The a-maze-ing Sinsinawa Dominicans

Rather like an image from a painting by Salvador Dali. No?

There is a Wisconsin blogger at Laetificat who, once she gets her teeth into something, she really chews on it.  For example, the other day I linked to her post about the movie/documentary screened at the motherhouse of the Sinsinawa Domincans (wierd) about the glories of being a liberal woman religious HERE).

Laetificat, after her visit to Sinsinawa, picked up on something Karl Keating wrote about the Sinsinawa labyrinths.

Yes, labyrinths.  Remember them?

For years some of these confused people have been walking around in circles.

Here is a taste:

Just when you think the New Age movement has faded into 1980s oblivion, you learn something like this. [Sort of like one of those madcap TV sitcom's set in a previous decade, ain't it.] The Sinsinawa Dominicans is a women’s order located in southwest Wisconsin, just across the Mississippi River from Dubuque, Iowa. Its Sinsinawa Mound Center includes a 750-seat auditorium, retreat facilities, meeting rooms that hold up to 400, and walking trails.The order sports not one but two labyrinths:”The labyrinth is an ancient spiritual tool, founded as early as 200 B.C.E. Its history includes use in Crete, Tibet, Greece, Celtic spirituality, early European art, and in the Christian tradition. It is a spiritual tool and an effective metaphor for life’s journey for believers of all traditions.””The indoor labyrinth is available for walking most days.” The outdoor labyrinth “consists of 6,000 limestone bricks placed end-to-end to form a perfectly round circle encompassing the symmetrical path walkways to the center. Walking the quadrants in this peaceful atmosphere among the natural surroundings enhances one’s meditation experience, usually exceeding expectations of the labyrinth.” [?!?](How appropriate that the Sinsinawa Dominicans were unable to bring themselves to use “B.C.” Too overtly Christian, I guess.)

No wonder they don’t have any vocations.

I have a theory.  You remember their Sr. Donna Quinn?  See my exposé NUNS GONE WILD!  She is an advocate for legalized abortion who as late as 2009 escorted women to abortion clinics in the Chicago area so they could abort their babies safe from pro-life protesters. Talk about labyrinthine logic. Could it be that constantly walking around in circles on one of these things got her so dizzy that she couldn’t remember who she was?

UPDATE 19 Jan:

A priestly reader sent me this with the message:

I chuckled at the post about the labyrinth and had to send you this picture from my travels in the wilds of mainstream religious life.

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68 Responses to The a-maze-ing Sinsinawa Dominicans

  1. DeltaEchoBravo says:

    I have always rather liked the idea of a using a labyrinth as a tool for prayer, though I can certainly see the danger in viewing it merely as a meditation fuzzy peaceful feeling generator. The environment in particular seems vacant, but a setting like, say, Chartres (http://www.sacred-destinations.com/france/chartres-cathedral-photos/slides/xti_0151p) paired with a rosary seems like a powerful combination.

    That said, the sisters do seem to be terribly confused (I’m trying to be charitable). Perhaps a more focused, even oriented, form of prayer might be in order.

  2. AnAmericanMother says:

    The local Episcopal cathedral has probably the best pipe organ in town. Which will explain why we were tip-toeing through the place late one weekday evening carrying recording equipment.
    But as we passed by the parish hall, there on the floor was a huge labyrinth . . . and some hippy-dippy idiot sitting in the lotus position smack in the middle of it. Long hair, loose vaguely Indian clothing, eyes closed, hands carefully poised on the knees . . . I mean . . . . !
    I reach two conclusions from this:
    1. If there’s something kooky going on, the Piskies will be smack-dab in the middle of it.
    2. These ladies would be much happier among the Piskies, unless (as I fear) their real purpose is just to aggravate the Catholics.

  3. FrG says:

    What about the famous labyrinth of Chartres?

  4. acardnal says:

    Shouldn’t they have great big bowls of smoking incense with them, too?

  5. Gregg the Obscure says:

    the layout of that labyrinth reminds one of certain anatomical diagrams.

  6. Gail F says:

    I don’t see why one couldn’t use a labyrinth to walk in and think about anything at all one wants to think about. But there is absolutely NO evidence that labyrinths on the floors of churches were ever anything more than decorative. The whole thing is made up. You can walk around anywhere you like to pray and meditate — stroll up and down the rows of a graveyard, whatever. But despite what New Age people like to believe, the liturgical and prayer practices of medieval people are quite well documented (they LOVED to keep records) and nobody ever walked around Chartres having a mystical pilgrimage, or whatever the claim of the hour. Again, no reason you can’t do it. But don’t think that in doing so you follow centuries of Christian/New Age/Episcopalian mysticism when you do.

  7. DeltaEchoBravo says:

    Good to know. Can you provide names of or links to such documentation, I would be interested in reading more.

    -db

  8. acardnal says:

    I would suggest the best and preferred method for meditation is not a labyrinth but sitting quietly before the Blessed Sacrament . . . perhaps with a rosary in one’s hands.

  9. JonPatrick says:

    acardnal I had exactly the same thought.

  10. sisu says:

    Of course Theseus and the Minotaur were a part of classical cultural references. With that popular reference, I understanding is that in Church pavements they were employed to represent the entanglement of sin and Hell. Later they were walked as a penance or “local” pilgrimage to Jerusalem, often on one’s knees.
    Given the fascination with *anything but Christianity*, the new agey, pseudo-aboriginal practices one sees in the websites of many of these religious houses, one gets the feeling *this* labyrinth has less of the pilgrimage, and much more of the bull about it.

  11. Art says:

    @FrG:

    The labyrinth at Chartres was supposed to be for those who couldn’t make the physically challenging pilgrimage to Jerusalem during the middle ages. Walking it was supposed to be done on their knees while praying and be painful/penitential – nothing to do with ‘peaceful feelings’ the sisters are advertising.

  12. Ellen says:

    I walked a labyrinth once. It was in New Harmony, Indiana and it’s a smaller version of the Chartres labyrinth. I thought it was vaguely interesting, but nothing I’d care to repeat.

  13. Christina says:

    The Catholic group at my college would always advertise the fact that they make a prayer labyrinth every year for their Lenten retreat. I still kind of wonder whether I was missing out on some graces for not attending just because they had a labyrinth. It was just…off-putting.

  14. Devo35 says:

    Fr. Z,
    If you happened to be bored on February 10th, please stop by The Well in LaGrange Park, IL. They always advertise massage, Reiki and labyrinth retreats, but on that day you could also take in a talk by Sr. Simone Campbell. Maybe you could enquire about making a “spa” day?

  15. pmullane says:

    Did the use the term ‘B.C.E.’?

    And these people are nuns?

    Sheesh.

  16. Elizabeth D says:

    I chew! There are some very troubling things going on and lay people also need to shine a light on that, make our objection known and be a bit persistent. I am tired of the absurd narrative of the “mean male bishops vs the sassy nuns.” We are all harmed by these orders who are now teaching things that are now even post-Christian.

    This is the direct link to my post on the Sinsinawa Dominicans and the labyrinth, which includes their own brochure on the subject http://www.laetificatmadison.com/2013/01/the-labyrinth-walking-toward-christ-then-away/

    About Sr Donna Quinn, she was in the news again earlier this year for speaking up in favor of “gay marriage” in Illinois. http://catholicbandita.com/sr-donna-quinn-takes-a-break-from-abortion-to-support-gay-marriage/

  17. NBW says:

    Caption for the photo above: “Use the force, Luke”. They look so silly walking the labyrinth. Why have so many nuns fallen for the New Age trap?

  18. OrthodoxChick says:

    It just looks like something out of a Pink Floyd video to me…

  19. FXR2 says:

    Father,
    These labyrinths always make me think someone wants me to sacrifice my children to the minotaur who lives in the center!

    I’m probably way outside the lines.

    fxr2

  20. Fr. , lately I have read several of your posts about such poor confused nuns and each time I thought “this is the saddest, he won’t be able to outdo this one” – and then you always manage to post something even sadder. I agree with you: no wonder they do not have new vocations…

  21. Midwest St. Michael says:

    “It just looks like something out of a Pink Floyd video to me…”

    OC, with that said why is it I suddenly hear Roger Waters screaming “Tear down the wall!” in my head? ;)

    Good one, dear.

    MSM

  22. Gail F says:

    DEB: I assume your request for sources is for me. Sadly, I did a bunch of research on this a few years ago for something I was going to write, but I never did write it and I don’t have the links and references anymore. I am a professional writer and I’m thorough; I was not able to find anything about labyrinth praying that didn’t ultimately go back to a pop “spirituality” or New Age source. There are no cited references (documents, manuscripts, reference books, medieval handbooks for priests and/or monks, etc.) of supposed medieval labyrinth pilgrimages, etc. in any of the mentions of it. Medieval history and church history are not obscure fields, if this was true that information should be readily available — and NOT from Starhawk and Co. Or at least I haven’t found any. And folks, the Chartres web site is not a reliable source! Now that labyrinths are fashionable, people from all over the world want to see Chartres. Now, if anyone has a citation from a medieval record at Chartres, or an 18th century pamphlet or book about the cathedral (before the New Age started) when it would have been historical information and not fashionable fluff, that would be interesting. But you’ve got to be careful even there, because there was a lot of romanticism about medieval days then. But I don’t think the labyrinth fits with 18th and early 19th century medieval romanticism. Once Theosophy rolled around, maybe. But that crowd was more interested in Egypt and Atlantis.

  23. fvhale says:

    Our Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI actually mentions a labyrinth in his Christmas Message of 2011. It is probably not what the good sisters are thinking about while they walk in circles:

    …Gott ist der Retter, und wir sind die, die sich in Gefahr befinden. Er ist der Arzt, wir sind die Kranken. Das anzuerkennen ist der erste Schritt zum Heil, zum Auszug aus dem Labyrinth, in das wir selbst uns mit unserem Stolz einschließen…..

    (or, in English)

    …God is the Saviour; we are those who are in peril. He is the physician; we are the infirm. To realize this is the first step towards salvation, towards emerging from the maze in which we have been locked by our pride…

    Now that would be a nice mantra to recite over and over again while walking that labyrinth!

  24. DeltaEchoBravo says:

    Many thanks for the reply Gail F. It is unfortunate that the sources which should be trustworthy are not. C’est la vie.

    Domo,
    DeltaEchoBravo

  25. wmeyer says:

    Why have so many nuns fallen for the New Age trap?

    My question, too. I had to spend some time explaining to my wife, who had asked someone at our former parish for a referral to a spiritual director why I was opposed to her seeing the nun to whom she had been referred. Said nun has, according to her online bio, “professional training in the Enneagram and Focusing”. Oh my. So I add the nun to my prayers for conversion.

  26. al007italia says:

    I wrote a letter a few weeks ago in the local paper & I was called “bitter & misinformed” for attacking the “orthodox” sisters. Yes that is exactly what the writer in a letter responding to mine said, they are “orthodox”. Well if by that you mean orthodox New Agers, then yes. But orthodox catholics. Wxcept for a few of the elderly sisters, most of them are anything but.
    Update on Sr. Donna Quinn. She has been campaigning to get gay marriage legalized in Illinois & has openly attacked Cardinal George for opposing it.

  27. Stumbler but trying says:

    @ fvhale:
    [quote]…God is the Saviour; we are those who are in peril. He is the physician; we are the infirm. To realize this is the first step towards salvation, towards emerging from the maze in which we have been locked by our pride…[/quote]
    How true this is! How sad that in order to avoid such a truth, many have closed their hearts and their eyes and have instead chosen to walk a path of curves, pitfalls, deep slopes, mazes…mazes and more never ending mazes which lead one to despair and sorrow and loneliness and confusion and finally death.
    I have stumbled many times upon these roads only to realize I need only look, gaze and listen to the One who waits for me on the narrow but straight royal road.
    Let’s pray for these sisters who believe they are on the “right path.” I want to hope that before their time is at an end, they will wake up from the fog of that labyrinth and hear the call of love and of hope and of mercy.
    Ah Lord! You are too good to us poor stumblers!

  28. frjim4321 says:

    How does something that we see in 4th Century Algerian Christianity become “new age?” Just because something is unfamiliar does not mean that it is “new age.” I’m not a practicioner of the labyrinth myself but I can’t see it being any less valid than the rosary. It’s not hard to make a connection between the middle eastern “worry bead” tradition and the much later rosary devotion.

