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Celebrating Everyday Spirituality

Sunflower Seeds

Celebrating Everyday Spirituality

The Miracle of Sight

Recently I went for my regular eye checkup. As I waited for the doctor in the examining room, I looked at some of the diagrams of the human eye that were posted on the walls. I thought: “I must write a reflection on eyes someday for my blog.” Here is that reflection.

eye young woman-211610__180Let’s begin with a few facts about the construction of the human eye. (I know you probably learned this in high school biology, but a review is always good.) First, lets look at (pun intended) the parts of the eye. The cornea is the transparent structure in the front of the eye that helps focus the light as it enters the eye. Behind the cornea is the iris which is colored (often brown or blue). The iris has an adjustable circular opening that controls the amount of light that enters the eye. It closes when the light is bright and opens when the light is dim. This is done automatically. We don’t even have to think about it. The retina is the back wall of the inside of the eye. Embedded in it are millions of light sensitive cells referred to as “cones” or “rods.”

eyes owl-171646__180
Owls have great stereoscopic vision.

How does sight work? When light enters the eye through the cornea and iris, it strikes the cones or rods on the retina. The light is then converted into electrical signals that are relayed to the brain via the optic nerve. The brain then assembles these impulses into what we call vision. Strictly speaking, then, your eyes don’t see. All they do is gather light. Your brain does the seeing. It interprets those electrical impulses sent by the eye and tells you what you are seeing: a tree far away, words on a page, the face of a friend, or a basketball coming straight at your head. The whole process is certainly worthy of being called a miracle!

Here are a few more facts about eyes and sight that I found particularly fascinating.

The human eye is composed of over 2 million parts which can process 36,000 bits of information every hour. The eye is the second most complex organ in the body—second only to the brain.

The human eye begins to develop 2 weeks after conception.

Eyes evolved over 500 million years ago. Today about 95% of animals have eyes. Some are quite simple, detecting only lightness and darkness. Others are more complex, detecting shapes, colors, and depths. The compound eye of the ordinary house fly, for example, is very adept at detecting fast movements. Anyone who has ever tried to swat a fly knows this!

Which animal has the best eyes? It all depends on what you mean by “best.” Eagles can see 8 times farther than humans. Cats have superior night vision. And the mantis shrimp sees exceptionally well too—even through salt water.

eyes blue boy-1006407__180
Blue eyes are a result of a mutation that occurred about 10,000 years ago.

The eye muscles in the human eye are the strongest muscles in the body—relative to size. That’s because they are used almost constantly, even while we sleep. The human eye itself is the only part of the body that needs no rest to function. But our eye muscles and eye lids need rest. These muscles wear down with age. (Like many people, I had excellent eyesight until my mid-forties when my eye muscles began to wear down. I humbly had to get reading glasses.)

All humans originally had brown eyes. Blue eyes appeared as a mutation. Today, all blue-eyed people can trace their lineage back to one person who lived near the Black Sea about 10,000 years ago.

Miscellaneous facts: The average adult blinks 10-20 times per minute. That’s 4,200,000 blinks a year… The cornea is the only part of the human body that has no blood supply… Vastly more men suffer from color blindness than women…The iris of the eye has 256 different, unique characteristics. A fingerprint has only 40; hence, the growing use of iris scans for security purposes.

We humans have extended our vision through artificial lenses and other accessories such as glasses, telescopes, binoculars, cameras, electron microscopes, X-rays, CAT scans, and MRI’s. In her book, A Natural History of the Senses, Diane Ackerman writes, “It is mainly through seeing the world that we appraise and understand it.”

What are God’s first words in the Bible? That’s right, “Let there be light.” God could have added, “And, eventually, let their be eyes that will gather my gift of light—eyes that will enable my children to see and enjoy the beautiful world I have made for them.”

Today let us pray for all individuals who suffer from eye problems or loss of sight. And let us pray for all ophthalmologists, optometrists, and care-givers who aid those with vision disabilities. And finally, let us take a moment to look into the mirror and thank our Creator God for our own eyes and for the miracle we call sight.

Today’s song is Bernadette Farrell’s “Christ, Be Our Light.”

Did you learn anything new about the miracle of sight here?

How might you show your appreciation for the gift of sight today? 


