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Celebrating Everyday Spirituality

Sunflower Seeds

Celebrating Everyday Spirituality

The Desert Fathers and Mothers

Ever since I was a novice, I have been fascinated by the Desert Fathers of the early Church. Only later did I learn there were Desert Mothers too. Between the second and fourth Centuries, these men and women left their cities and fled into the desert to live their Christian faith. Interestingly, some did this just as Christianity was becoming the the official religion of the Roman Empire. Barbara Brown Taylor suggests a reason for this: “They had no confidence in the volatile mix of religion and politics, being pretty sure which one would rise to the top.”

These men and women spread out into the deserts of Egypt, Palestine, Persia, and Arabia. Some lived as hermits in isolated caves. Others dwelled in caves too, but formed larger communities with one another. They all possessed the same desire: to commit themselves totally (body, soul, mind, and will) to Jesus. In the words of Christine Valters Paintner, they were seeking “a growing intentional awareness of God’s presence.” They focused their energies on prayer, singing the psalms, living with others in harmony, and working simply—such as weaving baskets. The money they made from their work, they gave to the poor. They hoped their harsh penances (fasting, spending long hours in prayer, practicing silence, vowing celibacy, engaging in study) would lead to greater humility and gentleness toward others.

The Desert Fathers and Mother were also known for their wise and pithy teachings. Eventually these teachings were gathered into a book, The Sayings of the Desert Fathers. It contains 1,202 adages and stories attributed to 27 Abbas and 3 Ammas. I’ll share a few of these with you now.

It is better to eat meat and drink wine than to eat the flesh of one’s brethren through slander. Hyperechius

Go sit in your cell and your cell will teach you everything. Moses (Some say that the outer cell is a metaphor for the inner cell, that deep place within ourselves where we encounter our true selves, that is, our deepest feelings, desires, pains, and joys. In doing this, we often encounter God.)

(Photo – Pexels)

All of us humans are in the image of God. But to be in his likeness belongs only to those who by their great love have attached their freedom to God. St. Diadochos of Photiki

“Remember, he who said, “Do not commit adultery” also said, “Do not judge.” Anonymous

Restrain the belly, the tongue, and anger, and your feet will not stumble over a rock. Amma Theodora of Alexandria

A young monk went to an elder monk and asked, “How many years will it take for me to become holy?” The old monk replied, “Ten years.” The young monk asked, “But what if I work really, really hard?” Said the old monk, “Twenty years.”

One day a group of thieves broke into an old monk’s cell. “Whatever you have,” they said, “We’ve come to take it.” Said the monk, “Take whatever you see.” The thieves did and then went on their way. But they forgot a little bag that the monk had. He grabbed it and ran after the thieves saying, “You forgot this! Take it!” The thieves marveled at the old monk. They brought everything back to him, did penance, and left saying, “Truly this was a man of God.”

Two monks went on a long journey. One day they came to a stream they had to cross. A beautiful young woman was standing beside the stream hesitating to wade across. One monk offered to carry her across so she wouldn’t get her shoes and robe wet. She accepted his offer. He lifted her up in his arms and waded across the stream with her. Once on the other side, he put her down. She thanked him for his kindness, and the monks and the woman went their separate ways. A few hours later, the monk who didn’t carry the woman across the stream said to the other one, “You never should have even looked at that woman back there—let alone carry her in your arms.” Said the other monk, “My dear Brother, I left that woman by the stream hours ago but you have been carrying her even till now.

Desert Fathers and Mothers never had to drive in rush hour traffic… (Photo – Pexels)

The Desert Fathers and Mothers went into the desert to encounter God in order to be transformed into a person of love. In this regard they are not that different from all of us who are striving to be transformed into the person of Jesus. Their penances may seem extreme. But ours can be extreme at times too. None of these monks ever had to give birth to a child, change a baby’s diapers, or try to calm a wailing baby at 2 o’clock in the morning. None of these monks had to broker peace between squabbling siblings, drive in rush hour traffic twice a day, and work to keep a marriage alive and healthy. None of these monks ever had to teach a classroom full of antsy third graders, raise a teenager, face the challenges of modern technology, do rehab after a knee or hip replacement, or worry about a potential nuclear disaster. The truth is, we have countless penances woven into the fabric of ordinary modern life that (hopefully) can help transform us into people of love too.

