Sunflowers, by Sharonlu Sheridan, OSF

I had planned to give you an account of my impressions of this showy flower, and did a bit of research so that my account would be accurate.  Well, I found out so much that I am sharing with you some really interesting (to me) facts about this marvelous plant.

First of all what we call the flower is not really accurate.  The flower is the dark brown part, and the yellow petals only protect the true flower.  And there are hundreds of small flowers in that dark center.  What we call the flower is known as the head of the flower. The mass of hundreds of flowers, all growing individually, are where each sunflower seed will originate.

The sunflower seeds are edible and delicious.    The seeds can be pressed to extract sunflower oil which is used for cooking and in the manufacture of cosmetics and machinery lubricants.  Sunflower oil can be made into plastics and has the potential to create fuel for cars and other machinery.

What does that say to us?

  1. The showy stuff is expendable!  What is extra we do not need, and probably belongs to the poor!  Showy is only to protect the valuable.
  2. The true flower is not one but hundreds and they are packed together like sardines!  So much togetherness would be disastrous if each flower were not concerned with growing as an individual flower. Although they are crammed together, their development is individual.
  3. The value of the sunflower comes from the dark center.  Maybe our dark days are sources of growth!

While I was working on the Red Lake Indian Reservation in Red Lake Minnesota, I was often called to the diocesan center in Crookston for meetings. The trip took just over an hour and as I neared the meeting site I would drive though sunflower fields. These tall waving heavy-headed beauties seemed to be looking at me as I drove west for the meeting.  I knew it was the sun that attracted them, but to see those bright blooming “faces” was lovely.

I had imagined that the view home that afternoon would not be so lovely.  I would be seeing only the backs of the flowers, and a sunflower’s back is not very intriguing.  I had forgotten that sunflowers follow the sun.  So to my delightful surprise those sunny faces greeted me again as I drove east to get home.

Sunflowers always face toward the sun as they are developing the true flowers which are found in the dark brown center. After making the 180 degree turn they wait for the sunset and then begin the return to face the east and wait for the dawn. As soon as the dark center has developed fully, the plant faces east and does not move with the sun.

What do I make of that?  If we keep our face toward the SON, and follow the path taken by the SON we will be in good company.  However, dark times like the night may quickly follow.  Learn from the sunflower and keep turning back to the Son source  It may take a while but the shadows will lessen and the brightness of the morning sun will shine.

We need to listen and read and follow the teachings that are presented to us by so many sources.  As we develop in our spiritual life, we feed on information and example.  Once we are grounded, we need to face the source of all good.  For the sunflower it is the east.  For us it is the face of God, of Jesus.  The sunflower does not move once the center is mature.  Our life in the spirit may require less “movement” and more contemplation. In prayer, quiet time to bask in the face of God gives God the chance to talk to us.  We just listen.  Many things can happen during the time of prayerful quiet.  If you haven’t tried it, give it a chance.
Peace and Shh!

Sharonlu OSF
Oldenburg Franciscan Center
Sisters of St. Francis, Oldenburg

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