    Quite a bit of history here: http://www.labyrinthos.net/

  29. DanW says:

    al007italia:

    I believe I saw your letter and the response you received. I could be mistaken, but I believe one of the authors of the response was a retired priest from here in Iowa that is living in Sinsiawa. You would think after reading all the articles in the TH about the goings on at the Mound, that he would know what a bunch of flakes reside up there. Perhaps the Archbishop should have a word with him. (Don’t hold your breath)

  30. MichaelJ says:

    frjim4321 , I can find nothing about 4th Century Algerian Christianity in the site you referenced.

    That being said, “New Age” does not mean “new”. Ancient pagan practices of tree worship are New Age.

    According to Dictionary.com, “New Age” means “of or pertaining to a movement espousing a broad range of philosophies and practices traditionally viewed as occult, metaphysical, or paranormal. “

  31. frjim4321 says:

    frjim4321 , I can find nothing about 4th Century Algerian Christianity in the site you referenced.

    It was there someplace . . . I can’t look now, running down to a hospice in Alliance. Not in the parish but the dear man is a parishioner and the family called . . .

    That being said, “New Age” does not mean “new”. Ancient pagan practices of tree worship are New Age.

    Really? How is that? The Druids are older than dirt but they are “New Age?” I dispute that.

    With all due respect to dictionary.com, “New Age” is a slang expression with manifold meanings.

    Also, some people (the ‘women of grace’ people on etwn) would consider yoga to be new age, but it is none of those three things.

    . . . Down to Alliance . . . (a nap would have been nicer!)

  32. MichaelJ says:

    I’m saying a prayer for the parishoner you’re going to visit. I hope it is not bad news.

    I agree that” New Age” is a slang expression with manifold meanings. As i understand it, the phrase was coined in the 1970′s.

    Now that you know how I, and (presumably) others understand the term, you know why I consider identifying labrinth “spirituality” to be New Age.

    As far as yoga goes, nobody, except perhaps Nintendo’s WII Fit , treats it as a purely physical exercise like jogging or weight lifting. Instead, it is nearly universally seen as a spiritual (occult) exercise to alighn ones chakras

  33. frjim4321 says:

    Is quite terminal, but very advanced age.

    Mike, I have some physical issues and the only exercises I can do is swimming and yoga . . . and that’s with physician input.

  34. Southern Catholic says:

    New Age practices and philosophies sometimes draw inspiration from major world religions: Buddhism, Taoism, Chinese folk religion, Christianity, Hinduism, Sufism, Judaism (especially Kabbalah), Sikhism; with strong influences from East Asian religions, Gnosticism, Neopaganism, New Thought, Spiritualism, Theosophy, Universalism and Western esotericism. – Perspectives on the New Age, James Lewis

    It is basically Indifferentism mixed with heresies and pagan worship.

  35. acardnal says:

    . . . and syncretism.

  36. Bob B. says:

    All that seems to be missing are the walls painted black, a stobe light or two, sittar music, tie-dye shirts, a couple of Hendrix and ennegram posters, etc. Groovy!

  37. Joe in Canada says:

    The comment “Just when you think the New Age movement has faded into 1980s oblivion” makes me think of something purportedly said by Fr Andrew Greeley. He said that his seminary (he was ordained in 1954) was 25 years ahead of its time because it addressed the questions of 1850 with the answers of 1875. Likewise these sisters, addressing the questions of 1968 with the answers of 1985. Okay, not quite 25 years.

  38. heway says:

    60 years ago outside my convent high school, there was a long grape arbor. We were encouraged to use the arbor as a meditation site..sounds a bit like the laybrinth?

  39. backtothefuture says:

    Unfortunately new age is rampant with both the religious and laity. So many Catholics are into all kinds of crazy new age pagan junk. These practices can be quiet dangerous, and border on the occult. Father Gabriel Amorth himself warned about the dangers of yoga. You really open yourself up to danger if you know what I mean.

  40. frjim4321 says:

    . . . and syncretism cardinal

    Perhaps so, but speaking purely anthropologically it is most likely that all religion is syncretism.

  41. frjim4321 says:

    . . . oops!

    I meant to add “to some extent!”