We also have “desert experiences” that can hasten this process of transformation. We know we are in the desert when our ordinary life is being stripped down to the essentials. Perhaps we have lost our job or are beset by serious illness. Or our home has been destroyed by fire, flooding, or a tornado. Or we have undergone a major move in our life, experienced the ending of a cherished relationship, or lost a loved one through death. Or, as Paintner says, maybe we are being forced “to let go of all the securities we cling to, even our images of God.” When we find ourselves in such circumstances, we might want to turn to these remote ancestors of our faith and simply pray, “Dear Desert Abbas, Dear Desert Ammas, pray for us…”

For reflection:

Did anything in this reflection speak to you today? If so, what?

What kind of experiences have you had that “qualify” for a desert experience? How did you survive the desert?

Name some of the modern penances that you encounter in ordinary living.

Do you know any other stories or sayings from the Desert Fathers and Mothers? If so, please share them with us below.


Announcing: Free Prizes!!!!

In honor of the 10th anniversary of “Sunflower Seeds” on February 12, I will be giving away free prizes to some lucky readers. This week I will award three of my books (autographed copies) to three readers. You can choose the book you want from the books I have on hand. To enter, all you have to do is submit a comment below (even a few words would suffice) by Saturday noon, January 22. I will announce the winners Monday, January 24. (If you comment more than once, that’s fine–but your name will be entered only once in the drawing.) Then I’ll announce the next contest. I am trying to think up some ways to show my appreciation to you, my “Sunflower” readers. Stay tuned!

I chose five minutes of instrumental music today set against beautiful photos of deserts. Sometimes we dismiss deserts as “wastelands without life.” But if we look more closely, we can see the many forms of life that have adapted themselves to the desert: plants, insects, reptiles, birds, and mammals who call the desert “home.” I hope you enjoy the beauty of the desert.

I encourage you to comment below. The more, the merrier!

117 Responses

  1. The pictures of the desert are marvelous; there is such beauty in its starkness. Here in northeast Ohio we never see the abundance of stars that the desert shows, too much cloud cover here. Blessings to all this day.

      1. I absolutely love Sunflower Seeds and look forward to it every week. It’s very inspirational and cheerful at the same time. Thank you for being part of my week.

        1. A sudden health challenge that flared just as the Covid pandemic was developing worldwide was my “desert cell”. Fortunately my condition was diagnosed and therapy has been successful, however that first year and its isolation was trying in so many different ways, for all of us.
          The blessing was the time it availed for more daily prayer and devotions. Time to seek understanding from God and feel closer to Him. Time to truly know and be thankful for those special people He has surrounded us with in this life.

          Thank you for your blessed guidance Melanie.

  2. Mondays have become a relief from the heat of daily life in the desert, I look forward to the quenching of my thirst by these reflections. There is such divisiveness and resistance to any change or any new or different ideas to tackle the present issues facing our beloved church. Our numbers are dwindling, as are the numbers of priests in each diocese. Jesus, open our hearts so we will each lovingly live our call as priestly people. Give us strength to lead where we need to, follow when we should and discern evil intentions when they exist in others. Protect us from the Evil one. Open our hearts, especially the hearts of our youth, to Your call. Ignite our hearts with the fire of your love…inspire the change that will help our church to grow and thrive despite the heat of the desert winds rising.

  3. I live in the desert actually. Surrounded by desert mountains. The stars are abundant as are the cacti. Raised in Colorado and having lived in Michigan for many years, I somehow feel that I am “home” here in the desert.

  4. Sister Melanie,
    I had never thought of some of our daily experiences as penances before. Technology frustrates me very often, and my patience runs thin. I will now look at these things as penances to be offered up to God.
    Having lived in Tucson for a little over nine years in the 1980’s I came to love the beauty of the surrounding desert, especially in the spring when the cacti would bloom, and at Christmas when I felt more in tune with the place where Jesus was born.
    Have a wonderful week, and thank you for your inspirational messages each week.

    1. I agree. I had never thought of daily experiences. I had also never heard of the Desert Fathers. So many things to learn…

  5. Thank you, Sister Melannie, for such thoughtful meditations you give us each week and look forward to them with an open heart. I subscribe to Living Faith Magazine and “discovered” you there. Have a blessed day and week ahead!!

