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. I write, speak and promote for WINE:Women In the New Evangelization. Find it at www.CatholicVineyard.com

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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For the Forgotten Babies

August 18, 2015

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The Grandview Farm Baby Cemetery lies about 2 miles south of Divine Mercy Catholic Church in Faribault Minnesota.  The Cemetery is part of  the Minnesota State Hospital System (most recently called the Faribault Regional Center that operated in Faribault from 1879 until 1998. Once called the School for Idiots and Imbeciles (and later called the Feeble-Minded School) in times when we had little sensitivity to the labels we put on people with disabilities, there are three cemeteries associated with that facility.  Two near the facility and one near a farm that the school operated in the early 1900’s.  Here, in this place with no individual markers, are buried the babies that were either born at the hospital and didn’t survive (Men and women were separated at the hospital but it is rumored that sometimes they did get together and pregnancy happpened) or children who were abandoned and left without identification.  It is also rumored that babies were buried there who were born to local women whom, because of the circumstances of their pregnancy, were too embarrassed or weren’t allowed to bury their children in an established church cemetery.

I went out to look at this cemetery about a month ago because I have been working on the Garden of Mercy at Divine Mercy Parish in Faribault.  This garden is set aside as a place where all who seek mercy can find peace.  A section of the garden is dedicated to children who died either before or after birth for whatever reason whether miscarriage, abortion or illness.  As part of the dedication of the garden this Sunday, August 23, rocks with names of lost children will be placed near the water feature.  Through this healing gesture, parents were asked to name their sometimes unnamed children who lost before birth, may not have been given a name.  Three of the one hundred stones that will be dedicated are mine. Jordan David, Katie Shea and James Kevin.

While compiling the list of names, I came across a request for a memorial stone for “All the Lost Children.”

Like the Unknown Soldier monument, this rock and garden is a spiritual resting place for unwanted children, those who have suffered from abuse or are casualties of war or abortion. The garden is a place of healing for those parents and the parents of children lost to illness or accident no matter at what age because we know as parents, the natural order of things is that we die first.

The garden though is not a place just for memorials.  It is a place of mercy; a living place of love and forgiveness.

Pope Francis has called a Year of Mercy starting December 8, 2015.  In the Bull of Induction for the Jubilee of Mercy, the Pope states that:

As we can see in Sacred Scripture, mercy is a key word that indicates God’s action towards us. He does not limit himself merely to affirming his love, but makes it visible and tangible. Love, after all, can never be just an abstraction. By its very nature, it indicates something concrete: intentions, attitudes, and behaviors that are shown in daily living. The mercy of God is his loving concern for each one of us. He feels responsible; that is, he desires our wellbeing and he wants to see us happy, full of joy, and peaceful. This is the path which the merciful love of Christians must also travel. As the Father loves, so do his children. Just as he is merciful, so we are called to be merciful to each other.

A blessing and dedication is planned for August 23 after the 10:00 Mass with Bishop Cozzens in attendance. Let us all pray for this place  to be a place of love, forgiveness and comfort to all who seek it and for it to be a place where mercy lives through this jubilee year and beyond.

All are welcome to attend the Mass and dedication.  Information about requesting a memorial stone will be available at the dedication

Divine Mercy Catholic Church is located at 139 Mercy Drive, Faribault Minnesota.

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Fit for God

July 1, 2015

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abc_fitbit_flex_design_jt_130523_wmainI have competed well; I have finished the race; I have kept the faith. ~ 2 Timothy 4:7

I received a Fitbit for Mother’s Day. This little tool tracks my steps, my sleep and if I input the information, it tracks my calorie intake also. This tracking device comes in a variety of brands and names and no; this is not a commercial endorsement but a reflection on how this little tool has changed my life.

Here is how it works.   If I make my daily goal of 10,000 steps I get a congratulatory e-mail and a buzz on my wrist device to give me an “Atta boy!” It is amazing what I will do for a little atta boy or girl as in my case! The positive reinforcement and reminders have been a good thing to keep me on track with my fitness goals.  We have become a Fitbit family now since I bought my son one for his birthday and my husband one for Father’s Day. Our daily routine includes Fitbit challenges with family and friends trying to outdo one another in daily goals! With our good natured family competition, our evening greeting has now become – “How many steps did you get?” instead of “Hi honey, I am home.”

