound that will heal only in heaven.  Amen.  

 ~Prayer for the Heart of a Child, Léonce de Grandmaison, 1868-1927

 

Copyright A Walk of Mercy 2016

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The First and Second Stations of the Cross

March 24, 2018

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A few years ago I had the privilege of helping Fr. Kevin Finnegan put together the book “A Walk of Mercy ~ The Divine Mercy Stations of the Cross” ( the book can be found on Amazon) I wrote about my journey with the stations of the cross a few years ago.

I have started the practice of reading these stations slowly. I read and meditate on one or two stations a day.

For this next week I will post 2 stations with the illustrations and meditations so you can follow along with me on the journey through the Passion.

The First Station

Pontius Pilate connived with the will of the religious leaders. He sentenced Jesus Christ to death though He was innocent.

In every need let me come to you with humble trust, saying:  Jesus, help me!

In all my doubts, perplexities and temptations:  Jesus, help me!

In hours of loneliness, weariness and trials: Jesus, help me!

In the failure of my plans and hopes, in disappointments,

troubles and sorrows: Jesus, help me!

When others fail me, and your grace alone can assist me: Jesus, help me! When I throw myself on your tender love as a Father and Savior:

Jesus, help me!

When my heart is cast down by failure

at seeing no good come from my efforts: Jesus, help me!

When I feel impatient, and my cross irritates me: Jesus, help me!

When I am ill, and my head and hands cannot work and I am lonely:

Jesus, help me!

Always, always, in spite of weakness, falls and shortcomings of every kind:  Jesus, help me and never forsake me. Amen.

~Jesus, Help Me Prayer – Anonymous

 

The Second Station

Jesus accepted His Cross which was too heavy for His frail body.

Christ suffered carrying the heavy Cross to redeem us.

Take, O Lord, and receive my entire liberty,

my memory, my understanding and my whole will.

All that I am and all that I possess you have given me:

I surrender it all to you

to be disposed of according to your will.

Give me only your love and your grace;

with these I will be rich enough,

and will desire nothing more.

~St. Ignatius of Loyola, 1491 – 1556

 

Copyright A Walk of Mercy 2016

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Top 10 Spiritual Resolutions for 2018

December 31, 2017

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It is the start of the New Year  and we may or may not have made our New Year Resolutions.  Many people make resolutions to lose weight, exercise or save money, but what about our spiritual lives?

Here is a list of 10 Spiritual Resolutions that can change your life!

