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Celebrating Everyday Spirituality

Sunflower Seeds

Celebrating Everyday Spirituality

Morning Rituals

Do you have any morning rituals? Are there little things you do each morning to start your day? For example, do you hop into the shower right away? Or do you grab your cup of coffee or tea first? Do you check your email or do you sit quietly for a few moments? Do you talk to God or pray?

In his book, Earth Works, Scott Russell Sanders describes one of his morning rituals. In the chapter entitled, “A Private History of Awe,” he says he always begins his day with some form of meditation. He writes: “When I rise from meditation each morning, I gaze through an uncurtained window at the waking world, and I bow. The gesture is plain enough—hands drawn to my chest, palms pressed together, a slight bend at the waist—but its meaning is elusive. If you asked me to explain my little ritual, to say whom or what I honor with my bow, I would be hard put to answer.”

Since moving into this apartment in Notre Dame Village (which is attached to our provincial center) I have incorporated a new ritual into my morning. While still in my jammies, and before getting my coffee, I step out onto my second floor balcony each morning. (I prefer to call it my porch). I do this every morning no matter what the weather is doing outside. It’s usually about 5:00 AM (or even earlier) when I perform this ritual. I have yet to see any other human being outside when I do this—except a couple of times I have seen an ambulance below transporting someone to the nearby hospital. But most of the time as I stand there, I sense my utter aloneness.

If you were to ask me, why I do this ritual every morning, I could give you a couple of answers. First, I’m inquisitive. I want to know what kind of a day I am awakening to. What’s the temperature? Any precipitation, wind, clouds? But my reasons go beyond mere meteorological curiosity. I just love to be outdoors. And since I now live in an apartment complex and my main ministry of writing is done indoors, I have to make a conscious effort to get outside. This little ritual assures me that I will get outside every single day.

But perhaps the main reason I stand on my balcony every morning is because I feel so close to God when I do this. I find myself reveling in God’s handy work: the setting moon, the twinkling stars, the swaying trees, the fresh air, the silence. I often talk to these natural entities as if they were my old friends. I compliment the moon, I praise the stars, I breathe in the fresh air. The other day the moon was so big, so white, so bright, I wanted to shout to my sleeping neighbors, “Hey, Everybody! Wake up! Get out here! You gotta see this moon!” But, of course, I didn’t. But before I step back inside, I always say a big thank you to God for the gift of this new day. Then I go inside, grab my coffee, plop into my living room chair, and I’m ready to begin my “formal” prayer—and my new day.

Toward the end of Sanders’ chapter, he explains more clearly why he bows to his uncurtained window every morning. He describes how the natural world fills him with wonder and awe. Then he says, “I am not saying that nature is God, for at this time in my life, with my children grown and my beard turning white, I have given up all opinions about God. I am saying that what we call nature, this all-embracing power and pattern, fills me with joy and inspires me with profound respect for all that lives. I am saying that mountains and mosquitoes, rivers and rhododendrons, you and I are utterances of this power. I am saying that this persuasive, unnamable, shaping energy, glimpsed in the whorl of skin on a thumb or the spiral of stars in a distant nebula, is what compels me to bow at a brightening window each morning.”

And I would say that my few minutes outside on my porch each morning centers me. It connects me to nature and the greater pulsating world of which I am a small speck. It fills we with gratitude no matter what is going on in my personal life or in the larger world. It underscores for me the preciousness of every single day we are privileged to walk upon this beautiful earth. It leads me to say with deep joy, “Thank you, my dear, sweet God—for everything!”

For reflection:

Do you have any morning rituals? If so, what are they? Why do you do them?

In which situations or circumstances do you sense your connectedness with all things?

Does gratitude for the gift of existence ever well up in your heart? When?

P.S. I will be in Fort Smith, Arkansas from May 20-28 leading a retreat for the Benedictine Sisters and their associates at St. Scholastica Monastery. I ask your prayers that the Holy Spirit may shower many blessings upon us with during this time. Thank you very much!

I chose an old favorite, “Morning Has Broken” for our song today. This Christian hymn was first published by Eleanor Farjeon in 1931. British singer-songwriter, Cat Stevens, recorded his version of the hymn in 1971. Stevens, raised in the Greek Orthodox faith, converted to Islam in 1977, taking the name Yusuf. At age 74, he is still touring in Great Britain today.

I invite you to write a comment below on this reflection. You’ll make my day if you do!

18 Responses

  1. Good morning, Sr. Melannie…

    Morning has broken indeed!

    I wish I could say I always start my day in prayer or meditation, but that wouldn’t be true.

    First off, I always start my morning with coffee. I guess you could say my addiction comes first! So I press the button on the coffee machine and wait for the pot to fill. When the machine beep, beep, beep, beeps, the coffee is ready.

    I usually sip my coffee while either reading the online version of the Boston Globe (Yea Celtics! Red Sox, Ugh!) or scrolling Facebook. I check my two email sites, all while sipping my coffee. I also listen for the upstairs bathroom door to close, the signal that Kerry is up. I then, like a good butler, bring her her coffee and her cell phone. Coffee in bed, if you will!

