Why did I name my blog “Sunflower Seeds”? First, because sunflowers are just plain beautiful. When I was growing up on our small farm in northeastern Ohio, we often grew sunflowers. Even back then I loved their tall sturdy stalks, their bright yellow petals, and their “faces” of rich, dark seeds.
But sunflowers are not only beautiful, they are bountiful. Sunflowers produce millions of seeds. When toasted, these seeds are a tasty snack for humans. And they provide life-saving nourishment for many birds and animals during the long, cold winter. When crushed, sunflower seeds yield a rich oil low in cholesterol and (some say) one that rivals olive oil in quality. And did you know that the cruder oil of sunflowers can be made into soap and candles?
Beauty, bounty, oil. What more could the sunflower give us? There is one more thing: a powerful image for our spiritual life. Let me explain.
Tradition tells us that sunflowers always follow the sun, that is, they turn their “faces” in the direction of the sun no matter where it is in the sky. St. Julie Billiart, the foundress of the Sisters of Notre Dame, liked sunflowers too. As a little girl she saw a lot of them growing in the fields of southern France. Julie found in this natural movement of the sunflower an ideal for the spiritual life. Like the sunflower, she said we should “turn always toward God” who is our sun and our source of beauty, life and nourishment.
“Sunflower Seeds” seems an appropriate name for a blog on everyday spirituality. For, as I see it, the underlining challenge of the spiritual life is this: to keep facing and moving in the right direction—toward our Creator who beckons us with open arms, toward Jesus who not only leads the way but is the way, and with the Spirit who lavishes us with God’s own strength.
If I could, I would now present each of you with an actual sunflower. But since that’s not possible, I’m giving you a virtual one instead. My prayer is that this blog may encourage all of us (myself included!) to grow tall and strong in our faith, to be lavish with our seeds (our gifts), and to always follow the sun!