A Few Thoughts about Time

Do you wear a watch? If so, why? If not, why not?

I’ve worn one for many years. But sometimes I ask myself why I wear one. After all, my cellphone and computer tell me what time it is. So do the clocks in my kitchen (the clock on the wall, on the microwave, and on the coffee maker.) I also have clocks in my bedroom, the living room, and in the car. Why do I need a watch?

An hourglass

An hourglass

Years ago when I was a college student and didn’t wear a watch (because we nuns were not allowed to have watches back then), I heard a talk by a noted anthropologist. She said certain aborigines pitied people who wore watches. They noted that these people would look down at their watches regularly and frequently. Sometimes a glance would send the wearer into a tizzy. The aborigines thought watches were some kind of a cruel god who demanded frequent homage (the reverential glancing down  or the bowing down of the head) and the performance of certain tasks (whatever the person ran off to do).

I have a priest friend who “gave up” wearing a watch years ago. He never seems to be late for anything either. When he’s out and about, he often asks friends and even complete strangers what time it is. He says his question makes other people feel helpful and needed. He thinks he’s “building community” by not wearing a watch.

Before watches were ever invented, we humans developed a variety of ways for keeping time: water clocks, candle clocks, the hour glass. The sun dial was pretty popular once, but it was of no use on a cloudy day or at night. The accuracy of sun dials was also hindered by the changing seasons.

Sundials would be impractical where I live. We have too many rainy and cloudy days.

Sundials would be impractical where I live. We have too many rainy and cloudy days.

The first pendulum clock was invented in 1656. It was the most accurate timekeeper until the 1930’s when quartz oscillators came into being. The atomic clock, the most accurate of all timekeepers, was invented after World War II. When were pocket watches first made? In the 17th Century. This means we humans have had the capability of

Today's watches do a lot more than tell time.

Today’s watches do a lot more than tell time.

carrying time with us for roughly 400 years.

Are we slaves to time? Have we become too used to doing things on hours and half-hours? When someone asks me what time I’m picking them up, for example, I seldom say 1:00 or 7:30. I often say something like 1:03 or 7:32. It makes them smile (or it drives them crazy!) When I’m on retreat, I often take off my watch and ignore all clocks. I find it very contemplative to be free of clocks.

In all this talk about time, it’s important to remember that time is a precious gift. And we have only a certain amount of time on earth. Do we live as if we had all the time in the world? Do we ever “waste time” or “kill time”? Furthermore, if our attention is given only to our clocks (and calendars), do we miss the more subtle and beautiful signs of the passage of time—like the sunrise and sunset, the modifications in the night sky, the ripening of berries, the growth of a child?

The pocket watch enabled us to carry time with us wherever we went.

The pocket watch enabled us to carry time with us wherever we went.

In all of this we must remember that the origin of all time rests in God. And God’s time is not always our time. As the psalmist says, ” A thousand years in your sight are like a day that has just gone by, or like a watch in the night” (Ps. 90:4). I suggest this little practice for the next few days: every time we check our watch or a clock, we can pray, “Thank you for the gift of time, God. Help me to use it well.”

The song I chose for today is an old one entitled “In His Time” originally sung Maranatha Singers. This version is accompanied by the lyrics and pictures of flowers, berries, butterflies, moths, and (fair warning) one spider at the end.



Do you wear a watch or not? Why?

What is your attitude toward time? When is it gift for you? Is it ever a burden? What makes the difference?

Do you have any thoughts on time you’d like to take the time to share with us?

PS: Speaking of time, I am celebrating my Golden Jubilee as a Sister on July 12th and July 18th. Since I’ll be celebrating so much, I’m taking a week off from writing this blog. Therefore, I will not be posting a new reflection for Monday July 13th.  If you want to read one of my reflections on that day, I suggest you read something from the archives. I’ll be back again with a new post on Monday, July 20th. See you then!

No Comments

  1. Kathleen on July 6, 2015 at 5:38 am

    Happy Anniversary Sr. Melannie!

    I do not wear a watch. I check my phone or ask someone about the time. I am less anxious if I do not know the exact time.

    God bless.


  2. Susan on July 6, 2015 at 7:49 am

    Happy Golden Jubilee Sister Melanie. Enjoy all your celebrations!
    I only wear a watch when I travel and it is not convenient to have my cell phone out or turned on.
    I find the signs of the passage of time can make me feel a little anxious. When this happens I turn to Jesus for comfort and reassurance.

  3. Roberta on July 6, 2015 at 9:29 am

    A Golden Jubilee deserves to be celebrated well! My husband and I celebrate 52 years of marriage today and we have stayed in the Catholic church, through thick and thin, only because of the women religious we have been privileged to know. Thank you for your fifty years of commitment. It is women like yourself who have best modeled a lived Gospel! We are grateful!

  4. Catherine on July 6, 2015 at 9:34 am

    50 years! Wow. That lengthy passage of time has contained so much good in it. Enjoy and celebrate and continue with God’s blessing.

  5. Pat on July 6, 2015 at 9:34 am

    Sr. Melannie I look forward to your Sunflower Seeds each week! I don’t often “take the time” to respond/comment but today I’m offering my prayers for a blessed Golden Jubilee. I usually put my watch on before going out-church, shopping, visiting but take it off immediately when returning home. May God bless you abundantly!

  6. Mary Beth on July 6, 2015 at 9:50 am

    The last time I wore a watch was ten years ago on my last day of work and the beginning of retirement! I love the freedom!!
    Congratulations on your Jubilee. God is good!

  7. Mary Schneider on July 6, 2015 at 10:00 am

    Sr. Melannie:

    God has blessed us all with your 50 years in complete service to him and to us. Thank you! I started wearing a watch (with a second hand) when I entered nurse’s training, as we simply could not check a patient’s pulse or respirations without one. Sadly, I never out-grew the habit. I think I will take it off today, I really do not need it now.

  8. Chris Keil on July 6, 2015 at 10:26 am

    Your golden jubilee…….WOW! You still look like you did when I had you at NDA!!!!!! Congratulations!
    I, Like Mary had to wear a watch as a student nurse and ever since then. I still work, so I still have my watch, also with a second hand. I have enjoyed accessorizing with my watch and trying to have them be different. I have a Minnie Mouse nurse watch that my pediatric patients just love! My granddaughter loves it too! It opens up other avenues of conversation!
    God Bless You. Thank you for everything…………………….

  9. Heather Wilson on July 6, 2015 at 10:33 am

    Haven’t worn a watch for years. I find it helps me be more present in this moment rather than worrying about what comes next or how long something is taking, etc. I can give myself more fully to the person or task in front of me (part of my small effort at mindfulness).

  10. Karen on July 6, 2015 at 10:44 am

    I do wear a watch during the workday because I think it is less intrusive to glance at it during a meeting than to pull out my phone. But I also have my smartphone set up with literally dozens of reminders each week on things I need to do or places I need to be. (My pet peave is people who are late.)
    I have always marveled at how fluid time seems to be, yet how absolutely constant it is. What a paradox! Moments rush by way too fast sometimes, and other times they drag on. But each second is the same length as the previous on, and EVERY ONE is a gift from God.
    Thanks for the reminder Sr. Melannie and best wishes on your Golden Jubilee and THANKS for your 50 years of service to God and to our community.

  11. Maryann on July 6, 2015 at 10:48 am

    Congratulations on your Golden Jubilee, Sister Melannie! I hope you enjoy your well-deserved celebration!

  12. Josita on July 6, 2015 at 10:58 am

    Dear Melannie,
    Congratulations on your Golden Jubilee! What a special TIME! I remember the joy I experienced 5 yrs. ago at mine.
    I loved your sharing on “time”. I do wear a watch, and I can relate to your friend’s idea about being of service. I always am happy to be able to give the time to someone who asks….especially on the street or in a store.
    I love the song which I recalled, but especially the butterflies…I am addicted to them!
    Thanks for sharing and again, happy jubilee!

  13. Nona Higgins on July 6, 2015 at 11:24 am

    Congratulations on your Golden Jubilee — enjoy!! Thank you for Sunflower Seeds which is inspiring whatever the topic. I don’t wear a watch, time flies regardless. Nona Higgins

  14. Kathy McCoy on July 6, 2015 at 11:41 am

    Just beautiful. Thank you for your time as well, Sister Melannie!

  15. Suzanne Sayer on July 6, 2015 at 12:14 pm

    Congratulations on your Golden Jubilee! Does it seem like just yesterday you became a nun? Time does move quickly.

    Like others, I gave up watches when I retired 5 years ago.

    Enjoy your celebrations! God bless you!

  16. Annette on July 6, 2015 at 12:23 pm

    Happy Golden Jubilee Sister! That is cause for a celebration! My husband and I celebrated our 60th anniversary on July 4th. We had a beautiful family celebration! CONGRATULATIONS!!!

  17. Kathy Hassink on July 6, 2015 at 12:41 pm

    Cousin, when we are at our island retreat in Canada, we have no tv, no computer, no cell phones and I rarely wear a watch. In fact, we hung an atomic clock in the dining room just so we know what day it is! LOL Is nice to be off the grid and not worried about commitments. Hoping to see you on the 12th!!!

  18. Mary on July 6, 2015 at 1:02 pm

    Congratulations on your Jubilee!!! May God continue to abundantly bless you!!!

    I look forward to your weekly blogs! What a gift of inspiration!

    I do wear a watch-we are prisoners of our own making aren’t we? I will try to be more conscious of watching the clock!!! 🙂

    I go to Eucharistic adoration one hour every week- I am amazed at how I enter into God’s time -so peaceful and healing for the soul!


  19. Cathy Irby on July 6, 2015 at 1:15 pm

    Felicitations for a wonderful jubilee celebration! I know you have touched my life in a very special way, and I am sure that scores of others can say the same. You have used your time well, dear sister in Christ.

  20. Kathy on July 6, 2015 at 1:36 pm

    Wow congratulations. This is awesome may God bless your special occasion. I love this song. I need a watch just because it feels right and my arm would miss it. Yet my phone has time and my kindle. It’s all in what your use to.

  21. Celeste Albers, OP on July 6, 2015 at 1:48 pm

    Congratulations, as you celebrate your Golden Jubilee this coming week! I am truly grateful for the many ways you share your gifts to help us draw ever closer to our God! My you know God’s abiding peace!

  22. Marilyn on July 6, 2015 at 2:01 pm

    Congratulations on your golden anniversary! Many thanks for the beautiful inspiring words on your blog. I loved the music, words, and beauty in the video “In His Time.”

  23. Tom on July 6, 2015 at 2:03 pm

    I was intrigued by the aboriginal interpretation of the white man checking his watch continually, seeing him bowing to a god who then demanded that he run off to perform some task. How much truer that interpretation would now be as that same person now focuses most of his time on his new multimedia timepiece that has the power to distract him from the present moment and the world of love and beauty all around him.

  24. Nancy, CPS on July 6, 2015 at 2:22 pm

    Blessings on your Jubilee!
    Thanking God for the gift of you.
    So enjoy your visit and words that arrive in my mailbox each week.
    Be assured of prayer support as you CELEBRATE!

  25. Doris on July 6, 2015 at 3:20 pm

    Congratulations on your 50th Anniversary!
    I once made a list of common expressions we use about time. You mention “waste time” and “kill time.” Allow me to add “save time”, “spend time”, “find time”, “lose time”, “give time (to)”, “take time,” “make time (for)”, etc.
    What a preoccupation we have with time! May we always “use our time” for good.

  26. Peggy Svoboda on July 6, 2015 at 4:13 pm

    Hi Dolly,
    I wear a watch every day, and feel like something is missing if I don’t have it on. However, I seldom look at it, unless I have an appointment of some kind. I never use my cell phone to see the time, and seldom check it on my computer or iPad. But I do have clocks all around the house and in my car, so I probably use them more than I realize to keep me on schedule. It is funny that time passes consistently (every minute has 60 seconds), but it seems to go faster and faster every year.

    I’m looking forward to seeing you on Sunday for your Golden Jubilee celebration!

  27. Mary Lou Pieczarka on July 6, 2015 at 7:09 pm

    How beautiful! Thank you for the wonderful message and the song added the cherry on the sundae.
    As you celebrate your golden (are you sure it’s not silver?)
    Have wonderful celebrations, as
    I would love it if you would give an eight day retreat down here near Jacksonville, FL
    Been searching for a place to go on one for a year now. With no luck
    Mary Lou Pieczarka

  28. Shirley Sahlfeld on July 6, 2015 at 7:26 pm

    Congratulation Sister Melanie!
    I really enjoy your blog; Sunflower Seeds. Enjoy your celebrations! Thanks. So much for all you do.

  29. Dolores Leffler on July 6, 2015 at 8:10 pm

    Congratulations…May God continue to bless you!!! I just started to read your inspirational newsletters and am thoroughly enjoying them..thank you. Do you know Sr. Charlotte..give her my regards.

  30. Mary Anne Joyce on July 6, 2015 at 8:38 pm

    Dear Sister Melanie,
    Congratulations on your 50 years of service. Enjoy your “special day”.
    I so enjoy your Sunflower Seeds. What a blessing you are.

