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

The Real Little Mermaid

July 26, 2019


There’s a lot of chatter on social media recently on the issue of the casting of the little mermaid with a black actress. Media platforms are lit up with the hashtags #notmyariel and #notmylittlemermaid. While I do not want to get into cultural representation and appropriation, (Does a fish have a culture?) I would like to state that the little mermaid is a fish so therefore she should be green!

All this fuss about the mermaid negates the real tragedy of the representation of the story. The real tragedy of The Little Mermaid is the disneyfication of the original fairytale written by Hans Christian Anderson.

The real Little Mermaid was one of my favorite books as a child. I distinctly remember it’s black almost vinyllike cover and the “Magic Motion” tilt card image (called lenticular printing) on the front of the book. By tilting the image she would magically wave to me! This pre-Disney book was but a short story of the original Hans Christian Anderson tale, but it kept true to the origins of the tale.
For those who are only familiar with the Disney version where the mermaid gets the prince and becomes a Disney princess, they may be surprised to learn the deeper ending of the original.

In the original version (and the short story version from my children’s book memory) the Little Mermaid still falls in love with the prince, still trades her voice for feet and the prince still mistakenly thinks the girl who saved him (the mermaid) is another girl. The original version ends with Ariel (though she is never named in the original story) sacrificing herself and eventually finds her way to heaven. Sound familiar? That’s right, the real version of the little mermaid is about self-sacrificial love and not about getting the man. The real version of the little mermaid is where Ariel is an archetype of Christ. Now, that is a story worth lighting up social media!

I suppose the producers who turned the little mermaid into a princess instead of a Christlike figure thought the death of the mermaid was too dark of a tale for children in this modern age, despite the fact that cautionary tales throughout the ages have appealed to children. What else is Little Red Riding Hood but a cautionary tale to remind little children to stay on the path to grandma’s house and not talk to strangers (or strange wolves), My children’s favorite story was I Don’t Care Said Pierre written by Maurice Sendak and depicts a cautionary tale of an indifferent child who eventually gets eaten by a lion. Roald Dahl has a dark side in his stories. (Lets not forget the poem The Pig). No, I don’t think it is because the real Little Mermaid story had a dark side that it was changed, I think it is because it actually has a higher meaning.

It is sad that we are not in an outrage for the watering down of this tale.

If we focus on the argument of what actress portrays Ariel, we forget that she was originally a Christlike figure that has now been lost along with the lessons the story taught. The washed down Disney version created over 25 years ago misses the conversation between the little mermaid and her Grandmother that explains an eternal soul.

“Human beings, on the contrary, have a soul which lives forever, long after their bodies have turned to clay. It rises through thin air, up to the shining stars. Just as we rise through the water to see the lands on earth, so men rise up to beautiful places unknown, which we shall never see.”

What a beautiful way to introduce children and remind adults of the beauty of an eternal soul and the transformation of sacrificial love (agape).

The real little mermaid’s goal is not to become a Disney princess.

“Why weren’t we given an immortal soul?” the little mermaid sadly asked. “I would gladly give up my three hundred years if I could be a human being only for a day, and later share in that heavenly realm.”

So when [spoiler alert] the mermaid chooses not to kill the Prince’s new wife and faced her own death instead she is granted a human soul and eventually taken up to heaven – her ultimate home.

Yes, maybe the real tragedy of The Little Mermaid is not what color the actress is that plays her in the movie- it is that the story no longer represents the Paschal Mystery.

Maybe we can start a new hashtag.  #thereallittlemermaidischrist

Continue reading...

Unity in Diversity

June 9, 2019


A while back I worked at a parish that had a tradition of reading the Mass readings in a variety of different languages on Pentecost Sunday.  This tradition points us to the first reading from Acts where it says, “At this sound, they gathered in a large crowd, but they were confused because each one heard them speaking in his own language.”

The tragedy of the tower of Babel separated us by language. In Genesis 11:1-9 God looks down from heaven and sends his angels to confound the common language of his creation. People are attempting to make it to heaven with a man-made tower. God confuses their language so that they are no longer able to understand each other’s speech. The Pentecost event in Acts is a reversal of this confusion. The confusion of the Tower of Babel has been reversed through the Holy Spirit!

We live in a society where differences and diversity are celebrated. Our uniqueness is never in doubt in God’s eyes, after all, he knew us when we were formed in the womb. I worry that if our goal is to celebrate our differences, then we maybe have lost the message of unity.

In my home parish, I was witness to a consolidation of three churches forming one parish. The French, Irish, and German churches still stood and practiced the faith with their own identities.  Even though the French, Gallic and German languages were no longer spoken at these parishes, which were just blocks from each other, the separation that was once based on language continued and the grasps to this old culture were there just the same.