  1. Pray Every Day. Some of you may already to this but if you are like me sometimes in the morning rush I miss out on my 10 minutes of prayer with a promise to myself to get to it later.  Start the new year right and get up earlier and start the day with prayer.
  2. Pray Before Bed.  Just like starting your day right, it is important to end your day right. The Examen or Evening Reflection was written by St. Ignatius Loyola. It is five simple steps to reflect on your day that will change your 2018.
  • Remember God’s presence.
  • Respond to Him with thanks.
  • Reflect on how God showed Himself to you.
  • Repent of your failings.
  • Resolve to grow. 
  1. Keep a Prayer Journal. God’s presence is all around us but we sometimes don’t recognize it.  Keeping a prayer journal is a great way see His work your life. Never done it before? It is easy. Take a few moments after prayer to jot down your thoughts and anything that has been revealed to you in your prayer.  Take some time weekly or monthly to look for themes in your life and prayer.  Jot down the names or situations you are praying for, notice God’s responses, give thanks for answered prayers.
  2. Go to Confession. Centuries ago, it was customary to begin the New Year with a spotlessly clean house. Thus, houses were thoroughly cleaned as it signified a fresh start to the New Year. A clean house is good, but what about a clean soul? Start the new year right and get to confession! Better yet, resolve to go once a month! In addition to confession think about relationships you may need to heal. It might be a co-worker, friend or family member.  The way to lead in any situation is to lead with your own vulnerability.  It may be hard to take the first step and you may not get the result from the other person that you wished for but resolve to place humility above pride and people above being right.  It is a way to start the new year with a clean house and soul.
  3. Spend Less Time with Your Computer or Phone. This may sound like a secular and not spiritual resolution but spending less time on screens and more time with people (or in prayer) will improve your spiritual life.  There are some great things on facebook and on the internet but if you find yourself wasting time scrolling or in envy of other’s lives then you are not living your own life abundantly!  “I have come so that they may have life, and have it abundantly” John 10:10
  4. Read Spiritual Books. Spiritual reading plays an important role in our lives. Just as our bodies need exercise and good food, so do our hearts, minds, and souls.  For women – I recommend signing up for the  Read Between the WINE’s Book Club or check our recommended reading titles.
  5. Plan a Retreat. Just like planning a vacation for your family, planning a retreat for yourself needs to be a priority.  The new year is a great time to make those plans.  They can be as simple as spending a day at a nearby convent or monastery or taking a week long overnight retreat. Check with your priest for some suggestions. One of my favorite places is Pacem in Terris.
  6. Give. Plan to give of yourself this year. The old adage of time, talent and treasure is not just a ploy to get you to volunteer for the church or give money to keep it running.  Giving of ourselves is an expression of our love to God and all he has given us – which is everything!  When I had been suffering from a bout of depression, my priest suggested I volunteer at a homeless shelter or food shelf. It knocked me out of my own self-pity when I saw lives less fortunate than mine.  When cash is short – I am reminded that I am richer than 90% of the planet and even when my life is crazy busy, I think how difficult it would be if I spent the day looking for food to eat to survive.
  7. Rest and Sleep. On the 7th day God rested and so should we. Sleep and rest is healing. Check out this post by Fr. Mike Schmitz on getting enough sleep. To give ourselves the time to rest we may need to make room in our lives, so in comes #10.
  8. Say NO. We all should pattern our lives after Mary’s great “Fiat” by saying yes to Jesus. But saying yes to one thing may necessitate saying no to others.  In the WINE companion journal to Lisa Hendy’s book “The Grace of Yes” I wrote “The other lesson that I have learned in the grace of no has been that my well thought out “No” leaves open a yes to other things.  I heard a priest friend of mine answer the question about his celibacy to a group of teenagers when they asked him how he could have decided to become a priest and say “no” to a wife and children.  His response was.  “When a man does decide a “yes” to marriage that automatically means a “no” to all other women in his life.”  In that way a yes becomes a no to other things and a no becomes a yes to new possibilities. “
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A Saint for Today

October 31, 2017

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On Saturday, November 4th Sr. Rani Marie (Who’s name translates as Queen Mary) will be beatified, the first step toward canonization. A member of the Franciscan Clarist Congregation from Kerala, India, Sr. Rani Marie was martyred 22 years ago. She was murdered by landlords who were against missionary activities by the Catholic Sisters, while working among the poor. Sr. Rani Maria was 41 when Samandar Singh, hired by some landlords, stabbed her inside a bus on February 25, 1995. She had worked among poor landless agricultural laborers and others to fight for just wages and other rights.

Her amazing story did not end with her death; in fact, it is where it starts. While serving 11 years in prison, Samandar Singh plotted to get revenge on the landlords that pushed him into killing the nun, that is until another nun came to visit. Sister Selmi Paul, who happened to be the murdered nun’s own sister came to him, hugged him and called him brother. He was profoundly touched by her gesture, so much so that from this embrace his journey of repentance began. He gave up plans for revenge and converted to Catholicism.  Now, released from prison, Sr. Rani Marie’s family treats him like a brother, in fact it was Sr. Rani’s family that lobbied for his release from prison.  They have adopted him into their family.

I heard about this story at about the same time I heard of the tragedy in Las Vegas. I happened to be at a daily Mass the day after the shootings that killed 58 people.  Even as they death count was still being tallied, the priest at this daily Mass jarred me when he led us all in a prayer for the 59th victim…the shooter. It is a strange thing as Catholics that we are called not only to love our friends but to love our enemies.   Love them so much so that we pray for them along with our loved ones.

A priest I recently heard was expounding on the Blessed Mother at the cross of Christ and hearing the words, “Behold, your Mother.” He said, “At that moment, Mary, knowing that her son was dying for our sins and dying for the sins of even John, who’s home she would then enter, was being asked to be mother to the ones her son was dying for.”  “Who,” he challenged the mothers in the audience, “would be able to take on that role of mothering the ones who were the cause of their own son’s death?”

Only a saint. Only our Queen Mary.

Most of us will never be martyred or hopefully never be in the position to forgive a murder of a family member, but all of us have someone we need to forgive.  It could be someone who has caused us some pain in some way, a friend, co-worker, boss, or family member.  It could be someone even closer and the initiator of very deep pain such as a parent, spouse, abuser or even a child.  The lives of the saints are not just stories of the outwardly heroic, but they are the examples of everyday forgiveness.

St. Richard’s in Richfield, 7540 Penn Ave S, Minneapolis, MN 55423, will be celebrating a 4:00 p.m. Syro-Malabar (Eastern  Rite) Catholic Mass on Sunday November 5 in honor of Rani Marie’s Beatification.  All are welcome to attend!

 

 

 

 

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Through Blood and Faith

August 19, 2017

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Today marks the one year anniversary of my dear cousin’s death.  Fr. Marvin O’Connell was technically my first cousin once removed and he is the one who taught me how to figure out those confusing family lines.  A priest of this diocese and history professor at the University of St. Thomas for a number of years, he spent most of his years teaching at Notre Dame in South Bend.  Early in my life I remember hearing that I had a cousin who was a priest. I met him on a couple of occasions. A priest in the family gets called in for weddings, funerals and baptisms.  I didn’t pay him much thought until I had a (re)conversion to my Catholic faith and suddenly the thought of a cousin who was a priest gave me someone else (besides my pastor) that I could take my many questions to.  My connection to him was through blood and faith, it was only latter that I learned of his academic notoriety.

When my son was little he kept Fr. Marvin’s ordination picture in his room. It seemed at the time he thought he looked like Fr. Andrew Cozzens (now Bishop Cozzens) and Fr. Andrew was an associate at our parish at the time and my son had idolized him. The physical resemblance of the two was mostly in my  son’s eyes, but a young priest looks like any young priest to a 7 year old. One day we invited our pastor over for dinner and when touring the house he asked who the priest was in the picture.  When I explained it was my cousin Fr. Marvin O’Connell, he responded with excitement, “You mean THE Fr. Marvin O’Connell?!” Prior to that I never knew he was so well known – at least in priest circles.

He authored 10 books and lectured often.  His notoriety at Notre Dame is legendary. He even threw Joe Montana out of his classroom once  for falling asleep. (Check out this beautiful tribute written by one of his students here). Right now, a group of alumni are making the historic walk in the footsteps of the founder of Notre Dame, Fr. Edward Sorin.  The group studied Marv’s biography of Fr. Sorin in preparation for this trip. (Follow them here).

I called him Marv and when I attended his funeral many were surprised by this affectionate nick name I had for him. It seems many of even his close friends called him Fr. O’Connell – at his insistence.

It is not for his academic prowess that I miss and remember his passing today. It is for his love and encouragement to me. On one trip to visit my family in Faribault, he not only anchored me to the history of the town in which I lived by telling me about the Faribault Plan, (A plan which could force the state’s financial support of Catholic schools which he wrote about in his book on Archbishop Ireland) but also anchored me in my family history.  As he left that day, he held my chin lovingly and told me that I reminded him of our shared grandmother (His grandmother and my great-grandmother) Grandma Hannah O’Connell was a formidable woman. She painted, wrote poetry and prose and volunteered as an Army nurse for a time.  Our shared family resemblance didn’t end there.  At one point while I was working for the Archdiocese, I found myself getting into hot water because of my outspoken opinions.  Seeking council from Fr. Marvin he told me he wasn’t surprised. “It seems to run in the family,” he said.  Blood (family) seems to bind us in many ways.