  6. My desert moments have been when dealing with health issues with my loved ones. I have gone to the desert to seek God’s help to accept what ever the outcomes may be from these situations. God never disappoints. He has put in our path wonderful amazing people who have guided us through our health issues. In the desert I have come to understand that suffering is a beautiful gift that teaches us humility makes us stronger.

  7. Thank you for your beautiful reflections. We have 12″ of snow here in Minnesota…. that is our desert.

  8. Three months after our wedding, I was pregnant with my first child. We lived in an apartment complex in a county where I didn’t know anyone. I got involved with our parish church eventually, leading the music at Mass with a baby in a backpack. Five years later, we had four children and the die was cast as far as what I was going to do to keep occupied all day. For all those years, my kids had me at home. I was there for them at the house, driving them wherever they needed to go, attending to all the things they encountered as they matured. I was involved with the public school PTA, CCD, various parish missions; whatever I felt I was being called to. I met lots of people and made friends of many of them. Being at home all those years and then taking charge when my dad died and mom presented with Alzheimer’s, I had time and hunger for prayer and reflection. In many ways, this lifestyle has been a sort of desert but one that’s been full of flowers, including of course, the two grandchildren!
    God is with us everywhere and in every circumstance. Thank God!

  9. I found the reading about the desert fathers and mothers informative. I have always had difficulty relating their austere lifestyle to my life .

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

    It seems to me that we are now going on two years of having to live through a Covid-desert. We have had to change things: We wear masks, think twice about social situations, pray for loved ones who have the virus. And, yes, we too have had to put up with the “volatile mix of religion and politics.” We have had to “simplify, simplify, simplify” (Thoreau).

    We’ve also had to live with a tower of babel of misinformation. How I long to escape the din of it all. Those desert fathers and mothers had the right idea.

  11. Thank you for starting my Mondays with your messages that act like rays of sunshine. It is especially true today in Chardon!

  12. Dear Sr. Melanie,
    Although I haven’t commented in a long time, I so look forward to your thoughtful reflections each week.
    As beautiful as the desert is, I too have been through some difficult situations… health issues and such.
    However, I have found power in repeating the Holy Name of Jesus. His Name is the only one that contains the Presence it signifies. He alone carries us through our deserts! God bless you all.

  13. I have lived all my life (68 years) in the Midwest. I found it very difficult to understand my twin sister’s choice over 40 years ago to move to the desert Southwest. It has taken me many years, but each time I visit her, I see beauty I was not aware of before. Thank you for adding to my understanding of the world as God made it.

  14. There are many of us who have had “desert experiences” of one kind or another. However, I had never occurred to me to consider ordinary things such as changing diapers, staying up with a sick child, etc. as penances. This gives me something to ponder.

  15. I like the fact that these desert Abbas and Ammas left us a heritage. Theirs is a spirituality that was lived and tasted. We need the desert experiences even today, where we disengage from the daily routine and focus our attention on God. The desire for divine connection is still alive in us. It calls us in whispers and from the roof tops.

    1. I couldn’t help but think of the grandeur of God while listening to the music and enjoying the beauty of the desert. Thank you for giving us more information about the Desert Fathers and Mothers. You always have a way of seeing things with different eyes, i.e. your explanation of our deserts. You make faith come alive and we’re blest to be on the receiving end. Thank you!

  16. On retreat the director asked us to consider not the barrenness of the desert, but the life that exists there. Also, how it has adapted to survive these harsh conditions.
    Her point was that even though we may experience times of desolation, we’re never alone in the struggle. It may be an opportunity to shift our focus to see those things that are truly important when we’re stripped of all the excess.

  17. This reflection shines a new light on the life of the desert Fathers and Mothers. The thought of just sitting around and praying sounds wonderful but it also requires a great deal of listening for God’s voice and an awful lot of silence, which is very, very difficult.

  18. I think of the desert fathers and mothers as seekers……..of simplicity, of humility, and of wisdom. I have similar aspirations, but seem to do more seeking than finding! And perhaps the true beauty of these persons is in the showing and telling us to always be seeking God. Seek Him in all things, at all times, and in all places. The Fathers and Mothers seem to teach us that the the less “stuff” that gets in the way, the more readily we encounter God, wherever and however we live our lives. And such a beautiful and fitting video and music! Thank you, Sister, for yet another beautiful reflection. Peace and Blessings to One and All.

