Once upon a time in the rainiest part of the rainy season, an old monastic began her pilgrimage to the holiest shrine on the holiest mountain in the land. Forced back by fierce winds and driving rain, she stopped at the foot of the incline to check directions one last time.

“Old woman,” the inn master scoffed, “this mountain is deep in wet and running clay. You cannot possibly climb this mountain now.” 

“Oh, sir,” the old monastic said, “the climb to this shrine will be no problem whatsoever. You see, my heart has been there all my life. Now it is simply a matter of taking my body there, as well.”

Source: As told by Sr Joan Chittister in keynote address
Assembly of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious
(Atlanta Aug. 18-22, 2006)


There is some summit toward which every life is bent. All we really need is to find the faith it will take to complete the journey.



Back in the days when pots and pans could talk – which indeed they still do –  there lived a man. In order to have water, every day he had to walk down the hill and fill two pots and walk them home. One day it was discovered one of the pots had a crack and as time went on, the crack widened. Finally, the pot turned to the man and said, “You know, every day you take me to the river, and by the time you get home, half of the water’s leaked out. Please replace me with a better pot.”

And the man said, “You don’t understand. As you spill, you water the wild flowers by the side of the path.”  Sure enough, on the side of the path where the cracked pot was carried, beautiful flowers grew, while other side was barren.

“I think I’ll keep you,’ said the man.”

Source: Kevin Kling, The Dog Says How,
(Borealis Books; 1 edition, 2007)
pages 166-167


“The spiritual life is about being open to every moment, however incomplete, because every moment in life has something to teach us about what it means to live well. It is about realizing that sometimes the perfection of the moment lies in accepting its imperfections.”

Joan ChittisterWelcome to the Wisdom of the World and Its Meaning for You (Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 2007)


Once upon a time, a seeker went from land to land to discover an authentic religion. Finally, the seeker found a group of extraordinary fame. They were known for the goodness of their lives and for the singleness of their hearts and for the sincerity of their service.

“I see everything you do,” the seeker said, “and I’m impressed by it. But, before I become your disciple, I have a question to ask: Does your God work miracles?”

“Well,” the disciples said to the seeker, “it all depends on what you mean by a miracle. Some people call it a miracle when God does the will of people. We call it a miracle when people do the will of God.”

Source | Joan Chittister, Transfiguration Story
Magazine article from National Catholic Reporter, Vol. 37, No. 18


  • How would you describe or define a miracle?
  • How would you describe or define the phrase “will of God”?


A group of American tourists were on safari in deepest Africa. In meeting some of the local tribesmen, the women on the tour were fascinated by the natives’ jewelry, especially the unusual kind of necklace worn only by the chieftain. “What’s that made of?” asked one of the women.

“Alligator teeth,” replied the chieftain.

“Oh,” said the woman breezily, “I suppose they have the same kind of value for you that pearls have for us.”

“Not quite,” scowled the chieftain. “Anyone can open an oyster!” 

Source | Unknown


A second version of the story

A snobbish tourist was visiting a small Australian village when he noticed a local man wearing a highly ornate necklace that featured 10 alligator teeth. He approached the man and in a condescending manner said, “Goodness, what a fancy necklace! I guess you people must value alligator teeth the same way my people value pearls.”

The man replied, “Well, anyone can open up an oyster.”

Source | Unknown


A third, longer version of the same story

A young man routinely wore a string of alligator teeth around his neck. Although many people wondered why he wore this string of alligator teeth, they were all reluctant to ask. Finally, one evening while attending a social gathering he was approached by a lady who was wearing a string of pearls around her neck. After introducing herself she said, “Young man if you don’t mind, will you tell me why you are wearing those alligator teeth around your neck?”

The young lad replied, “I don’t mind, but first, you are wearing a string of pearls around your neck.”

He went on to say, “Now to my understanding, pearls are made from oysters which are known to make their home in shallow waters. In order to manufacture pearls, one only has to step into the shallow waters and fish out the oysters. Regardless of the fishing method, there is no struggle —there is very little work involved. There is little or no sacrifice made to fish in shallow waters. in other words, it does not take very much effort to make what you are wearing — a string of pearls.”

The young lad went on to say: “On the other hand, just think of the effort involved in making this string of alligator teeth. I mean, there is hard work, sacrifice, extensive training, struggling — one has to wrestle with that alligator. But once all the wrestling is over and the string comes together, I can stand tall and wear my alligator teeth with pride and joy because of the labor and effort that went into making this string of alligator teeth.”

L. D. Ervin, Meditations and Reflections,
(Dorrance Publishing, 2008) pages 64-65


  • The great secret of life is how to survive struggle without succumbing to it, how to bear struggle without being defeated by it, how to come out of the struggle better than when we found ourselves in the midst of it. | Joan Chittister,  Scarred by Struggle, Transformed by Hope  (Eerdmans, 2003) page 13
%d bloggers like this: