Considered by devotees to be a sacred space, labyrinths today are enjoying a resurgence of popularity with people of all faiths, and there are as many ways to walk the labyrinth as there are individuals.
Frances Hodge, prayer ministry coordinator at St. Anne Catholic Church in Byron, has been walking labyrinths for years, enjoying the solitude and peace that comes with what she calls a commitment to quiet.
“Labyrinths are currently being used as a way to still the mind, find balance and encourage insight and celebration,” said Hodge. “I have walked many, many times and it’s always an amazing experience for me. Once I enter the maze I definitely feel a calm and things become clearer to me.”
St. Anne will be hosting a Lenten Labyrinth Walk and Retreat on March 5 and 6 in the church’s Community Life Center. Open to the public, the free event will include a remembrance of the World Day of Prayer, as well as a discussion on the history and uses of the labyrinth. Participants are invited to bring their lunches, and hot tea and water will be provided.
Hodge said the purpose of the weekend is to celebrate Lent – the 40 days before Easter – and to welcome religious and secular individuals to participate in the symbolic walk.
“We hope that anyone with an interest in the labyrinth will attend,” said Hodge, who added that St. Anne holds labyrinth walks regularly at the church on the first Saturday of each month. “Everyone is welcome.”
In ancient times, labyrinths were built with a variety of materials for myriad reasons. During the medieval period, many churches incorporated labyrinths in their floor design. Throughout the Renaissance, garden labyrinths created from hedges and shrubs were known as the “gardens of love” for the shelter they provided for forbidden trysts. One of the most famous labyrinths is located in France at Chartres Cathedral, built around 1200. The Chartres design was the model for the Grace Cathedral Labyrinth in San Francisco.
St. Anne’s labyrinth is a 36-foot canvas construction modeled after the 12-sided Chartres design, and can accommodate several walkers at once. Some participants walk the labyrinth barefoot and slowly, while others take the meditative journey at a quicker pace, running into the center and out again. Regardless of the speed at which you walk, the experience is always different and uniquely your own.
“You can go as fast or as slow as you want; walk a little, stop when you feel like it and then move on,” said Donna Crupi, who has walked the labyrinth at St. Anne several times. “It gives you a great sense of peace and clarity. It is sort of a symbolic journey of our lives, and it helps you with answers to questions we all have in our lives. It’s a wonderful experience.”
The Lenten Labyrinth Walk and Retreat will be held on Friday, March 5 from 6 to 9 p.m. and Saturday, March 6 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. St. Anne Catholic Church is located at 2800 Camino Diablo Road in Byron. For more information, call 925-634-6625.