    My husband and I celebrated our 50th this past May. It was such a blessing to celebrate with family and friends.
    I have not worn a watch for years, somehow I feel less rushed but I still manage to get to clients on time, of course there are all kinds of time pieces all around that help.

  31. Carolyn Shalhoub on July 7, 2015 at 8:05 am

    I seem to still be a prisoner of my watch/clock/phone. Your reflection has inspired me to try it without a watch at least on non work days. Congratulations on your Jubilee. What a wonderful milestone of commitment! I thank you for your weekly reflections. Have a wonderful time at your celebrations.
    Carolyn Shalhoub

  32. Jean Moe Hartl on July 7, 2015 at 8:12 am

    Congratulations on your 50 years of love!!!

  33. Sister Maureen on July 7, 2015 at 12:20 pm

    I, too, wore, a watch for many years until I came on the missions, 26 years ago. It is so freeing not to wear one now. I minister to people in MX and so it’s always “manana” and most of the time I am on time.
    Congratulations on your 50th!

  34. Cathy Baier on July 7, 2015 at 10:17 pm

    Congratulations on your 50th! May God bless your celebration time with joy and much laughter!

  35. Kathy on July 8, 2015 at 6:10 am

    Congratulations on your Golden Jubilee! Wishing you many blessings yet to come. Thanks again for your reflections every week, they really help start my week on an up note.
    I don’t wear a watch anymore, but seem to be always aware of the time. I love being on vacation or on retreat when time seems suspended somehow, and I can just relax and not be concerned with it.

  36. Pam on July 8, 2015 at 9:35 am

    Congratulations on your Golden Jubilee, Sr. Melannie!
    I loved the reflection on Time. I particularly liked so many of the comments others shared. Like Susan, I mostly wear a watch when I travel. Or Karen, who wears one on workdays, because a watch is less intrusive than a mobile phone. But I am extremely grateful to the nurses whose watches are so very important to their work!
    May your Celebration Time be deeply blessed!

  37. Patrick Mahoney on July 9, 2015 at 10:23 am

    Looking forward to many more years of your wisdom and writings. Until I read this reflection
    I never thought of watches….time is a gift and I hope to use it wisely. Congratulations on your 50th!

  38. Sister Lalemant Pelikan, RSM on July 10, 2015 at 2:52 pm

    I haven’t worn a watch for some 25-30 years, because I wore a nickle-silver one that somehow caused my whole arm & shoulder to ache! I have a flip-top cell phone, and usually make note of the location of a clock wherever I go if I think I’m going to need to keep track of the time. But the rest of the time I’m happy to be free from that worry, and just make the best use of the time I have.
    Like yourself, this is a Jubilee year for me, too — on Sept.8, 2015 I will celebrate 60 years as a Sister of Mercy of the Americas (South Central Region). It’s a wonderful time to reflect upon the wonderful things the Lord has done for us, through us, and in spite of us sometimes! May your Jubilee celebration be as special as you are!

  39. Ellen A. on July 13, 2015 at 11:44 am

    Congratulations on your Golden Jubilee. May God continue to bless you abundantly. Thank you for your words of wisdom, they always add a ray of light to my day.

  40. Maggie Dunn on July 14, 2015 at 7:40 pm

    Dear Sister,

    What a wonderful song for your 50th Anniversary.
    I had that on tape years ago. “In Your Time”.
    God’s timing, not mine. I keep that in my heart.

    With love and many thank you’s for your years of service to our good Lord and to us.


    When are you coming for a visit to California so we out here can see you?

  41. Diane on July 15, 2015 at 7:33 am

    Thanks Sr Melanie. I wear one when I am at work so I know my little patients’ breath rate. I do not wear one when I am not at work.I use the phone or the clock in my car and try not to think about it. Every moment is precious although sometimes I forget that.

  42. PJ on July 18, 2015 at 6:58 am

    Dear Sr. Melannie, congratulations on your Golden Jubilee!thank you again for your Sunflower seeds of inspiration and lately the music . I love the music songs and pictures to go a long with them. Thank you for your love and dedication to our SND and church community. I am proud to
    Say I know you and are in SND-USA with you and all my sisters. I am
    Addicted to butterflies also. Love them . God Bless,

  43. Sr Madeleine,csjb on July 21, 2015 at 8:52 pm

    Happy and blessed 50th Golden Anniversary. You are a gift and blessing to all!!! As Multos Annos! Madeleine,CSJB

  44. Kathy Kovell on September 7, 2015 at 7:08 pm

    These were beautiful especially the
    one about the Butterfly & the song
    Thank you for sharing

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