    Sorry! That was not meant to be an absolute statement!

  42. adcola says:

    …with a morsel of cheese in the center…….Wisconsin.

    ;-)

  43. Jacob says:

    I have a request for any priest who is following the comments here.

    The Sinsinawa Dominicans are the chief group behind the cause of the Venerable Father Samuel Mazzuchelli, a priest who came over from his native Italy to serve the upper Mississippi Valley and founded over thirty parishes, including my own.

    When I contacted the Dominicans about any holy cards they had to offer, they sent me a few, but they only had prayers for the venerable father, not to him for his intercession. I’d really appreciate the composition of such a prayer from a priest that I can use.

    Thank you.

  44. Johnno says:

    ‘New Age’ is taking something old and dressing it up with something new and modern.

    He primary problem is that all this ‘new age’ stuff are in essence still the same old errors, old contradictions, old demons, indifferentism, and self-centeredness. Many reject the realities of heaven and hell, and make man solely responsible for his own moral code and salvation. The focus is on your merits, as if that alone will save and justify you. Perfection is rejected as unnecessary and non existent. Some seek it from being enamored by receiving supernatural gifts and superpowers that allow them to see auras, predict the future, talk to ghosts and spiritual beings etc. These things can be dangerous slippery slopes!

  45. StWinefride says:

    frjim4321 says: How does something that we see in 4th Century Algerian Christianity become “new age?” Just because something is unfamiliar does not mean that it is “new age.”

    For “new age” read “myths”. St Paul warned about this, myths have always been around:

    For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own likings, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander into myths”. 2 Tim 4:3

    As far as Yoga is concerned, there have been many exorcists who have warned against this practise, even for relaxation. Fr Gabriele Amorth, Fr Jeremy Davies etc.

    I used to practise yoga but gave up one day when, a) I decided to heed the advice of the exorcists and b) I realised that being Catholic means more than just following the teachings of the Catholic Church, there is such a thing as Catholic Identity. My passport says I’m British, my spiritual passport (Certificate of Baptism) says I’m Roman Catholic. There is this saying:

    “There is no Yoga without Hinduism and no Hinduism without Yoga.”

    So, why don’t I practise Yoga? Because I’m not a Hindu.

  46. Peter Rother says:

    Frjim4321,
    I am curious to know when you took such a fascination with, and became expert in, labyrinths. You didn’t read Fr. Z’s post and do some quick poking around on the Internet to appear both contrarian and intelligent on the topic, did you? I know nothing about labyrinths and am bright enough not to opine on the topic at the moment. Do you have the same prudence?

  47. Kypapist says:

    I would rather walk the Way of the Cross, going forward with Our Savior rather than circling ’round and ’round. Even if I did get cheese!

  48. Kypapist says:

    Actually it looks like a giant, lifesize Parcheesi game board!

  49. Gail F says:

    frjim4321: Thanks for the link to that site. Labyrinths are indeed old and often beautiful decorative devices. However, that’s all they are. Again, if people like praying in them, go to it. But it is no different from making up any other prayer path or habit. You could just as easily walk up and down corn rows or graveyards or formal gardens — or trace the lines on parking lots, for that matter. But if people think they are rediscovering ancient secrets or whatever, they AREN’T.

  50. chantgirl says:

    This is the kind of labyrinth that my family enjoys : http://www.amazon.com/LEGO-4568196-Minotaurus-Game/dp/B002WCNKUQ

    We don’t have to worry about confused and confusing nuns, and there’s no danger of David Bowie popping out. The Sisters of Mercy have a retreat house in STL. The one and only time I went on retreat there ( about 4 years ago), they had a labyrinth outside, a chapel in which you couldn’t find the Tabernacle, and pictures of Native American religious symbols on the walls of the retreat house. The clincher for me, though, was a look into their bookstore. I found books on pantheism and not much that was Christ-centered. I am automatically suspicious of religious practices that do not involve Christ, His Church, or the saints. Religious exercises that focus on one’s own feelings or body are at best a narcissistic waste of time, and can sometimes be a window to evil.