Reminder: If you live in Wappinger Falls, NY and you took this survey, you are the winner of my new book on Psalm 23. Please contact me by clicking on “Contact” at the top of this blog. Send me your email address so I can contact you and send you your prize. You have until January 30th. Thank you!

Here are the results to my 2016 survey. A few facts:

This blog has 1,620 subscribers. 466 people took the survey. That is 29% of my subscribers. I thought that response was quite good. My 2014 survey had 365 respondents. Remember, though, not every respondent is necessarily a subscriber.

Not everyone answered every question; hence the discrepancy in the numbers.

1. How long have you been reading “Sunflower Seeds”?

4 years – 50 (11%)     3 years – 70 (16%)     2 years – 98 (22%)    1 year – 130 (29%)

few months – 68 (15%)     I’m new – 35 (8%)

2. Where do you live?

94 % live in the U.S.

Other countries include: Canada (13); Australia (5); South Africa (4); United Kingdom (2)

and l person from these countries: Botswana, Italy, Philippines, Portugal

Which states do the Americans live in? (I had to do the tabulation manually…so these numbers may not be completely accurate—but they’re close.)

Ohio (101); Pennsylvania (41); Florida (31); New York (19); Michigan (18); Wisconsin (16); Kentucky and Texas (14); Minnesota (12); Virginia (11); Washington and Illinois (10); California and Maryland (9); Alabama, Iowa, Massachusetts (7); Arizona, Colorado, New Jersey (6); Delaware, Indiana, Missouri, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Oregon, Tennessee (4); Connecticut, Georgia, Louisiana, Montana, Nebraska, Rhode Island (3); Arkansas, Idaho, Kansas, Maine, Washington, DC (2); Alaska, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Vermont, Wyoming (1).

States with no respondents: Hawaii, Mississippi, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, South Carolina, Utah, West Virginia.

3. What is your gender?

female – 430 (93%)   male – 32 (7%)  (2012 survey: 95% were female and 5% were male)


4. What is your age?

under 25  – 0   25-35  – 2    36-45 – 3 (1%)    46-55  –  42 (9%)    56-65  – 132 (29%)

66 – 75  – 187 (42%)    76 – 85  – 74 (16%)    86 or over  – 10 (2%)

(How might this blog attract younger readers?)

5. Rate this blog, 5 being the highest:

5 – 385 (86%)         4 – 61 (13%)        3 – 3 (1%)     2 – 0        1 – 0

(I’m sure those who don’t like my blog—at least a little—would not be reading it!)


6. Do you ever share this blog with others?

yes, often – 118 (27%)   yes, sometimes – 246 (56%)     no – 78 (18%)


7. Which best describes your religion?

Catholic  – 435  (96.9%)   Protestant – 11 (2.4%)  no particular religion – 2 (.45%)  other – 1 (.22%)

(No one identified themselves as Muslim, Jewish, or Buddhist)


8. What reflections did you particularly like?

Most frequently mentioned:

fallow time, jigsaw puzzles, Dorothy Day, turtles on the pond, 25 proverbs for the new year, the tree in your yard that had to come down, what Christians, Jews, and Muslims have in common, border crossings

Others mentioned more than once:

shoes, why you like to write, the poetry of trees, Pope Francis, our sense of smell, slowing down for Advent, “Playing for Change,” Bonhoeffer, praying with your address book, prison ministry, veterans (your uncle), your brother dropping the teddy bear from the plane, altar servers, your quotation collection, Jesus as storyteller, school buses, deer tracks in the snow, what did Jesus look like? church signs, mothers-in-law, all saints, why you became a nun

9. Any suggestions for future topics?

Frequent responses: the year of mercy, aging, anything on scripture, anything on Jesus, prayer, chronic illness


angels, violence in the world, care givers, confession, modern saints, the political process in the U.S., becoming a better listener, social justice, the spirituality of sunrise and sunset, being a wife and mother, tedium, the second half of life, adult children who have left the church, gender equality in the church, forgiveness, purgatory, the refugee crisis, peacemakers, reconciliation, living with less.