  19. Thank you for your seeds of thought for us. I will try to look at my daily struggles as my penances. And as such, things I don’t go through on my own, but offer up to God.

  20. Dear Sister,
    I enjoy your blog each Monday as well as reading others thoughtful comments. It is a boost to my day. You often pique my interest in different books or music that I had not read or heard before. Blessings on your day!

    1. Good morning!
      I can’t wait to read Sunflower Seeds. I love your insight on things. It is a quiet respite to read and listen. Have a wonderful week. Until next Monday….

  21. I am grateful for your reflections; they make me sincerely ponder things I wouldn’t normally think of. It is interesting that there were also desert mothers, and how that thought never occurred to me.

  22. Our deserts are all around us. Like living in a real desert, the beauty grows on you as you begin to see it. Our deserts bring a beauty into our being if we have patience, acceptance snd eyes to see. We grow where it seems impossible.

  23. Thank you for this week’s message. I have Christine’s book and look forward to reading it. So much wisdom in such simplicity and letting go of things that weigh us down.

  24. I sometimes think with this pandemic I am living in a dessert because of not being able to see to many people!!!

  25. Your appreciation of your readers? It’s more like our appreciation of you. Thank you for sharing your thoughts for 10 years. I’ve received so much peace and learning from your blob through the years. I thank the Lord for allowing me to find you. I think it was shown to me through reading The Living Faith.
    When I realize it’s a Monday I alway smile 😊. Thank you for my smile.
    We share your special day. I will be 80 years old on February 12th. I’m so Blessed 😇.

  26. Good morning Sister Melanie. Thank you for the thoughtful post. Each and everyone of us live in some form of “desert”…after all, life is difficult. The question I think about is why do some find the beauty in their desert and are able to overcome obstacles, while others see only the bareness and can’t seem to get past the obstacles? Is it their faith?

  27. Sister Melanie: Your reflections have been a gift to me. I often print them out, save them, and re-read them when the time allows. Your ministry is making a difference in the lives of many. Thank you!

  28. Just yesterday I listened to a podcast – Poetry Unbound. The poem shared was December Morning in the Desert by Alberto Rios, the inaugural state poet laureate of Arizona. What a picture it paints of deserts, the vast expanse of the sky and different types of borders. Here is a link – (Be sure to read “About This Poem”).
    What struck me in your post was the video and the many faces of a desert. I suppose this is like our personal deserts in life, they take on many forms. I thank you for the weekly gift of Sunflower Seeds, Sister M.

  29. I’ve been attracted to the desert women only recently, so thanks for more info on them. But mostly thanks for the reminder of the numerous
    ways we can practice asceticism today. I’ve been attracted to deserts
    for a long time and mostly its a positive experience- I like going to the desert prayerfully speaking. Your meditation had photos are wonderful
    Thanks! Did you see PBS Around the World in 80 days this week?
    Fantastic, though frightening, desert views

  30. Thank you for 10 years of inspiration as I start a new week. You’ve touched my soul with reflections, music and names of authors. In the 60’s we lived in Yuma, Arizona. I still am reminded of the meditative spirit of the desert.

  31. For me, the Pandemic has been my desert’.
    My heart was stretched and my soul deepened with the negative & positive gifts God chose to bless me with during that challenging time.
    Thank you for this ‘desert reflection’, Sister Melanie.

  32. The monochromatic landscape of the desert requires a new way of seeing beyond color to shapes and shadows. This new perspective reminds me of the experience of acedia, a state of mind and soul that lures me into lethargy and despair. If I learn to see with desert eyes I may find beauty in the darkness and hope in the shadows.

  33. What a wonderful gift your reflections are each week. Thank you and many blessings
    Love the desert references

  34. I first became familiar with your spiritual writing in the small Living Faith magazine I use for morning prayer. Eventually I found Sunflower Seeds and it’s always a pleasure to begin Monday mornings with your reflections and prodding questions.

    I would love to read the entire book of the Sayings of the Desert Fathers. I chuckled at the story of the two monks crossing the river, as I too often find myself dwelling on someone else’s situation far too long, and most of the time it’s really none of my business. And yes, the harder we work at achieving something, the longer it can take.