  51. robtbrown says:

    1. In themselves Labyrinths are no more harmful than Badminton, Building Stone Walls, or Crossword Puzzles. It is when they are used to replace what is proper to religious life that they are questionable. These are Dominicans, whito ch means they have Divine Office in Common. IMHO, there are intellectual and affective needs that are satisfied by Latin liturgy. Once the liturgy was vernacularized those needs began to look elsewhere.

    Much is made of the Labyrinth at Chartres, but anyone who has visited the Church knows that it is the magnificent structure of the building and the lofty beauty of the windows (which arise out of darkness) that saturate visitors. The Labyrinth to the Church is like shoes to the religious habit.

    2. Comparison of Labyrinths to the Rosary is silly. Rosary beads are simply a way of counting, keeping track of the Ave Marias and Mysteries. The structure of the chain of beads is not intended as a Mandala.

    3. Synthesis and Syncretism are not the same thing. The former puts different things together to form a harmonious whole. The latter tries to put things together that are so different (even contradictory) that it is not possible to form a harmonious whole.

  52. fvhale says:

    Gail F said: “You could just as easily walk up and down corn rows or graveyards or formal gardens.”
    I recommend walking around graveyards, praying for all those who lie there, and reflecting on owns own mortality, as the one who walks today may soon enough be lying with the others.
    It is not as if I have never walked a labyrinth (hey, I live in California, and I can be in my nearest Catholic labyrinth in 15 minutes). But a prayerful, contemplative, meditative walk in a cemetery can do infinitely more spiritual good, for all parties, IMHO. In older churches in Italy, you do not even have to go outside to take a prayer walk among the dead.
    And it is a whole lot easier to understand the “meaning” of a cemetery than a labyrinth. Very Ash Wednesday-ish.

  53. benedetta says:

    If these sisters feel called to support abortion in the manner they do then my sense is that their prayer life with the labyrinth is not bearing good fruit.

  54. VexillaRegis says:

    Dazed by the haze
    the sisters razed the maze.

  55. PA mom says:

    The most important thing to me about the labyrinths in the old cathedrals was that they provided an physical outlet and purpose for those who are of active nature to remain in the Presence of Jesus in church.
    In the absence of that, it makes not much sense for Christians.

  56. Gail F says:

    Here’s a GREAT bit from that web site so kindly provided by frjim4321, on a page about Chartres. It says that in the 1650s the canon at Chartres was rather annoyed at people running around on the labyrinth, and that people would noisily play on it during Mass, but that perhaps something about how it might have been used prior to that could be inferred from this, from a different church. See if it has ANYTHING to do with what the earnest labyrinth-walkers do:
    (quote follows)
    While there are a number of documents recording details of services, practices and rituals at Chartres, dating back to the 14th century at least, none mention the labyrinth specifically. However, the rituals carried out in connection with the pavement labyrinths at Auxerre, and to a lesser extent, nearby Sens, are better known as a consequence of a number of petitions and decrees that either allowed or forbad certain customs observed by the clergy at those cathedrals. In 1413, a petition from the lesser clergy to the canons of Sens, requested that on Easter Sunday, “according to custom…” they be allowed to “…play freely the game on the labyrinth during the ceremony.” The game and the ceremony are not specified, but it can be inferred that this was a liturgical dance that took place around the labyrinth, and probably involved a game of pilota, where a ball was tossed back and forth between the participants (Wright, 2001).
    This can be inferred from the detailed description of this practice as recorded at Auxerre, where from at least 1396 until 1538, the canons and chaplains of the cathedral would gather around the labyrinth early in the afternoon every Easter Sunday and perform a ring-dance while chanting Victimae paschali laudes (Praises to the Easter Victim). While this was taking place, the Dean would stand (presumably at the centre of the labyrinth) and throw a large leather ball (the pilota) back and forth to the clergy as they danced around the labyrinth (circa Daedalum). Following the singing and dancing, the participants, various officers of the cathedral and local dignitaries would gather in the chapter house for a substantial meal and appropriate Easter sermons, before proceeding to Vespers (Reed Doob, 1990; Wright, 2001).
    The details of this extraordinary Easter ritual are, ironically, fully detailed in legal documents attempting to outlaw the practice as unsuitable for a Christian place of worship, lodged during the late 15th and early 16th centuries. Despite early success in upholding the tradition, it was eventually stopped in 1538. Similarly, the ceremony at Sens continued until 1517, when it was also outlawed, although by that time the dance was no longer held on the labyrinth (Wright, 2001; Brandstatter, 2008).
    Unfortunately, none of these documents record when these rituals started, but it would seem fair to assume that if it was a well-established custom at both Auxerre and Sens by the late 14th century, then this tradition of Easter dances on these labyrinths may well be contemporary with the construction of the labyrinths in the early 13th century. And can we therefore infer that similar rituals were carried out at Easter on the labyrinth at Chartres? While no specific document provides direct evidence, there were certainly Easter dances at Chartres, recorded in the 15th and 16th centuries, so it would also seem probable – although in the absence of documentation, this can only be matter of speculation.
    And what would have been the original purpose and use of the labyrinth at Chartres at other times of the year – was it used by pilgrims and other visitors to the cathedral? On that matter, the documentary evidence is, unfortunately, completely silent.
    Jeff Saward; Thundersley, England, August 2009