The transition to becoming one church was a difficult one for many members. It forced many to sacrifice control and to let go of an earthly identity that kept them separate. How can we be “One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic” church when we let our earthly identities keep us separate?  But spiritual growth and transition came when we let go of our control to allow “God’s will be done.” Amazingly, even just a year after the consolidation, a new growth and unity was formed! No longer did the national cultures of the churches separate us. We were one!

Today’s celebration reminds us to celebrate our unity in our diversity and not let cultural differences keep us separate, but to embrace the universality of the church.   When we identify as something other than the whole of the Catholic Church (and catholic means universal) , it creates division. We are an ancient church and a modern one; we are a Vatican II church and a Council of Nicene Church. We are a church with a history but are moving into the future!

Pope Francis shared in one of his daily homilies a few years back, “I ask you to do everything possible to not destroy the Church with divisions; they are ideological, they come from greed and ambition, they come from jealousy. And above all to pray, and to keep the founts, the very roots of the unity of the Church, which is the Body of Christ; which we, every day, celebrate [in] His sacrifice in the Eucharist.”

It is our earthly language that separates us, but it is the heavenly language that unifies us. The language of love. 

Question to ponder: What areas do you need to sacrifice control over so that you may more fully say “yes” to the Holy Spirit? 

Continue reading...

New Year’s Resolutions AGAIN!

December 31, 2018


This is a repeat from last year but worth revisting! – If you read it last year… post in the comments on how you did!


We all seem to make the same resolutions every year, so I thought I would revisit the ones I made last year!

Top 10 Spiritual Resolutions for 2019

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.”
Continue reading...

Easter Alleluias from the Mouths of Babes

April 1, 2018


When I wrote about my Triduum reflection five years ago, I spoke about Easter Vigil and the unexpected death of my Father -in -law. This year we missed the Easter Vigil and went instead to an early morning Easter Mass.

The Vigil is filled with mystery and light and darkness and new Catholics coming into the church. It is a beautiful experience and if you have never attended a Vigil – you should!  The Easter Morning Mass however seemed to bring a different sense of hope.

As we drove to Mass both my husband and I reflected on the five years without his Dad and the upcoming one year anniversary of his Mother’s passing.

The Easter Sequence brought me words to ponder about life and death as the choir sang:

Death and life fought bitterly for this wonderous victory.

The Lord of Life now reigns on high. Alleluia!

But the greatest sign of love, life and hope that I heard at Mass was not from the priest or the Choir.  The parish was full of families with children dressed in their Easter best. A baby in front of me cooed and as if on cue a child from across the sanctuary babbled.  Soon it seemed to be a choir of babies cooing, babbling and singing from all corners of the church (and not a one of them crying).

Really, it was like one babe calling out to another and they were singing praises to God!

O LORD, our Lord,

how awesome is your name through all the earth!

I will sing of your majesty above the heavens

with the mouths of babes and infants.

Psalm 8:2-3


The only time I did not hear these children was when the choir sang the Hallelujah chorus  from Handel’s Messiah.  I am not sure which was more beautiful.

The sounds of these children made me smile and helped me remember that Easter is about new life no matter our age and we get to be born into the newness every Easter and every day.

That is the Easter story and we are Easter people!

Alleluia! Alleluia!

Continue reading...

Good Friday and the Cross

March 31, 2018


This year I am trying to write about my Triduum experience in comparison from  when I wrote about it five years ago.

Each year the Triduum is the same but we experience it differently.

I have started the habit of  slowly meditated the stations of the cross using ‘A Walk of Mercy – The Divine Mercy Stations of the Cross.’  Saying the stations slowly has become a yearly tradition for me since discovering this version a few years ago. Each year, it seems a different station affects me. Initially it was the station where Jesus meets the women, this year it is the second station where Jesus takes up His cross.  The meditation that accompanies this station is from St. Ignatius.

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.

I can’t seem to pray that prayer and really mean it.  Take my memory and my whole will?  Yikes!  Nope,  I can’t really mean that one.  How does taking up my cross mean I need to surrender.  I am Minnesota tough and I thought I need to tough things out to carry my cross.  I thought to “offer it up” meant to  be quiet and quit complaining.

This year as I celebrated the Passion Service I was struck by the immensity of the cross that was carried in for veneration. Five big adult men (and one was a retired professional football player) struggled to carry the huge cross into the church. Not one of these men could have handled the cross alone.