    Thanks for Sunflower Seeds Sister Melannie. Kudos to you for maintaining a weekly blog for ten years! That is an impressive commitment.

  35. My husband, of 58 years, passed away three years ago. Recently, I attended a workshop on The Spirituality of Ageing. Along with that workshop, your blog today is saying to me “wake up…….I’m speaking to you”. Transformation is difficult at any age but more so when one is alone. My life is completely different and will never be the same. Remembering is good and those memories will always be a part of me but I wonder…….”how will I move on?” Letting go is the hardest part. I know that God has a plan for me but standing still gracefully is not easy.
    Thank you for these beautiful thoughts today. You are a treasure.

  36. Perhaps there is beauty in the desert of this pandemic we are living. Each of us will have to find the beauty within.

  37. I loved the metaphor of the desert as our journey of life and how it reminds us to live our life and also our penance. The music,the dessert and sayings gave me much thought about my desert. Wonderful!!
    My day will be different as I encounter its events.
    Thank you.

  38. Your reflection made me think about a situation I am currently in that I am very frustrated with in a different way. I always enjoy your weekly posts. Congratulations on 10 years!

  39. The closest thing to a desert I’ve ever experienced was when we would take the family to the Indiana dunes state park. If you’ve never experienced a blowout you don’t know what a desert is. Total silence and total aloneness, even the kids kept quiet so they could understand silence. It was truly a God moment.

  40. Thank you for the gift of your weekly reflections. I “found you” a year or two ago after reading one of your reflections in “Give Us This Day”. My husband and I both look forward to your thoughts each week.

  41. Dear Sister M. All your books and reflecitons have been powerful for me! Loved the prayer, “Dear Desert Abbas, Dear Deser Ammas, pray for us!” Ver appropriate for the feast of St. Anthony Abbot!

    L&P Nancy

  42. I think I am having a desert experience having lost my sister this past week. I am happy for her, no more suffering and she is now enjoying a new desert experience. I am feeling a bit lost and at loose ends, trying to get back into some sort of routine.
    Thank you for your reflections!

  43. What a lovely idea to celebrate 10 years of “SUNFLOWERS”. I always wait each week in anticipation for your blog, Sister Melanie. This week’s Desert Fathers and Mothers gave me a new perspective on these great people. I learned so many new things. I so enjoy the music you choose too. I am so happy I found this wonderful weekly teaching!

  44. Deserts remind me of rocks. Rocks remind me of the power God. I keep a rock by my sink.
    The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer;
    my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge,
    my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. Psalm 18:2 NIV

  45. I always look forward each week to reading your blog. You cover such interesting topics that certainly make me think. Since I am my bedridden husband’s caregiver, I don’t leave our home very often. I read a number of devotionals daily to keep me inspired. God gives us many challenges that are unexpected but blogs like yours make days easier to understand. Looking forward to next week’s topic!

  46. Your topic could not have come at a better time, Sr. Melannie. After 65 years of marriage and 8 children, I had not even considered my life to have been one desert experience after another. However, today I find myself straddling desert experiences. Our ex-daughter-in-law Dawn, lost her 19 yr old, son, Alex, to a drug overdose last Thursday. This is the the fourth sudden death of young men in our family- the last two from overdoses. Alex was not our grandson but he was the half brother of our grandson, Kyle. Because I have walked this path before, I find myself walking with Dawn.
    In addition, my husband, Jack, fell Saturday night and we are leaving for the ER because his breathing is labored. Please pray for all of us.

  47. In February 2020 right before the start of the pandemic I left my (Lutheran) church. It’s hard to explain to others how my church became a hindrance to living out my faith, but it had. I have since found another faith community and am thankful for this weekly blog. For some reason I have been receiving it on Tuesdays instead of Mondays.

  48. Thank you for your reflections. I look forward to them every Monday combined with the choice of your songs, like the one this morning…I loved the desert stars, brought me back to my time in Africa.
    I too wonder if our life today may be more challenging than the one the Desert Fathers and Mothers lived.

  49. I can’t tell you how much I look forward to seeing Sunflower Seeds every Monday! Your blog has been helpful in my faith journey and I was encouraged to seek a spiritual director because of it!! God bless you Sister Melanie.