His encouragement of my writing was especially important to me.  As I was just starting to develop this skill, he encouraged me to press on and saw a gift in my work.

To honor his memory, sharpen my writing skills and possibly grow closer to knowing this “old goat” better through his work, I am planning on finally reading his last book: Pilgrims to the Northland – The  History of the Archdiocese of St. Paul, 1840-1962. In addition to reading it – I hope to travel to a few of the places mentioned and write about it here in this blog.

I hope you follow me on these periodic posts as I hope to also grow closer to God on this journey through blood and faith.

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Is God a Cubs fan?

November 1, 2016

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gabe-a-wrigley-field

My son after the game at Wrigley some 14 years ago.

I write this post as the Chicago Cubs are finishing up a 6th game win in the 2016 World Series. They are poised to make history. Well, in actuality they already have made history regardless of the outcome of game 7.

I wouldn’t call myself a great baseball fan. In fact, most of the time throughout the summer I rarely catch a game and if I do, it would be a Minnesota Twins game.

So what has made this fair weather fan a Cubs fan?

Underdogs? Breaking the curse? Diehard fans? Sure, but I keep thinking of a story.

My husband and I traveled to Chicago for the first time about 14 years ago. Our children were 9 and 10 years old. We had hopes of seeing a game at Wrigley field mostly for the novelty of it, but this small town Minnesota girl and her family didn’t know their way around.

We headed out early to the game in hopes of buying tickets from the scalpers. Neither my husband nor I had ever done this before.

On the way to the stadium, we were stuck in freeway traffic and unsure of even which exit to take.  Sometimes when cars are sitting on the freeway like a parking lot, passenger windows and drivers windows of the neighboring cars line up.

I looked over to my right and saw the neighboring driver wearing a Cubs hat. “Do you think they are going to the game?” I asked my husband “Should. I ask them what exit to take?”

Taking our chances, I rolled down the window to ask. Now you have to remember that we are small town Minnesota people and had only heard horror stories about gangs and shootings in Chicago.

Sure enough he was going to the game and on closer inspection he had his wife in the car and a baby in the back seat. All of them were decked out in Cubs attire. From head to toe!

“Follow me” he said and we took the next exit and he lead us to a small parking space in the back of a gas station. He motioned for us to park.

I was beginning to wonder if it was such a good idea to follow a perfect stranger into a secluded place in a city that we did not know.

“It’s ok” he told us, “I know the owner.” We piled out of the car and stood there like tourists looking in all directions not even knowing what direction the stadium was.

Our new friend and his family started walking so we followed them. Or should I say, stalking them. After a block or so, they dropped back to us and asked if we had tickets. We told them we did not and we started a conversation. He showed us his Cubs designed socks and began to tell us that they belonged to his grandfather. His grandfather had season tickets most of his life, then his Dad, and now he was carrying on the tradition. His Grandfather had never seen a World Series Championship from the Cubs, but he hoped that he and his son would someday.

As we wandered closer to the stadium, he brushed off the scalpers until right outside of the stadium. When someone else approached us with tickets to sell, my husband looked to him for approval. Our new friend gave us a slight nod and we bought the tickets.

We thanked them and gave them a hug. As they walked into the stadium, he looked back at us just to see if we were ok. We waved.  I wish I knew their name.

What a beautiful exchange. They could have pointed to the exit off the freeway and left us with that, but the kindness that was showed to us is etched in my memory.

I think how that interaction has shaped my beliefs about the Cubs and their fans.

I wonder how I might come off to others and if I could lead them to something bigger than Wrigley field.

Do I wear my Catholic fandom in the same way this Cubs fan wore his pride? Even more importantly, do I interact with others when I am asked about my faith by accompanying others or do I just point to an exit and want to be left alone?

