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Celebrating Everyday Spirituality

Sunflower Seeds

Celebrating Everyday Spirituality

Like or Love?

(Photo by Pixabay)

A number of years ago I was struggling with someone, a co-worker who was about 15 years older than I was. I didn’t know him very well, but we rubbed shoulders at work from time to time. About once a month, for example, we were required to attend the same meeting with about eight others. It was at those meetings that I found myself getting increasingly annoyed with him. Why?

I thought he had a know-it-all attitude. (I was judging him, I know.) In addition, he took offense easily and sometimes responded with sarcastic barbs. On occasion, I thought he was rude to other members at the meeting. Including me. In short, he disrupted the peace that I sensed would prevail if only he weren’t present. I prayed about him. I reasoned, maybe what I saw as arrogance proceeded not from pride, but from hurt or fear. I told myself, maybe if I knew him better, I would be more understanding and less agitated. But I had no desire to get to know him better–and, I sensed, he had no desire to get to know me better either. So there! Even when he did nothing offensive at a meeting, I was on edge, because I sat there thinking, “When is he going to make some rude remark?”

(Photo by Pexels)

I found myself struggling hard to be more tolerant of him. But nothing worked. One morning, on a day we had our meeting, I was praying about him again to God. I found myself blurting out, “But, Jesus, I just don’t like him!” Instantly I “heard” Jesus say to me, “So, Melannie, tell me: since when does your compassion extend only to individuals you like?”

Good question.

In the Gospels, Jesus didn’t say, “Like one another.” But he said, “Love one another”–many times too. Maybe he repeated it so often because he knew, from personal experience, how hard it was. Even Jesus got agitated with certain individuals, most noticeably with some of the religious leaders. But he also struggled with members of his own inner circle. On several occasions he must have found it difficult to like his disciples–especially when they were vying with each other for the highest places in his “organization.” Or when Peter ordered him not to go to Jerusalem to suffer and die. Or in his darkest hour in Gethsemane, when Peter, James, and John all fell asleep. And later, when his closest friends deserted him. One reason Jesus could still love them when they weren’t even likeable was this: He knew their stories. He understood their humanity, because he was so in touch with his own humanity.

(My co-worker ended up quitting his job with us and moving to another place many miles away, close to his original home. I thought, maybe his behavior with us was partially caused by being so far from family and friends. I could only hope he found some happiness in his new surroundings. Several years later, I heard he had passed away.)

We can’t possibly know the stories of every person we come in contact with. But during our lives, we may be privileged to know the stories of some individuals we interact with frequently–our spouse, our children, members of our religious community, good friends, individuals we work beside, and individuals we serve. Hopefully, those experiences will remind us that certain behaviors that would normally irk us, instead elicit patience and understanding from us precisely because we know the background stories of those individuals. It also helps if we are in touch with our own humanity–and with our behaviors that probably annoy the heck out of other people too! (ouch!)

God’s love is all-inclusive. That is why God is so understanding, patient, and forgiving. Each day God is calling us to expand the circle of our loving, a circle that goes beyond the circle of our liking. One way we do this is to remember that everyone has a story. We might not know that story, but God does. Because God knows everyone’s story. Including our own.

“Following Jesus is simple, but not easy. Love until it hurts, and then love more.” St. Teresa of Calcutta (Photo by Emre Can Acer – Pexels)

For reflection:

What do you do when you are struggling with someone who agitates you?

What is the difference between liking someone and loving someone?

Have you ever come to like someone that you initially didn’t like? If so, what accounted for the change?

What helps you to expand your circle of loving?


PS: I ask your prayers for a zoom retreat I will be leading this week for the Heartland Retreat Center in West Bend, Kansas. The theme of the retreat is “The Power and Mystery of God’s Extravagant Grace.” There are about 30 retreatants–Sisters and lay women. Some are at the retreat center and several are online. I received a list of their names and the list made me excited! They are “real” women and I’m looking forward to “meeting” them! Thank you for your prayers!

Our video today is the hymn “There’s a Wideness in God’s Mercy,” written in 1862 by Frederick William Fabor, produced here by Chet Valley Churches. As I look around our world today, the lines that struck me most were these: “For the love of God is broader than the measure of man’s mind… But we make his love too narrow by false limits of our own…”

I invite you to jot down a comment below about the reflection, the pictures, or the video…

Three Jesus Poems for April

(Photo by Jill Burrow – Pexels)

April is national poetry month. As is my custom, I’m posting poems in honor of poetry’s marvelous beauty and power. Today I’m featuring three poems about Jesus by two friends of mine and myself. I suggest you read these poems slowly and aloud.

The Cana Jesus by Pierre Eau Claire

Jesus, did you dance at the Cana wedding?

Did you bring a gift for the bride and groom?

How much did you have to drink?

Did you make a toast

or tell a few stories to make people laugh?

Did the local winery file a law suit

complaining that you intruded on their business?

How long did you stay at the celebration?

After Cana, how many other weddings were you invited to?

How did your mother know what you would do?

Did you get a thank you note from the father of the bride?

Did the servants get a tip?

I wish I had been invited to the Cana Wedding.


The Gerasene Demoniac by John Hopkins (Mk. 5: 1-20)

(Photo by Ilkin Efendiyev – Pexels)

He was not invited.

He just decided one day to get in a boat

and sail to the other side of things.

And so there he was,

no one to greet him when he came ashore

except the Gerasene Demoniac,

naked, bruised, cut, howling;

unchained, unclean, and now unclaimed

by neighbors, friends and family,

who could no longer control him,

subdue him, or silence him.

Jeus knew something about this:

the unfathomable depth of the human soul,

how it can be possessed by legions

of rejection, loneliness, derision,

and depression–like this soul

now lying prostrate before him.

He sent those ill-feelings into 2000 pigs

who suddenly couldn’t take it anymore

and jumped the cliff.

Meanwhile, the erstwhile demoniac,

sitting at Jesus’ feet and fully clothed,

wanted out of there.

Meanwhile, the townsfolk, wanted

the uninvited Jesus out of there.

He just wrecked what’s really important:

their economy.


Jesus, You Cleansed the Temple by Melannie Svoboda, SND

from When the Blue Heron Flies

(Photo by cotton bro studio – Pexels)

Jesus, you cleansed the Temple in Jerusalem.

You turned tables over, set doves and lambs free,

and chased out all the money changers,

while yelling, “My house shall be a house of prayer–not a den of thieves!”

Jesus, come now and do the same in me.

For I too have set up clutter where sacred space was meant to be.

I too am caging living things with my excessive need to control.

I too am enamored of profit, glitz, and material gain.

Come, Jesus, reclaim me as your own.

Come cleanse the temple of me.


Reflection questions:

Did any words or lines especially speak to you today? Do you know why?

What qualities of Jesus do you see in each of these poems?

If you were going to write a poem about Jesus based in scripture, what words of Jesus or event in his life would you choose? (What’s stopping you from writing that poem?)

PS: A big thank you to the wonderful people who attended my talk on Mary for the Youngstown First Friday Club last Thursday. I really enjoyed being among so many good people! Special thank you to Sr. Nancy Pawlen, OSU, for being my contact person!

It is only fitting that we conclude with a poetic song “Deep Love of Jesus” by Hillside. I love these words especially: “In my praise and in my failures his arms are open wide…” May the strong yet tender melody and the lovely nature scenes nourish your prayers.

Please share a thought or two below…


Smiles and Laughs for Easter 2024

Easter is the season of hope…

Here is our chapel in Chardon decorated for Easter. Many thanks to the Sisters who arrange all those lovely flowers for us: Sisters Barb Soplata, Kathleen Tobin and Jo Zeitz. (Photo by Sr. Barbara Daugherty.)

Easter reminds us that our hope is rooted in the persistent and unconditional love of God for us–not in our goodness. Our hope is rooted in the life and teachings of Jesus–not in ourselves. Our hope is rooted in the wisdom and power of the Holy Spirit–not in our cleverness or strength. Believing these truths, let’s lighten up today with some smiles, laughs, and yes, even groans to celebrate Easter 2024. Here we go…

From our children:

A little boy asked his grandfather how old he was. The man said, “68.” The boy thought for a moment and then asked, “Did you start at 1?”

A grandmother was telling her granddaughter some of the things she did when she was growing up. “We ice-skated on the pond, we picked raspberries in the summer, we had a swing made from an old tire, we rode a pony.” Her granddaughter said, “I sure wish I had gotten to know you sooner!”

The teacher told her students to write a sentence about a public servant. One boy wrote, “The fireman came down the ladder pregnant.” The teacher took him aside and asked, “Do you know what pregnant means? “Yes,” said the boy. “It means carrying a child.”

