By Kathy Keary
The reconciliation labyrinth at Precious Blood Renewal Center was constructed in 2016 in response to Pope Francis’ declaration of the Holy Year of Mercy. The pope asserted at that time that the world was in need of a “revolution of tenderness.” When Precious Blood Fr. Joe Nassal announced the construction of the project, he explained:
The labyrinth models for us how reconciliation is a journey toward the sacred center where we recognize ourselves and each person as a child of God. … In the stillness of this journey walking the labyrinth, one is invited to discover one’s true self as God’s beloved, and with God’s grace to remove the poison of resentment, shame, and hate. The sacred ritual of walking the labyrinth reminds us that forgiveness is not so much a moment as it is a movement of mercy that takes us deeper into the mystery of God’s compassion and love.
The labyrinth at the Renewal Center is patterned after one designed by Clare Wilson of South Africa. Clare’s creation was intended to facilitate healing of the deep wounds inflicted by the apartheid in her country.
The words of Jesus ring true for walking the labyrinth, “Unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat; but if it dies, it produces much fruit.” The sanctity of walking the labyrinth is magnified when an individual begins the journey emptied of their ego and distractions. Our first article on walking the labyrinth, provided various suggestions to facilitate this type of mindfulness.
As in any contemplative practice, being intentional about staying present in the moment opens up an individual to a sacred encounter. This places the individual in a better position not only to experience the loving and reconciling energy of the other person but also the rays of divine healing. In the words of the psychologist and meditation teacher, Jack Kornfield in his book, No Time Like the Present: “Freedom and the presence of love come alive in the here and now. Love in the past is a memory. Love in the future is a fantasy. The only place to truly love is just where you are.”
As you can see from the picture above, our labyrinth has two entrances. The two reconciling parties walk the labyrinth together with each person or group entering the labyrinth at a different entrance. As they journey around the labyrinth, their paths will eventually cross. Then they are able to travel the path that the other has just walked symbolizing journeying in one another’s shoes. Both will meet at the center of the labyrinth where they may be graced with divine rays of healing. It is not uncommon for their hearts to be filled with deeper appreciation of one another as they see the other with fresh eyes. With a reconciled spirit, the two exit the labyrinth together symbolizing the reconciliation that has taken place.
Celebrating reconciliation in this way is a profound statement of the sincerity in each person’s heart. It marks this time and place as a special moment when two parties make a commitment to begin anew – to love one another unconditionally. It’s not surprising to find them forever changed by this hallowed experience as they participate in the much needed “revolution of tenderness.”
This “movement of mercy” open us up to a more profound awareness and experience of the presence of God in our everyday life. No longer are we burdened with our lack of forgiveness. No longer are we weighed down by our lack of generous love. No longer are we letting pride interfere with our ability to live in the fresh air of interior freedom. With renewed hearts and a sense of being fully alive, we run to bask in the love and compassion of the Holy One.
Note: New articles in this series will be posted to the website every Monday and Wednesday. The full series can be found here: An Invitation to Something New: The Contemplative Life. On Thursday’s we’ll send an email to remind you of the articles
[Kathy Keary, a Precious Blood Companion and spiritual director, holds a master’s degree in theological studies and is a graduate of the Atchison Benedictine’s Sophia Center’s Souljourners Program, an intense study of spirituality and spiritual direction. Kathy believes that the divine is present and active in all of life and encourages others to be awakened to the God in all including the divine within. She enjoys accompanying others on their journey to wholeness discovering the person they were created to be.]
Image at top is the Reconciliation Labyrinth on the campus of Precious Blood Renewal Center, Liberty, Missouri.
In the video above, the world’s preeminent labyrinth historian, Jeff Saward, talks about the appearance of labyrinths over 4000 years ago and their ancient use in Europe, Africa, the Far East, the Northern Isles and the Americas. The Rev. Dr. Cheryl F. Dudley, a pastor of the American Baptist Churches, comments on the nature of walking labyrinths as a group, joining together with others in community as a joyous experience.