  50. So many times I have read Living Faith and found your name as the author– I’m so grateful for your contribution to our journey. Right now, I feel like we are in a desert….looking everywhere for water. Your writings so often are a relief from the thirst for community… thank you for your encouragement.

  51. Thank you, Melanie, for your wise words and beautiful music. I realize more and more how important music is to my life. It soothes and relaxes and takes me to another space.

  52. “countless penances woven into the fabric of ordinary modern life”… I love this. I will wrap this around me as I walk through my desert life. And thank you for including the “Do not judge” quote.

  53. Daily life, though ordinary, presents many opportunities to grow spiritually if we are attentive to them. Wisdom of the desert Fathers and Mothers seems simple, but profound. Thank you, Melanie for sharing on this topic.

  54. Sister Melanie, YOU are such a gift to so many!! Thank you for your ministries, specifically this wonderful Sunflower Seeds you sow each week. Your words always bless me in numerous ways.

  55. God Bless You, Sr. Melannie! My husband & I look forward to your Sunflower Seeds each week! Please keep sharing your talents & gifts with all of us. You are in our prayers.

  56. Dear Sr. Melanie,
    I can’t begin to express how much I appreciate your weekly reflections. They are simply beautiful and so relatable to our everyday lives! Today’s reflection definitely struck a chord with me as I have been experiencing my own desert of chronic illness for many years that have been filled with many penances of surgeries and procedures that have removed me from my active life and have placed me in my own little desert. Yet, this time spent in “desert living” has proven to be the most blessed time of my life! My spiritual self has grown by leaps and bounds! Now I find myself never looking back, but continually looking up! Thanks again for your seeds of wisdom!

  57. Melannie, I have always been inspired and challenged with your soulful writings. The one above on “desert fathers/mothers” is another example of this. For me, whenever I spend time “in the desert of my soul,” I find that it is there that the Lord has the best opportunity to speak to me and for me to “hear” him. It is there in the quiet, that I am most vulnerable to listen. The desert is truly “holy ground.” Thank you for sharing your gift of soulful writing with all.

  58. Sr. Melanie,

    I met you at a retreat you gave at the Benedictine Retreat Center in Schuyler, NE, many years ago. My friend and I sat and talked with you before the retreat began. Ever since then I have enjoyed your writings and reflections. They are always insightful. Plus, I love sunflower seeds!

    We all have our own deserts at different times in our lives.

  59. I wish that I had had this reflection when my husband was in the Navy and I was alone with four children. There was much to offer up to God, but also many blessings from Him and my neighbors. God has always been there for me and our family. Many thanks to you, Sister Melanie for your thoughts and reflections each week. They have been a blessing.

  60. I started reading your blog when my aunt began forwarding it to all of her family and friends. It has inspired many uplifting conversations!

  61. Most days I am able to offer up all the difficulties I face easily; now I am struggling with my inability to keep calm as I share a glitch with my sister in her cancer journey. Faith is most difficult and to hope for her sake stretches me thin.

  62. I have always wondered “why” those people lived in the desert as they did– thank you, Sister, for helping me finally get it, and is really quite easy now to understand!

  63. Sister Melanie, Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts with us every week. I look forward to it every week. Congratulations on 10 years. I love your insights and the videos. My desert experience has brought change and growth to my life. As a result of it, my faith life deepened and stretched to include some new experiences.

  64. Congratulations on your 10 year anniversary! You have certainly blessed many faithful followers with your inspiring words and musical collections and brought us closer to Jesus which I know is your ultimate goal. So, CONGRATULATIONS on a job well done! May God continue to bless you for many more years to come!

  65. Beautiful photos of the desert. I am always amazed and the beautiful sights and vegetation living in the desert. The night sky is especially impressive! The desert fathers have always amazed me and I am glad to learn about the mamas. I especially liked the comments after the quotes. Thanks for your blog. I always look forward to it on Monday and frequently share them. Blessings to you.

  66. Did not realize there were desert mothers until today.

    My only experience with the desert was on a visit to Egypt. The marvelous photos in “Desert dream” certainly enhanced my appreciation and understanding of the beauty to be found thee. No wonder the desert mothers and fathers settled there.