I watched as people I knew came forward to venerate the cross. Families who had lost their children at too young of an age, cancer survivors,  a couple struggling with infertility, a widower, a divorcee, a woman who placed her child for adoption, those struggling with aging parents and those with outward frailties with walkers and canes, each stepped up to embrace this huge cross.  Not a one of them could have budged the huge thing alone, yet alone carry it. I thought about my own crosses I have had to carry in my life; the loss of a son and sister as well as parents and in-laws, various work difficulties and financial setbacks, betrayals and deep misunderstandings as well as the healing in parts of myself that I continue to struggle with.

As I reflected on these struggles I realized that I was only able to truly heal when I quit carrying my cross alone.  It was when I allowed others to help me and ultimately when I surrendered the cross to Christ that I experienced healing.

I surrender it all to you…

I still have a long way to go in surrendering but Jesus, I trust in you may need to be my mantra for a very long time.

Continue reading...

Holy Thursday: The Lace Tablecloth

March 30, 2018


Holy Thursday: The Lace Tablecloth

I went to Holy Thursday Mass last night. I almost didn’t go.  Things have changed from 5 years ago when I wrote the post below.   I have lost some people in my life and I thought it might be too sad.  I went and sat with a friend who I unexpectedly saw there. It was fine. It actually ran through my head that…”this is fine… nothing special, but fine.”

Then when the came out to “dress” the altar I noticed that the linen was a tablecloth that once belonged to Mary Varley. Mary was an older woman from my parish that showed me such great faith.  I used to do all of the “decorating’ at the church and she would dutifully bring this tablecloth to the parish every Holy Thursday and she (only she) would then wash it and iron it. She lovingly shared her time and reverently shared this bit of herself with the church. She taught me many things through these actions. She passed away quite a few years ago now.

I met her for tea one time and asked her about her prayer life.  She told me to talk to Jesus like a friend, like you would talk to someone over a cup of tea.

When I saw the table cloth, I started to cry a little.  I realised that she was there. I realized that all of the people I loved and missed were right there at the Mass with me.  Some of the people that I was missing had moved away but I knew they were celebrating this same Mass but in their new parishes. Some of the people I was missing have died.

That lace tablecloth reminded me that…
All the people I love are with me in the Mass.

Every year the Triduum is the same but it is always different because we are different.
Last night I learned that “The Eucharist is the sacrament of love. It signifies love. It produces love.” (A quote from Thomas Aquinas)

Below is a post from 5 years ago but I think I will repost the Triduum series I wrote five years ago again this year with new insights from today.

Reflections on the Triduum – Holy Thursday

Continue reading...

The Thirteenth and Fourteenth Stations

March 30, 2018


At the last stations of the cross, we pray in sorrow but also in hope through the thirteenth and fourteenth stations.

The Thirteenth Station

When the soldiers came to Jesus, they saw that He was already dead so that they did not break His legs, but one of them opened His side with a lance, and immediately there came out Blood and Water. The body of Jesus was then taken down from the Cross and laid in the arms of His sorrowful mother.

You expired, Jesus, but the source of life gushed forth for souls,

and the ocean of mercy opened up for the whole world.

O Fount of Life, unfathomable Divine Mercy,

envelop the whole world and empty yourself out upon us.

O Blood and Water, which gushed forth from the Hearth of Jesus

as a fount of mercy for us,

I trust in you.

~Three O’Clock Prayer of Divine Mercy, Diary of St. Faustina; 1319, St. Faustina Kowalska, 1905-1938


The Fourteenth Station

Taking the body of Jesus, Joseph wrapped it in fresh linen and laid it in his own new tomb that had been hewn from a formation of rock. Then he rolled a huge stone across the entrance of the tomb and went away.

Although it is not easy to live in constant agony,

to be nailed to the cross of various pains,

still, I am inflamed with love by loving,

And like a Seraph I love God, though I am but weakness.

Oh, great is the soul that, midst suffering,

stands faithfully by God and does His will

and remains uncomforted midst great rainbows and storms,

For God’s pure love sweetens her fate.

It is no great thing to love God in prosperity

and thank Him when all goes well,

but rather to adore Him midst great adversities

And love Him for His own sake and place one’s hope in Him.

When the soul is in the shadows of Gethsemane,

All alone in the bitterness of pain,

It ascends toward the heights of Jesus,

and though ever drinking bitterness – it is not sad.

~Diary of St. Faustina: 995, St. Faustina Kowalska, 1905-1938


If you have enjoyed these stations, consider purchasing the devotional book with beautiful illustrations and a forward by Bishop Andrew Cozzens and an introduction by Fr. Kevin Finnegan. Find it here: A Walk of Mercy

Proceeds from the sale of the book go to the Garden of Mercy at Divine Mercy Catholic Church in Faribault.