This new friend showed me a better way to evangelize. “Follow me,” he said and we did.

During this series, I have been wondering about this man and his family. I smile thinking about that baby who must now be a teenager. I am sure they are cheering this team in the series and wearing great-grandfathers socks for luck.

So is God a Cubs fan? I think so. I hope so!

On to game 7! Go Cubs!

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Social Justice and Abortion

September 12, 2016

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On Monday, September 12, an ad appeared in the Minneapolis paper claiming that Catholics could, or should I say should, support abortion as part of their Catholic Social Justice beliefs. This could not be farther from the truth and the group Catholics for Choice should not be allowed to even use the word Catholic!

In my almost 8 years when working as the Respect Life Coordinator for this archdiocese, I always taught and professed and I hope lived the social justice work of our church. I wrote and acted in support of healthcare reform, immigration reform and the right to a fair wage. None of these things are in opposition to the right to life. In fact, it is because of our teaching on the dignity of the human person, which starts at conception, that we have the other teachings.

Of the seven themes of the Catholic Social Justice teachings, life is the first and foremost. It is listed first because without this most basic right the others have no meaning.  It is the foundation on which the others are built upon.

I can only assume that this group who calls themselves Catholic hopes to influence others during this election year by steering  people to a pro choice candidate but this is not a political issue…it is a moral one.

Discerning and deciding the best ways to support women and families during a difficult or unplanned pregnancy may be up for discussion. That is the discussion of “how” to best solve the problem, but to somehow twist Catholic social teaching into support for abortion is an affront to anyone who calls themselves Catholic.

Yes, at one time, before I knew my faith, I called myself a “pro-choice Catholic.” I did not know the meaning of either word. I did not know God’s love for me and I did not know the teachings of the church. I did know however, first hand the terrible effects of abortion.  We are made, as women, to give life, not to end it and when we go against our human nature we drive ourselves further from God and we drive ourselves further from being receptive of that love. If you ever doubt the devastating effect of abortion, just speak to a woman who has had one. If you are pro woman, you are pro life!

There is no quick fix to changing the minds of those who profess it to be a Catholic right to be pro choice. I do know that for me it took a great deal of love to open my eyes. It took someone showing me that love, that compassion and teaching me that truth of what the church teaches to reach my heart.

Please share the truth of our faith with others so that there can be no misunderstanding.

 Public funding for abortion is NOT a Catholic social justice value.

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My Journey with the Stations of the Cross ~ A Walk of Mercy

February 10, 2016

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#12

 

I have a confession to make. Since it is Lent, it seems like a good time to lay out the truth.

Here goes: For as long as I can remember, I have never liked praying the Stations of the Cross! I mean I never “got” it. As a child, I remember waiting out the time repeating words I didn’t understand. Later, when I taught physical education at a Catholic school, I jokingly called it “Catholic aerobics.” Stand, genuflect, kneel, repeat.

I suppose, as with other beautiful Catholic devotions I didn’t immediately take to, I needed to explore the stations more deeply and see how God could make them personal for me. And that’s exactly what He did last year.

On Good Friday, my husband and I attended the Stations of the Cross at our parish, Divine Mercy Catholic Church in Faribault, MN. Fr. Kevin Finnegan, our previous pastor, had compiled beautiful reflections from various Catholic authors and saints that fit each station perfectly. My husband and I were in tears at the end of the service. The journey of Christ’s passion, through the stations, finally became personal for me.

The Stations of the Cross are Christ’s journey to the Cross. We follow in His footsteps with each station, and reflect on our own journey through life and the specific trials we have encountered.

After my experience with the Stations of the Cross, coupled with the beautiful reflections Father complied, I set out on another journey: to share these stations with others. After Easter, I approached Father about the possibility of publishing these stations as a book. Perhaps if I struggled with the Stations of the Cross, maybe others did, too. Perhaps these additional reflections could assist them in growing in their love of this timeless devotion, like they helped me.