    I will admit that early in the school year I will be more faithful in starting my day with morning prayer and reading the Rule of Saint Benedict, but right now I’m exhausted, worn down, ready to retire. I will, however, pray on my way to school. No radio, just prayer and silence. At stop signs and red lights, I will make a conscious effort to breathe, say the Jesus Prayer, etc. The ride is 45 minutes, and my prayerful silence lasts at least 30.

    By the way, you must love the poetry of Mary Oliver! She said paying attention was a form of prayer.

  2. Good morning, John, I always look forward to your comments. And once again your response does not disappoint! What caught my attention the most was your listening for the upstairs bathroom door to close. And how you, like a “good butler,” bring your wife her coffee and her cellphone. I’m sure successful marriages (and healthy relationships of all kinds) are nourished and sustained by small, thoughtful gestures like this. Paraphrasing Mother Teresa, we must do “small things with great love.” And we start with the people close to us. We “pay attention” to them and never take their presence in our lives for granted. Thanks again! Melannie

  3. Melannie,

    Well, I certainly am happy to “make your day!’ with my comments. I usually get up early enough for my “morning ritual” before going to the chapel for matins and Divine Liturgy. Like you and John, coffee is an important part of my morning ritual. It comes after I get up, make the sign of the cross and thank God for another day, for the gift of life and for all the blessings of the day, those already mentioned and those which are still to come (one of which is my first cup of coffee). While I’m enjoying it, I start to mention in prayer all the living and deceased people who are or have been part of my life. Then I treasure the quiet time for my morning meditation. I’m grateful to have the leisure time to do this. It’s a great way to begin a new day!
    Thank you, Melannie, for Sunflower Seeds which are a Monday morning ritual.

  4. Margaret, I’m honored that “Sunflower Seeds” is a part of your Monday morning ritual!… Like you, I try to begin my day in gratitude. Some days, that’s easy. Other days, it’s a challenge. On those rare “bad days” when I feel I have nothing to look forward to during the day, I’ll say, “Well, at least this day will come to an end.” Then I’m sometimes surprised by the “good things” I actually detected throughout the day! … Your enumeration of those deceased who have been a part of your life is a lovely ritual… Thanks for your words today! Melannie

  5. Sr. Melannie:

    I loved this piece. I am a morning person. My day starts at 2:30 am by setting up the coffee for my husband when he gets up. I make myself a cup of coffee using the coffee pod and settle down for an hour and a half of prayer. I am fortunate that I am retired and have the pleasure to surround myself with God’s love and peace. This quiet time of prayer is so very special to me.
    If you start your day with prayer and end with prayer the rest of the day falls into place. I am reminded of a quote from Saint Edith Stein:
    “All I need is a quiet corner where I can talk to God each day as if there were nothing else to do. I try to make myself a tool for God. Not for myself, but only for Him.”

    Sister Melannie, we are blest to have you in our life.

  6. Susan, Wow! 2:30 AM! And I thought I was an early bird… Yes, we are both lucky to have this time for prayer. Thank you for including that quote from Edith Stein. Finding that “quiet corner” to talk to God… That’s a beautiful description of what prayer can be. Her words “a tool for God” reminds me of St. Francis’ “make me an instrument of your peace.” Or the words attributed to Mother Teresa: “I am a pencil in God’s hand.” Thank you for writing, Susan. It’s always good hearing from you… Melannie… PS: your husband is lucky to have you…

  7. I have always enjoyed your essays and I especially enjoyed today’s – I have always been a morning person! I also appreciated the musical selection today. I have heard this piece many times but this is the first time I saw the words – it made the song much more meaningful.

    1. Hi, Jean! So good to hear from you! (Readers, Jean is my cousin!) Maybe we both got some of the “morning Svoboda genes.” I too love this song and never tire of it… Thanks for writing…Take care, Cuz! Melannie

  8. Hi Sister Melanie!! I made a retreat with RHS Alumni gals a few months ago.
    It was wonderful. Thanks for sharing your gift of teaching us that God loves us
    so much! Know you are in my prayers. Take care, Fran

  9. Beautiful. Simply beautiful. I always enjoy your Monday meanderings but this one truly touched me. I took a screenshot of the windowsill and set it as the home screen on my phone as a reminder of God’s grace. Thank you for the inspiration 😊

  10. What a beautiful way to start the morning!! Loved your selection of the Cat Stevens song
    I went on to find many versions of it but his is the best.

  11. Good morning Sr. M! I love your intentionality about getting outside, every day. I find this inspiring, to continue to embrace what feeds us as our seasons of life and surroundings change. I, too, am a morning person. My day begins with stepping over to our bedroom window, opening the blinds, raising my arms skyward and vocalizing praise to our Wondrous Creator, Loving Abba, Guiding Shepherd (one of our Lord’s many names). And then there are a couple morning stretches of the obliques that I picked up in yoga. 🙂 Leaves me feeling alive and engaged, inside and out!
    Loved the song you chose, reading the lyrics and a bonus glimpse in to Cat Stevens. Thank you for all you do to create Sunflower Seeds each week, feeding our faith and our souls. I look forward to it every week (or sometimes twice in one week when I get behind). Peace in Him, Amy

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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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