If you are worrying about the problem-solving capabilities of the youngest generation, see the boy below:

A little baby was talking excitedly on the phone with a friend. “So today in Church a guy in a dress tried to drown me! And, I kid you not, my family just stood there taking pictures!”

If you ever get caught sleeping on the job, with your head lying down on your desk, just slowly lift your head and say, “In Jesus’ name. Amen.”

I hate it when people act all intellectual and talk about Mozart, while they have never seen even one of his paintings.

My favorite childhood memory is when my back didn’t hurt!

Exercise helps with your decision making. It’s true! I went for a run this morning and decided right away, “I’m never going to do that again!”

Remember when a “new hip joint” meant some fun place to go on a Friday night?

Here’s a food tip: Once you lick the frosting off a cupcake, it becomes a muffin–and muffins are healthy!

There’s a fine line between a numerator and a denominator. (Only a fraction of people will find this funny…)

The real reason so many retirees choose to live in RV campers: The kids won’t move back home if they can’t find it!

Four reasons why God created Eve:

4. God was worried if Adam got lost in the Garden of Eden he wouldn’t ask for directions.

3. God knew Adam would never make a doctor’s appointment.

2. God knew Adam would never be able to handle labor pains and childbirth.

And the number l reason:

  1. When God created Adam, he stepped back and looked at him and said, “I can do better than that!” And so he did!

Under the category: “They said WHAT?”

Actual headline on a story about the resignation of the head of the federal agency overseeing meat inspections: Meat Head Resigns.

Actual sentence from an undergraduate student paper: “History, a record of things left behind by previous generations, started in 1815.”

Quote from a pro soccer player: “All that remains is for a few dots and commas to be crossed.”

Actual insurance claim: “I didn’t think the speed limit applied after midnight.”

Said by a Senator who will remain anonymous: “We can’t keep kicking this issue down the can.”

“With the benefit of hindsight, we can all have 50-50 vision.”

Sign in a hotel window: “GUESTS CAN USE THE FREE WIFE IN THE LOBBY.”

I’ll leave you with a few more images:

For cat lovers everywhere:

And finally:

Have a great week!

Did any of these tickle your funny bone? Would you like to add any humor in the comments below?

PS: Cabrini Movie: If you’re looking for some powerful inspiration, I recommend the new movie Cabrini distributed by Angel Studios. It tells the incredible story of Mother Cabrini, an Italian immigrant, who comes with six other Sisters to the United States in 1889 to serve the masses of Italian immigrants packed into the slums and sewers (yes sewers!) of New York City. Her story is set amid the culture of her day, with its intense hatred of Italians, its anti-immigration movement, and its overt prejudice against women, a prejudice she encountered in society at-large and in the Church. Though sickly most of her life, Cabrini went on to found a vast “network of love” (schools, hospitals, orphanages, homeless shelters, etc.) that eventually encompassed the world. In 1946, she was the first U.S. citizen to be canonized a saint. I saw the movie in a theater, but it will be on various streaming devices soon. I hope you can check it out!

Our video today is an Easter song by Sarah Hart, Sarah Kroger, Josh Blakesley, and Trey Helffinger: “Hallalujah Is Our Song.” As the song says, “What hope we have even in the longest night… what joy we have… what peace we have, for “He is risen over all!”

I look forward to reading some of your comments below!

Holy Week Prayer: Anything Goes

One thing I like about praying: anything goes.

I didn’t always believe this. As a little girl, I thought praying was mostly something you did in church on Sundays, or something you did before eating supper, or you did kneeling beside your bed every night. I didn’t realize that anything goes meant anywhere goes. For example, you could pray in the kitchen. My mother taught me this. She had this little prayer card thumbtacked between the two windows above the kitchen sink. It said on it “My Kitchen Prayer.” I’m sure she prayed this prayer many times as she prepared those countless meals for us. Gradually, I learned we can pray in any room in the house–yes, even in the bathroom! In fact, we can really pray anywhere: in a car, in a check-out line, at the beach, in a park, while watering our house plants, in a doctor’s waiting room.

When praying, anyhow goes. We don’t have to use only nice, polite words. Nor do we pray only when everything is going well and our life is in order. We don’t have to kneel to pray. We can pray while sitting, lying down, walking, and working. We don’t have to use the words of someone else, although sometimes that can be good. But our own words are just fine in prayer. And sometimes no words are the best prayers of all. For God hears “non words” too like our laughter, our silence, and our tears.

When praying, anywhen goes. Many of us probably pray in the morning and/or evening. But the middle of the day is a fine time to pray too, to pause in our work to say a few words to God. Sometimes our most heartfelt prayer comes when storm clouds are looming on our horizon. Or we pray in the middle of the night, when we’re in pain or when we’re so worried about something or someone we cannot sleep.

Yesterday, Palm Sunday, we listened to the passion according to Mark. We see Jesus at prayer especially in the Garden of Gethsemane and on the cross. In the Garden, Jesus is truly in agony. He says to his three disciples, “My soul is sorrowful even to death.” When he prays, his says to God, to Abba, “Take this cup away from me.” Jesus knows what awaits him: a horrific crucifixion. In essence, he is saying to his Father, “Anything but this!” In prayer, we can tell God exactly what we want and what we do not want–just as Jesus did. But then we must remember, Jesus adds, “but not what I will but what you will.” That’s perhaps the hardest part of praying: surrendering what we want (or what we believe we cannot live without) to the mysterious and inscrutable designs of God.

On the cross, Jesus prays those heartbreaking words, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Those are the first words of Psalm 22, which is “a prayer of desolation.” (Fr. George Smiga in Living with Christ, March 2024 issue). Says Fr. Smiga, though many Christians may be shocked to hear such words coming from Jesus, such words “emphasize his true humanity.” Some commentators note that Psalm 22 ends with hope and praise of God. But Mark doesn’t include those words, perhaps because he “wanted us to see that Jesus truly experienced human pain and understands the feelings of despair that can mark our lives.” When we are facing our own pain and agony, “To pray in such a way is not a lack of faith. We are only echoing the way Jesus prayed on the cross.”

Reflection questions:

Did anything resonate with you and your experience in this reflection?

Where, when, and how do you pray?

Have you made any words from the psalms part of your personal prayer?

Fr. Smiga says, to pray prayers of desolation “is not a lack of faith.” Do you agree? Why or why not?

+++++++I wish you all a very faith-filled and joyous Easter!+++++++


Announcing: Three Upcoming Events:

Talk on Mary at the Youngstown, OH First Friday Club Luncheon, April 4. See their website for details.

Retreat in Great Bend, Kansas: April 14-19. Sponsored by the Heartland Center for Spirituality. You can attend the retreat in person or join us on zoom from your own home. The theme is “The Power and Mystery of God’s Grace.” In the two conferences each day, we will explore some of the ways God’s grace comes to us in our ordinary lives. See their website for more details:

A Zoom Afternoon Event: Sunday May 19th, 1:30 – 4:00 (Central) I will be giving a presentation entitled “Finding God in the Ordinary and Amazing” sponsored by The Portiuncula Center for Prayer in Frankfort, IL. Fee: donation. Check their website for details:

I would love to meet some of you at these events!


“Jesus used the Book of Psalms as his prayerbook,” writes Fr. Smiga. The fact that Jesus chose Ps. 22 as his prayer on the cross speaks volumes about Jesus and what he was experiencing at that moment. Here is a new musical version of that psalm by Aaron Shust. Since Ps. 22 is a long psalm (32 verses), only a few of the verses are selected for the song. Beneath the lyrics, the numbers of the exact verses are indicated. The words “Lama Azavtani Eli” are the first words of Ps. 22 in Hebrew, the language in which Jesus probably actually prayed them on the cross: “My God, why have you forsaken me?”

I welcome you to respond to today’s reflection below:

Prayer for the Total Solar Eclipse

Some of us will experience a total eclipse of the sun on Monday, April 8, 2024. The Cleveland, Ohio area is in its direct path. We will be privileged to witness this astronomical phenomenon from 1:59.20 PM to 4:28.57 PM (EST) (How’s that for pinpoint accuracy!) Even if our typical April weather (clouds and rain) blot out the sun for us (there’s a 60% chance of that), we will still experience at 3:15 PM 3 mins. and 49 secs. of total darkness. Plus we and you can follow this eclipse on TV and many websites as its path is tracked live across North America.

Total solar eclipses are rare. The last one in our area was in 1806; the next one here will be in 2444! For all of us in this area, then, April 8th is the total eclipse of our lifetime. Millions of people are expected to flood into the path of the eclipse as it makes its way across North America. Hotels have been booked for months. Most schools in our area are closed to lesson the road congestion. Police, hospitals, and other safety personnel will be working overtime to insure safety for this large influx of people. Those of us living here have been warned to stock up on food ahead of time and, if possible, stay home.

Here’s how a solar eclipse “works” in case you’ve forgotten what you learned in your sixth grade science class!

I think it’s very appropriate for us to celebrate this “cosmic spiritual event.” To do that, I have written a special prayer for the solar eclipse. It is a modification of beautiful Psalm 8. As you will see, I have adapted the psalm to our northeast Ohio region, inserting some of the plants and animals common to our area. If you’re praying this far from Cleveland, you might want to insert some of the flora and fauna common to your area. I have also added a few lines to the psalm to commemorate this total solar eclipse.

Psalm 8 (adapted)

O Creator God, your majesty fills the earth.

Your glory is higher than the heavens.

You have taught children and infants to tell of your strength,

silencing all who oppose you.

When we look at the night sky and see the work of your fingers,

the moon and stars you have set in place,

what are we, mere mortals, that you should keep us in mind?

Who are we, human beings, homo sapiens, that you should care for us?

Yet you have made us a little less than the angels,

You have crowned us with glory and honor.

You have made us your stewards of creation, putting all things under our care:

Oceans and rivers, buckeye and maple trees, soybeans and sweet corn, strawberry plants and grape vines,

Sheep and alpacas, chickens and cows, cats and dogs…

And all the untamed animals… the birds of the air:

robins, cardinals, blue birds, eagles, Canada geese.

All the other fellow animals who share our world with us:

squirrels, chipmunks, foxes, coyotes, white-tailed deer.

And all the creatures who swim in our lakes and streams: walleye, yellow perch, rainbow trout.

And all who live in our vast oceans: from teeny weeny plankton to humongous blue whales.

And today, Loving Creator, you have blessed us

with this astronomical event, a total solar eclipse,

when Brother Sun and Sister Moon play together in the sky,

reminding us of the splendor of your finely tuned cosmos,

and that we are part of something far bigger and greater than we can imagine.

Emphasizing once again our oneness with each other,

and calling our attention to the beauty and wonder of both light and darkness in our lives.

And for us Christians, giving us a powerful astronomical symbol of the death and resurrection of Jesus.

O Loving Creator God, how awesome is your name throughout the cosmos!

Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit

as it was in the beginning, is now, and every shall be, world without end! Amen!


PS: For the fun of it, here’s a cookie eclipse:

Our video is the song “God Of Wonders” (Lord of all Creation.) It was originally recorded by the band Caedmon’s Call. Nearly 100 other artists have since recorded this song. I chose this version because it has the lyrics and some stunning visuals–from lowly daisies to the sun and moon and vast array of planets and stars!

I invite you to add a comment below–about your experience of an eclipse or something similar… your preparation for this particular eclipse if you are anywhere near its path…or any other observations. Our readers (and I!) really appreciate your comments!

Meet Sr. Melannie

Hi and welcome to my blog! I’m Sister Melannie, a Sister of Notre Dame residing in Chardon, Ohio, USA. I’ve been very lucky! I was raised in a loving family on a small farm in northeast Ohio. I also entered the SNDs right after high school. Over the years, my ministries have included high school and college teaching, novice director, congregational leadership, spiritual direction, retreat facilitating, and writing. I hope you enjoy “Sunflower Seeds” and will consider subscribing below. I’d love to have you in our “sunflower community.” Thank you!

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Upcoming Events

Finding God in the Ordinary and Amazing: An Afternoon with Sister Melannie

Sunday, May 19, 2024 – 1:30 – 4:00 Central – via zoom

Sponsored by the Portiuncula Center for Prayer – Frankfort, Illinois

Fee: Donation

For details visit: [email protected]

Weekend retreat at Villa Maria Education and Spirituality Center, Pulaski, PA
October 11-13, 2024

October 11-13, 2024

Details to follow

Retreat with the Sisters of Loretto, Nerinx, KY
September 8-13, 2024

September 8-13, 2024

Details to follow

Retreat at Lial Renewal Center, Whitehouse, OH
August 11-18, 2024

August 11-18, 2024

Retreat at Heartland Center for Spirituality, Great Bend, KS
April 14-19, 2024

April 14-19, 2024

Details to follow