Copyright A Walk of Mercy 2016

Continue reading...

The Eleventh and Twelfth Stations of the Cross

March 29, 2018


Christ on the Cross.  Where are we when Christ is at the eleventh and twelfth stations?

The Eleventh Station

When they came to Golgotha, they crucified Jesus and the two criminals, one on His right and the other on His left. And Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

Soul of Christ, make me holy.

Body of Christ, save me.

Blood of Christ, fill me with love.

Water from Christ’s side, wash me.

Passion of Christ, strengthen me.

Good Jesus, hear me.

Within your wounds, hide me.

Never let me be parted from you.

From the evil enemy, protect me.

At the hour of my death, call me,

and tell me to come to you that with your saints

I may praise you through all eternity. Amen.

~Anima Christi, Blessed Bernardino of Feltre, 1439-1494


The Twelfth Station

It was now about twelve o’clock noon, and there was darkness over the whole land until three o’clock in the afternoon. And Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?”, that is, “My God, my God, why have You forsaken me?” … Jesus, again crying out in a loud voice, “Father, into Thy hands I commend my Spirit!” and He yielded up His spirit.

Father, I abandon myself into your hands; do with me what you will.

Whatever you may do, I thank you: I am ready for all, I accept all.

Let only your will be done in me, and in all your creatures.

I wish no more than this, O Lord.
Into your hands I commend my soul;

I offer it to you with all the love of my heart, for I love you, Lord,

and so need to give myself, to surrender myself into your hands,

without reserve, and with boundless confidence, for you are my Father.

~Blessed Charles de Foucauld, 1858-1916

Copyright A Walk of Mercy 2016

Continue reading...

The Ninth and Tenth Stations of the Cross

March 28, 2018


As we journey to the Passion, walk with Jesus through the ninth and tenth stations.

The Ninth Station

Jesus falls the third time. Exhausted by carrying his cross – carrying our sins and failures – Jesus experiences the burden of the heavy cross.

Lord, teach me to be generous,

teach me to serve you as I should,

to give and not to count the cost,

to fight and not to heed the wounds,

to toil and not to seek for rest,

to labor and ask not for reward,

save that of knowing that I do your most holy will.

~St. Ignatius of Loyola, 1491 – 1556

The Tenth Station

When they reached the place called Golgotha which means skull, they offered Him wine mixed with gall. Jesus tasted it but would not take it. His blood dripped as His sticking wounds opened when they tore off His clothes.

In the terrible desert of life,

O my sweetest Jesus,

Protect souls from disaster,

For You are the Fountain of Mercy.

Let the resplendence of your rays,

O sweet Commander of our souls,

Let mercy change the world.

And you who have received this grace, serve Jesus.

Steep is the great highway I must travel,

But I fear nothing,

For the pure fount of mercy is flowing for my sake,

And, with it, strength for the humble soul.

I am exhausted and worn out,

But my conscience bears me witness

That I do all for the greater glory of the Lord,

The Lord who is my repose and my heritage.

~Diary of Saint Faustina; 1000, St. Faustina Kowalska, 1905-1938

Copyright A Walk of Mercy 2016

Continue reading...

The Seventh and Eighth Stations of the Cross

March 27, 2018


Meditate slowly on the stations seven and eight.

The Seventh Station

Again, under the weight of the cross Jesus falls to the pavement. His pain and suffering we cannot fathom.

My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going.

I do not see the road ahead of me.

I cannot know for certain where it will end.

Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that

I think I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so.

But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you.

And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing.

I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire.

And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road

though I may know nothing about it.

Therefore, will I trust you always

though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death.

I will not fear, for you are ever with me,

and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.

~Thomas Merton, 1915 – 1968, Thoughts in Solitude

The Eighth Station

A great crowd of people followed Him, including women who beat their breasts and lamented over Him. Jesus turned to them and said, “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me. Weep for yourselves and for your children.”          

Lord, human love helps me to understand divine love.

Human love at its best, unselfish, glowing, illuminating our days,

gives us a glimpse of the love of God for man.

Love is the best thing we can know in this life,

but it must be sustained by an effort of the will.

It must lie still and quiet, dull and smoldering, for periods.

It grows through suffering and patience and compassion.

We must suffer for those we love,

we must endure their traits and their suffering,

we must even take upon ourselves the penalties due their sins.

Thus we learn to understand the love of God for His creatures.

Thus we understand the crucifixion.

~Dorothy Day, 1897 – 1980, From Union Square to Rome, Published by the Preservation of the Faith Press, 1938


Copyright A Walk of Mercy 2016

Continue reading...