Recently I read an opinion piece saying “You don’t own your Fitbit – it owns you!” While it may be true that I get a cheap thrill when I get my congratulations e-mail or if I am at 9500 steps at the end of the day I choose to walk around the living room or find reasons to jaunt over to the neighbor’s house just to make my 10,000 steps, my Fitbit doesn’t own me!  At least I don’t think so.

Unlike the critical article about how the Fitbit owns me, I feel the Fitbit is doing its job.  The goal is to change some of my bad behavior into good behavior.  This started me wondering if this same process could be used to help me have a more “fit” spiritual life.

Instead of putting on my Fitbit each day – How do I put on Christ each day to make Him a priority in my life?

Instead of reminding me to take my 10,000 steps each day – How can I be reminded to pray my 10 minutes a day?

Simple reminders and small changes in behavior can make big changes in my overall well-being physically and spiritually.  Since I need prompts and support, I am trying to attach a spiritual devotion or reminder to everyday things.

Here are a few:

  • I place a picture and a prayer card next to the mirror in my bathroom and pray when I brush my teeth.
  • I wear a cross necklace and when I absently grab it and fiddle with it, I silently place into God’s hands the worries I am fretting about.
  • When my Fitbit buzzes and I have reached my goal – I move my thoughts to the great gratitude I have for all God has given me.
  • Included in my Fitbit challenges are text messages of love, support and prayers for family and friends.
  • I have even included a walk to the adoration chapel on a weekly basis to have some time to “recharge.”

Living out your faith every day doesn’t need to be hard or complicated but like my overall physical health, big changes can happen over time with little adjustments on a daily basis.   What devices and supports can you put into place to up your game?

 

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Coming Home – a Holy Thursday Reflection

April 2, 2015

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Church

Photo ~ Justin Stroh

Coming Home

When I was in college I would take weekend trips home about every other month.  These trips included the usual dirty laundry to be washed and a chance for some good food and time with my parents and sisters. As great as these things were, their was always something more that I experienced when I would walk through those doors.  It was this overwhelming feeling of coming home.

Despite the strain of school or the drama of my peers or the nagging uncertainty of what the future held, when I walked through those doors I knew I had nothing more important to do than just be.

Maybe it was a feeling of unconditional love. Maybe it was the feeling that someone else was in charge and I didn’t have to worry. Maybe it was the feeling of being loved for who I am and not what I could achieve on my report card or on the sports field. I can’t really pinpoint what exactly that feeling was, but you know it when you feel it.

Twelve years ago I attended my first Holy Thursday Mass.  I had recently come back to my faith, or I should say discovered it for the first time.  It might be surprising that a cradle Catholic had never attended a Holy Thursday Mass, but I am sure I am not the only one who has missed this beautiful liturgy. After being hit by the Holy Spirit and hungry to learn more about this new found love, the church, my pastor encouraged me to attend the entire Triduum.

I was overcome by the Mass.  I can’t recall any one specific detail except that it felt like coming home.  It felt like being away at college and making that trip back home. Everything just seemed to fit.

As I left the Mass I spoke with the pastor about this feeling of coming back home. I can only wonder if he thought I was a crazy woman – comparing this liturgy to a weekend trip home from college but he seemed excited at my interest.  He eagerly shared with me an Encyclical I should read and said “I’ll see you tomorrow!”

The church is our home- the church belongs to all of us.  It is a place where we are loved unconditionally. It is a place where we can rely on God to be in charge.  It is a place where we can grow and be loved for who you are. It is our home.  It leads us to our eternal home and it is the closest we can get on this side of the veil.

If you haven’t been home for a while – Come home!

Holy Thursday is also a time where we celebrate the institution of the priesthood.   I always reflect on the priests who have helped me on my journey on this day.  After all, without them I may never had found my way home.

Today, say a prayer for the priests in your life that have been instrumental in your faith journey home.

 

Sharon also writes for WINE: Women in the New Evangelization. Find her at WINE:Women in The New Evangelization

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