Walking the Sacred Path of the Labyrinth at St. Paul’s Monastery

Every year on the first Saturday in May thousands of people around the globe participate in World Labyrinth Day as a moving meditation for world peace and celebration of the labyrinth experience. Many “Walk as One at 1” local time to create a rolling wave of peaceful energy passing from one time zone to the next. Please join Sister. Virginia Matter, OSB on Saturday, May 4 at 1 pm to walk the Monastery’s labyrinth, which is located behind the retreat center. No need to RSVP, just show up and walk! If you can’t make it at 1 pm, by walking anytime that day you will know you are walking with others around the world!

A little about the labyrinth. We often use the labyrinth path as a metaphor for our life’s journey.  During the Middle Ages in Europe the labyrinth was often used by pilgrims making an intentional faith journey or pilgrimage. European cathedrals were built to teach about God through their stained-glass windows and statuary as well as through liturgies. Around the year 1200, over 20 Gothic Cathedrals had labyrinths inlaid within their floor. Most couldn’t afford the long laborious trips to the Holy Land, so their “local” cathedral provided that opportunity to traverse the labyrinth as their pilgrimage.

Several years ago, I went on a pilgrimage to northern California. There I experienced Grace Cathedral in San Francisco where they took half of the pews out and inlaid a labyrinth in their floor. I had the privilege while there to became trained as a guide to help others use this simple path as an experience of opening ourselves to God and connecting our mind, body, and spirit.

Walklking the Sacred Path
Walk the Sacred Path

Today, we have seen a resurgence in the use of labyrinths in the United States, especially at churches, hospitals and universities. The chaos and unrest that we experience in our personal lives, our local communities and in the world has driven people to seek calm and ways to process their feelings. One important note is that the labyrinth is different from mazes, which are especially popular in the fall. A maze has multiple entrances and exits and engages our mind as a puzzle to solve. The labyrinth path is a single path leading to the center and back out again. It is designed to help us let go of what’s on our mind and move to what’s in our heart. The labyrinth path has a way of enabling us to slow down so we can be in a more open place to pray.

If you are new to walking a labyrinth, you might find the following simple guide helpful:

I invite you to consider the entry point into the labyrinth as a threshold that we step over and into sacred space. As we begin our journey into the labyrinth, we start by letting go of our thoughts and feelings that we have brought to that threshold. Walking the sacred geometry and the back-and-forth movement helps in that Releasing mode that we call phase one of walking the labyrinth.

Once you arrive in the center, after experiencing a period of release, you may be in a better place to pray and listen to God’s voice. We call this second phase of being in the center of the labyrinth the place of Receiving.  You may stand, sit or lay in the center for as long as feels right.

Once you are ready to leave the center, you enter phase three or the Returning phase. Walk back out on the same path you took into the center. It is time to return to your life having made space and time for quiet reflection. What will you take with you? Leave the labyrinth by pausing briefly at the exit and bowing or using a gesture of reverence as you step across the threshold back into the world in which you live.

Walk the Sacred Path

Sheryl Rose, OblSB holds an MA in 
Organizational Leadership and Spirituality
 from St. Catherine University.  She was certified
as a Labyrinth Facilitator at Grace Cathedral in
San Francisco and was trained at the Franciscan
Spirituality Center in La Crosse, WI as a Spiritual Director.
Sheryl recently retired from parish ministry after over
 25 years in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis.