By the Way…

One of my books is called By the Way: 100 Reflections on the Spiritual Life. The book consists of reflections that didn’t fit into the “conversation” of my previous books. The book says, “By the way, here are a hundred more things I’d like to say.” Today I’ve adapted four of those reflections for you.

Approachable Jesus.

Jesus was extremely approachable. All kinds of people were drawn to him: Jews and Gentiles, men and women, rich and poor, healthy and sick, young and old. People were drawn not only by his words, but by his mien and demeanor. There must have been a gentleness in his bearing, an understanding in his facial expression, and compassion in his gaze.

Someone has said that the greatest sin is to make God unattractive. Jesus did the exact opposite. He made God extremely attractive, convincing us that God is attentive to us, is concerned about us, and desires only good for us. In short, God is as approachable as Jesus himself. Two questions to ask ourselves today: How approachable am I? Do I make God attractive by the way I live my faith?


Writing Begets Writing.

That’s something I learned a long time ago. Some days I don’t feel like writing. I say to myself, “I have nothing to say today.” But instead of not writing, I sit down and begin to write—something, anything. That’s when I realize how the actual writing process draws forth words and ideas from inside of me that I didn’t know were there. Writing begets writing.

I’ve noticed other things work the same way. You don’t feel like praying? Then pray—no matter how simply or awkwardly. Just pray. Praying begets praying. Here are a few more “begets” on my list: love begets love… trust begets trust… calm begets calm… laughter begets laughter… tenderness begets tenderness… hope begets hope. Can you think of any more?


Holy Doubt

Doubt does not cancel out faith. It merely affirms faith’s arduousness. Doubt also reminds us that faith is not once-and-for-all, either. Faith is every-day-new. When doubts about my faith arise, I try not to panic. Instead I look upon my doubts as a chance to revisit my beliefs so that my faith may grow and mature. I try to be more at ease with uncertainty, ambiguity, and mystery without immediately grasping for pious answers or quick explanations. Spiritual writer Robert Wicks says that sometimes the amount of trust we have in God is best measured “by the depth of the doubt and seriousness of the questions with which we are willing to live.” Amen to that!


The Birth of a Panda

A while back, I watched a TV show about the birth of a panda. This particular baby panda, like most in captivity, was conceived through artificial insemination. It seems adult pandas, for some unknown reason, lose their interest in mating once in captivity. A video camera in the mother’s cage caught the actual birth. When the panda was born, it “shot out” of its mother, hitting the cement wall in the process. Fortunately it was not hurt.

Baby pandas weigh only 3.2 to 4.6 ounces when they are born—“About the size of a stick of butter,” said the narrator. They are born pink, furless, and blind. They are so helpless, they demand their mother’s undivided attention for about 30 days. Mother pandas almost never leave their cubs during this time, often going the entire month without food. Finally, the “panda keepers” coaxed the mother out of her cage by placing food in another room. While she ate, they examined and weighed the cub and determined it was a healthy boy—one pound, eight ounces. As they finished handling him, the cub squeaked a couple of times. Immediately his mother stopped eating and ran back to care for her cub. Prayer: Creator of All, may I reverence and learn from every living being.

Did any of these four short reflections strike you? If so, which one(s)? Why?

PS: Sunday I zoomed with three young women in California who had just finished reading my book, Traits of a Healthy Spirituality. I want to thank Cristina, Jenny, and Taylor. I really enjoyed our time together!

I chose a short (4 min.) story for our video today called “The Seasons of Your Life.” It tells the story of a father who sends each of his four sons on a journey to find a certain pear tree and then to report back to him what each one had found.

I welcome your responses to anything in today’s reflection. Your contributions always enrich my blog!


  1. Joann Stuckart on July 12, 2021 at 7:35 am

    Thank you so very much for a most beautiful video,so very true was this powerful message. I’m going to share it with others and for me to see it again and again.
    All of your videos are wonderful , I appreciate all of them as I read sunflower seeds every Monday.
    Thank you and God Bless You, and your community.
    Joann Stuckart ❤️

  2. John Hopkins on July 12, 2021 at 7:40 am

    Good morning, Sr. Melannie…
    Good morning, all…

    After reading your blog and watching the video, the words that usually conclude the Mass emerged: “Go forth to love and serve the Lord and one another.”

    Love with a heart full of joy, wonder, understanding, humility, and love.

    I really like what you say about doubt — how it deepens and matures our faith. It also keeps us away from the insidious trap of religious certainty.

  3. Ruth Munger on July 12, 2021 at 8:32 am

    “Inspire before you expire” expresses what I work to achieve with my catechumens and candidates in RCIA, along with the belief that “Only GOD keeps you going.” Thank you Sister Melanie for always finding the perfect thing that puts into words (or song) what so many of us don’t have the words to express.

  4. Sister M. Leonarda Nowak, F.D.C. on July 12, 2021 at 9:44 am

    Thank you, dear Sister Melanie. A beautiful reflection…

  5. Pat on July 12, 2021 at 11:19 am

    Enjoying your book…when the rain speaks…
    I like your words abt doubt…freedom to doubt and what is reaped from it…very freeing…
    Thank you

  6. Sister Donna Wojtyna on July 12, 2021 at 2:21 pm

    Hi Melannie
    I signed up to receive your blog but that hasn’t happened
    How do I get on the list

    • Melannie Svoboda SND on July 12, 2021 at 3:20 pm

      Donna, I’ll resend you the confirmation. Then you can confirm again. If you still don’t get it, let me know. Thanks for subscribing! Melannie

  7. Celeste Albers on July 12, 2021 at 6:01 pm

    Melannie, I would love to subsribe to your blog. Just let me know how I can do that. You haso many wonderful messages that give me new light every time I see the Sunflower Seeds.

    • Melannie Svoboda SND on July 12, 2021 at 8:16 pm

      Celeste, To subscribe, go to the right side of this page. Under the word “subscribe,” fill in your name and email addresses and click on “subscribe.” Shortly afterwards, you will receive an email asking you to confirm your subscription. After you do that, you should receive my blog automatically (and free) every Monday. Your email address will NOT appear on my blog. Let me know if you run into any problems. Thank you for your interest, Celeste! Melannie

  8. Jean Canatsey on July 13, 2021 at 9:04 am

    Dear Sr. Melannie,
    As usual this blog was inspiring. Thank you for encouraging me in feeling that my doubts actually deepen my faith.
    I totally agree that writing begets writing. 50 years ago, I sat down to write a letter to my dying father. Since then I have filled a dozen or more journals. It never ceases to amaze me at how often when I read what I wrote, I wonder where the thoughts and words came from. Writing also begets clarity of thought and faith.
    Thank you for the lovely video on the Four Seasons of Life. My husband and I are so grateful that we have lived into our Winter.

  9. Shirley on July 13, 2021 at 11:56 am

    Thanks Sister Melannie for a great reflection! I so enjoy your blog! Keep up the great work!
    Hope you have a great week!

  10. Thomas DeFreitas on July 14, 2021 at 3:03 am

    Oh, what a rich and rewarding post!

    Yes to the importance of making God approachable. How often the disease creeps in among “religious” types whereby the believer becomes convinced of his (and it’s often a he!) own rectitude. And how often it’s the folks on the outskirts of faith, or of a deep faith that doesn’t cause them to make noise about it, who attract us toward the light.

    And certainly writing begets writing. I’m a great believer in the 30-minute headclear. Allotting a half-hour of time during which I put down whatever pops into my noggin, with as little self-censoring as possible. (I love the parallel, too, to fixed times of prayer.)

    And doubt — oh, heavens, yes! Doubt seems to mollify (if that’s the right word), to soften, the soil in which faith can be born. Certitude and rectitude tend to freeze it up.

    Peace and light to all.

  11. Karen on July 14, 2021 at 3:27 pm

    Thank you once again, Sr. Melannie for the wonderful thoughts to ponder. The first “by-the-way” struck me the most because I’ve been struggling to find love for certain people, that are actually very close to me. The image you used to portray Jesus, non-judging, gentle, patient is something that I need to keep in my head as I go about my day. Maybe the problem is me not making myself approachable. It is said that you get back what you ‘put out there’. It is SO hard sometimes though.
    Yet, I look forward to your words each week to keep pushing me and inspiring me. I hope to meet you someday! thanks again

  12. rodolfo c salinas Jr on July 17, 2021 at 6:54 am

    Sister Melanie:

    I really enjoyed the panda story for I am an animal person. I always kept
    alligators and crocs on the periphery of my love for animals. However,
    watching SWAMP PEOPLE on National Geographic changed that. I
    have seen for myself how people hunt them down with such brutality.
    Those animals are in their own habitats who do not go out to attack
    but are brutally preyed on for economic gain. They do teach us alot if
    we are willing to learn. As the panda does

  13. lori kendrick on July 17, 2021 at 12:47 pm

    Absolutely TOO Wonderful–all the ideas you left out of your first book!!! Am Awe-Inspired to live and love faithfully.

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