  67. Hi Sr. Melanie!
    Your blog is one I never miss reading and I often share it with family and friends. I love your books of poetry, in fact, The Apron is one of my favorites. I’m glad you included the Desert Mothers in this week’s Sunflower Seeds. I’m part of the Book Study run by Carole Ann M. in Canton many years ago. I feel like a personal friend and your blog is how we keep in touch. Bless you and your ministry.

  68. Sr.I met you at St .Francis Center for Renewal in Bethlehem,PA a fee years sho and have been following you ever since.This is my first time commenting.Thank you for sharing you experiences,wisdom and hope.I enjoyed hearing about the Desert Fathers and Mothers.

  69. Sister Melannie,
    Again another great blog. I have been getting it on Tuesday instead of Monday’s, but that is ok as long as I get it.
    Have a blessed week!

  70. I have been a subscriber to your blog since it’s inception – hard to believe 10 years already!

    As I read your entry today, I was reminded of a modern day Desert Mother who was my retreat director for 20 years. I affectionately would refer to her as “Amma Kathryn of Wernersville”. One year on retreat right before she retired, I made a list of her “wise sayings” that have stayed with me over the years. At the end of that retreat, I shared them with her. Who knows – maybe one day I’ll turn them into a book!

  71. Thanks for all the insights and inspiration you share with us each week, Melannie! Ten years is an amazing milestone.

  72. The interplay of sun, sand, stone, sky and stars makes the dessert so enticing! Thank you for all your good words.

  73. I live not far from your Provincial Center in Chardon, so you know we got LOTS of snow yesterday. But for the past 3 yrs, my husband and I also spend a lot of time in the SW desert. The more I experience it, the more I discover new beauty, and appreciate the incredible “will to live” that desert dwellers possess (plants, animals and humans!). An apt segue to this week’s reflection!
    I also relate to the story of the Monk carrying the woman across the stream. “My dear Brother, I left that woman by the stream hours ago but you have been carrying her even till now.“ How many times I have experienced that! I remind myself “Let go and Let God”.
    Thank you for your weekly inspiration!

  74. I look forward to your reflection every week. I always have at least one take away … Food for thought..
    Love the music you attach. Thank you for being you.

  75. The desert video is a reminder not to let what is lacking blind us to the beauty that is there. Thank you for your reflections!

  76. Sr Melanie,

    Thank you. I was exposed to a Desert Day experience in the Seminary, it has remained with me as a rich treasure in priesthood. The reflections of the Desert Fathers & Mothers are reminders of the rich encounter when one is exposed and the wisdom that results.

  77. DEar SR? Melannie, I loved the idea of desert fathers and mothers. I have never been in a desert, I kind of feel this pandemic we’re going thru is kind of like a dessert. Your reflections are reminders of the encounters with the Lord I am experiencing then this time. School sometimes but much time to encounter the lord in our time at home.
    I truly love the music you always add or the instrumental music that often accompanies you’re reflections. These I have taken more seriously because of my love of the music in my soul that I believe is the Lords way of speaking
    To me. So thank dear Melanie for both the words of wisdom and the music that is always present afterwards. It’s are rich in touching my life and many others. Thank you for your ministry. 10 year anniversary ! WOw! What dedication! You’re always in my prayers and thoughts. Thanks for your encouragement always.

  78. Thank you Sr Melanie for your commitment to your blog. I find it thought provoking, inspiring and shrare worthy each week. I love the diverse topics and beautiful music. Congratulations on ten years. May God continue to inspire and bless you.

  79. My personal desert is the struggle to accept my limitations that aging forces on me. Your reflections inspire me. Thank you.

  80. I loved the story of the young monk asking how many years would it take him to be holy. Much better to Simply surrender to the Lord than try to do things in our own power.

  81. I loved the little story about the younger monk asking the older monk how long it would take him to become holy. I will share this with my Contemplative Prayer Group! Thank you, Sister Melannie, for another wonderful reflection today.

  82. Reading your descriptions of the Desert Mothers & Fathers reminded me of traveling through the Sahara Desert in Morocco & visiting the tent of a nomadic family. I felt some fear being in that vast wilderness without any visible signs of water & little food. This reflection made me again realize that there are people who chose this desert life and find beauty & purpose in it still today.