Well, I am happy to share that these stations are now available in a book called A Walk of Mercy: The Divine Mercy Stations of the Cross. Inspired by the prayers of St. Faustina, it includes reflections from various Catholic saints and writers, and is a moving devotional for personal or communal use. Along with the stations, Fr. Finnegan gives instruction on how to pray the stations. Also included in the book are striking photographs of the 100-year-old Stations of the Cross from the old German Catholic Church in our community.

Here is an excerpt from Bishop Andrew Cozzens’ foreword in the book:

This Walk of Mercy is meant to draw us more deeply into the merciful love of Jesus. It is meant to teach us that our own sufferings and failings are places of mercy, not places of condemnation. It is meant to show us that the merciful love of Jesus knows no limits. This is what allows us to surrender our whole lives to him: we know the depth of his mercy for us, so we can pick up our cross and follow him. As you pray these stations and meditate on Jesus’ mercy poured out for you, I pray you will be able to say in every circumstance what Jesus himself said the night of his passion, “for his mercy endures forever.”

Thankfully, I don’t hate the Stations of the Cross anymore! And I am recommitted to exploring other Catholic traditions that haven’t penetrated my heart yet. (The key word here is yet.)

This Lent, consider exploring a devotional tradition that has slipped away from our modern lives. Maybe it is the daily Rosary, a particular novena, lectio divina, Eucharistic Adoration, or Stations of the Cross. Maybe it is recommitting to the practice of fasting and abstinence. Maybe it is answering that question, “What are you giving up for Lent?” in a way that allows real commitment to journey with Christ in the desert.

Our Catholic Church is rich in so many traditions, and we are blessed to have God working in our hearts in so many ways.

A Walk of Mercy: The Divine Mercy Stations of the Cross can be purchased on Amazon.com. Proceeds for the book go to the Garden of Mercy at Divine Mercy Parish in Faribault, MN.

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County Fairs and Back to School

August 24, 2015

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Tim-ParkerGlastonbury154MuckyBoots-300x225August has a certain rhythm for me; it means the hottest days of the summer, the county fair and preparing to go back to school.

Every August we see the ads: Back to School Sale! Even years after having no children to buy school supplies for, I still have this uncontrollable urge to purchase notebooks and No. 2 pencils! There is something about that anticipation of starting something new and fresh and getting all new notebooks and pens that is so exciting! This year, although I am not going back to school, I am starting a new job. It was such a pleasant and welcoming surprise for me on my first day to find new note pads, pens, paper clips and post it notes on my desk.

August also brings back other memories for me; that of the county fair. Being involved with 4-H, the fair means projects, barns and showing animals. If you didn’t grow up around animals, you may not know much about manure. Let me teach you a few things that this farm girl knows. A lesson I have learned from manure can be used whenever we are starting something new.

As you walk through a barn and collect manure on your boots, you need to be careful not to track that mud and manure into other buildings, whether that is another barn where disease could spread to other animals or your home and clean living spaces. Often, there is a hose or tray filled with water outside of the barn put there just for the purpose of washing off the muck.

The image from Matthew 10:14 come to mind whenever I see this process. “Whoever will not receive you or listen to your words—go outside that house or town and shake the dust from your feet.” Although not shaking dust exactly, the image of ridding yourself of the muck on your boots before entering into new territory is a good practice.

The anticipation of children starting a new school year fresh is wonderful. I would remind my children that anything is possible! They were starting with a new teacher, new subjects and a new start! Issues from the previous year or school didn’t need to follow them. If last year you struggled with a certain class or classmate, now was the time to set a new tone. This is a lesson I think we all can use as we start new seasons of our life.

Is there any muck that is stuck to your boots that could contaminate a fresh start?

Let’s thoroughly clean the muck from our hearts and minds and start fresh! And just for good measure, buy yourself a new notebook and a No. 2 pencil, too!

* This post was originally posted on WINE: WomenIn the New Evangelization

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