Miscellaneous comments:

your choices are always great… I love the music… I’ve used your reflections for my homilies… I like how you take ordinary things and help me to see something deeper in them… something speaks to me in every one of your blogs

10. How did you learn about my blog?

46 % – through my writing in “Living Faith,” “Living with Christ,” Give Us this Day”

21% – through a friend

13% – through my retreats and talks

9% – through the SND Chardon website

6% – through a link from another website

5% – other


11. If I put some of my best reflections into an e-book, would you be interested in purchasing one?

44% – maybe     32% – yes     24% – no

12. If I put some of my best reflections into a paperback book, would you be interested in purchasing one?

57% – yes     35% – maybe     8% – no

So what do you think of the responses to this survey? Does anything stand out for you or surprise you in the survey results?





17 Responses

  1. Sr. Melannie,

    Great reflection on sight. I used to work with children who are visually impaired. It is an amazing sense to compensate for in life.

    I also have blue eyes. I did not know it was a mutation.


  2. I enjoyed this blog on eyes. You had one on hands one time and I have searched for that to read again but I was unable to find it. If you could possibly send me a link to it again, I would appreciate it. I look forward to Mondays and Sunflower Seeds! I even love the name “Sunflower Seeds”!

    1. Dear Georgia, My reflection on hands was called “A Reflection on the Human Hand” and was posted May 13, 2013. Just type “human hand” in search at the right and it should come up for you. Or you can type in the date. Thank you for reading my blog! Sr. Melannie

  3. Thank you Sister!!! Our eyes are amazing! When I think of how we are created I think how amazing our creator is!!! How Great Thou Art!!!

    Recently I was diagnosed with a cataract! I have always had good vision but all of a sudden it was really hard for me to see!!! I had the cataract taken off about a month ago and I am now back to reading glasses! I took the gift of sight for granted!!! I guess we don’t realize how blessed we are!!! God bless!!!

  4. Sr. Melannie: I appreciate my eyes more than I can express. After 5 eye surgeries I still have good vision in these mutated blue eyes. Also, regarding your blog survey results, I see yet another reason I should have stayed in Nevada 😉

  5. Sister Melannie,

    Your blog today regarding Sight is very timely for me!
    I am scheduled for cataract surgery in early February due to eye strain because of shingles of the trigeminal nerve. I am praying daily for my surgeon/ophthalmologist. Praise God for we are wonderfully made by Him! He is truly our ‘Light of the world’! Your wisdom is always refreshing! I ‘look’ forward to Sunflower Seeds every week! God bless you always!

  6. Thanks again, Sister Melannie, for your reflection.

    As an avid reader, I’ve always wondered what life would be like if I did not have my eyesight. That is something to be most thankful for.

    About 9 years ago my husband had very serious eye surgery (detached retina) and we became educated quickly on the parts of the eye, and how delicate this surgery was. Thankfully, he still has his eyesight today. Thank you for taking me back to that time, I have much to be grateful for!

    As far as the survey, I’m one of the Kentucky respondants. All I can say is keep up the good work!

  7. HI Melannie,
    Loved this post! Eyes always fascinate me and I certainly learned more about them than I knew!! I remember being told as a youngster that the eyes are the windows of the soul..that always impressed me.
    One other fact I read somewhere is that our eyes stay the same size that we were born with! Amazing. This is also one of my favorite hymns.
    Blessings, Josita

  8. Hi again, I forgot to mention I was surprised ( maybe NOT so surprised) that you have so few young people reading your blog….we’ll have to work on this! Josita

  9. Sister – Thank you for reminding us the importance of our eyes/eyesight. Happy to be one of the Survey responders from New York City.

  10. Dear Sister:
    How appropriate that your reflection was on eyes today. I found it when I returned from visiting my opthalmologist. I look forward to Mondays and receiving your weekly message. I was one of the few who responded from Canada.

  11. Thank you, Sister, for all your inspiring blogs, and this one hit home for me especially because I have been diagnosed with Grave’s disease (or thyroid eye disease) and glaucoma, and now know what a blessing it is to have healthy eyes. I loved listening and meditating to this song you chose!
    I think younger people, in general, are very busy with children at home and careers and don’t have as much time for or feel the need for spiritual growth gained through blogs such as yours.

  12. It seems somewhat discordant to reference the miraculous complexity of our eyes and evolution in the same sentence…never mind that blue eyes are the result of a mutation! Where is the proof? I don’t buy it. In the beginning God created…let there be light…why have light if there were no eyes to witness it?

  13. Thank you for the light you so generously share…
    Thank you for the notes and the poem #3333 from this blog…
    God bless and stay safe and warm during these snowy days…

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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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