  83. I thought my desert experience would have been recovering after two knee replacements. Retirement, at the age of 70, has been the real desert observance of the desert. My husband is still working, we have one car, there is no public transportation and it has taken time to live in the moment. Learning to enjoy the quiet and peace; listening to God’s voice.

  84. As always, this week’s reflection is inspiring and thought-provoking. Going into the desert… I relate this idea to some expressed in Lynn Ungar’s poem “Pandemic” which my godmother recently sent me. Most of us can easily view the past almost two years of the pandemic as a global “desert experience”. But, as with all life challenges, the important and valuable worth of them comes from how we react to them, or, how we act in response to them, if and when we do act. Jesus (and Lynn Ungar) suggests worthy reactions on our part, beginning with, and stemming from, the greatest commandment to “love one another as I have loved you”. Our world certainly could use more of that these days!

  85. Dear Sister Melanie,
    I enjoy your blogs and share then my co-workers and friends. We really enjoy them. We all live southern most area of the Rio Grande Valley which is considered a desert. We have a very different kind of beauty in nature.
    Thank you for sharing your gifts.

    S Maureen

  86. Wow! We have over 100 comments! That’s the most ever! Either you really liked this reflection OR you really want to win one of the three books I’ll be giving away! Either way, thanks for responding! I really enjoyed and appreciated your comments! Gratefully, Melannie

  87. Sr. Melannie, thank you for sharing your wisdom and music with us each week with your Sunflower Seeds. I look forward to them and share them with other staff. May the Spirit be with you as you complete this ministry each week.
    Sr.Mary Ellen

  88. I, too, have always been intrigued by the desert monks and the monastics in general. Several years ago, there was a video called “Into Great Silence” ~ it’s very long, but quite interesting. Deals with the Carthusian monks in Northern France and how they live the same as they did 1000 years ago. Not sure if you are familiar with the video, but my students were quite amazed that people choose to live this way even today!

  89. Thank you for your beautiful weekly reflections. You are the best theological reflection person ever.
    I look forward to your message every Monday. Thank you

  90. Many years ago I lost my teaching job after over 20 years in that(Catholic) school. It was completely unexpected and undeserved. I lost my dad, who I had been caring for as his health declined for 2 years, within a week of losing my job. A friend told me it was my ” desert experience”. Truly, it was. But I came through it a changed person because of how God turned it into one of the best things that ever happened to me. I ended up at another Catholic school, blessed beyond measure with wonderful people I can’t imagine not having in my life.When I retired , after 45 years in Catholic education I never felt more appreciated than I did there. God is good. It took a desert experience to bring that home in a powerful way. Thank you for your ministry. I love the blog and when I come across your contributions to Living Faith or Give Us This Day.

  91. I have read some of the desert fathers. I think sometimes visiting the desert helps to clear the mind and be able to listen to God better. Desert mothers….who knew?

  92. It’s amazing how I managed to find your Desert Father’s reflections. I once spent a great deal of time in the desert, as a infantry soldier with the 1st Infantry Division during the Gulf War. After many months with very little stimulation other than the occasional newspaper I entered into a far greater relationship with Christ and the Holy Spirit. Being a cradle Catholic from the great State of Kansas I already had the religious education but I had never really learned how to us it or communicate one on one in my prayer life. That time in the Desert turned my life around, I prayed with conviction for the first time in 25 years, I built the relationship that I truly believe only could have happened in the peaceful serenity one experiences in the Desert.
    Thanks for sharing Sr. Melanie, your work brought me back to a much simpler time in my life, reminds me I need more reflection during my meditation time. God Bless You, John

  93. Dear Melannie,
    I found it interesting that many desert fathers and mothers were seeking a refuge from what they saw as a compromised Christianity. I wonder if this accounts for many of the “nones” who have gone off to modern deserts, where there is no life.

  94. The songs & pics you post each week are what I revisit throughout the week. They are calming & peaceful. What better way to celebrate life & the power of the Lord in our lives.

  95. Thank you for pointing out that we can all have desert times and experiences, even if we don’t physically go to the desert or isolate ourselves. It’s such a comfort to know we can rely on God’s love and mercy wherever we are.

  96. Lovely video! I never heard these stories about our Desert Mothers and Fathers before. Glad to see you’re coming virtually to my area!

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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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