  57. Hank_F_M says:

    Father

    Did they say if there was an indulgence attached?

  58. Hank_F_M: You raise an interesting question.

  59. Doesn’t the labyrinth sorta smack of Gnosticism [take our secret and mysterious path] and Paganism? This is NOT a Christian symbol or practice, medieval depictions and the Chartres labyrinth notwithstanding. Perhaps the medieval labyrinths represented the fight between good and evil, or the maze of life fraught with tempting wrong turns, but clearly today labyrinths are misused to channel all the wrong things. If it is NOT of God our creator, then it leads to ‘someone else’. Get rid of this crap, and take the Ouija board, smudge pot, numerology, prophecies, yoga centering, and babbling with you.

    “Why have so many nuns fallen for the New Age trap?”
    Because the pious practices of their former prayer lives have been abolished without replacement. The human heart craves prayer. Without good spiritual direction, guidance, and formative example, the vacuum is filled with confused displays of self-indulgence. [Hey we know what Moses found the Jews doing after his long absence on the mountain…the idols were destroyed and discipline was put back in place.]

  60. In all the internet perusing on the labyrinth, my research failed to reveal the real purpose of the labyrinth in churches:
    As the ‘presider’ enters with his train of drumming attendants, all the trappings, candles, clowns on bicycles, women with long flowing organza scarves and tambourines, following the labyrinth in and out gives the musicians and the happy assembly plenty of time to finish the entrance hymn.

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  62. VexillaRegis says:

    Apropos New Age, this is an add that I found in a local newspaper today: “Aura-transformation TM, the energy of the new age for the adults of the future. … Every breath is a possible new beginning, create your future in the present.” (It sounds bad in our language too :-))

    So, this is what the old Vikings do a thousand + years later. I know people who meet for seanses with dancing tables, you can buy your self new ones (tables!) in a shop nearby. But believe me, when I say I’m a practicing Catholic and loving it, they tell me I’m brainwashed and in need of being rescued from that partriarchal sect!

  63. Theodore says:

    Ironically the way to get thruba labyrinth is to only make left turns. Handy in a cornfield maze.

  64. Elizabeth D says:

    I watched a video of a funeral of Sister Toni Callahan, at a link I found somewhere http://client.stretchinternet.com/client/sinsinawa.portal#

    It is not my intention, by describing this funeral, to make fun. May her soul, and the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God rest in peace. Amen. A lot of care is put into the music etc. There is no coffin, there is an urn of cremains on a little table. The priest reads the prayers from a binder. The readings are extensively rewritten in feminist language, ie “God” instead of he, etc. A reader says “the word of God” rather than the word of the Lord. A Sister incenses the Gospel book, then reads the Gospel. Then she gives a “sermon”. It is very touchy feely new age. “For Toni, all was one, all was connected from the planets to the stars in the sky to the insects on the windowsill, etc…. All is one. Even Ephesians echoes Toni’s theology. Ephesians says there is one body, one spirit, one hope, one faith, one love.” “How many times in our midst did Toni stand up, unroll the scroll and cry out for justice…. Toni’s message was not always welcome or easy to hear, and Toni often did not feel heard or listened to. It takes courage to unroll the scroll and speak and witness for justice.” Sister homilist says she opened one of Toni’s books from her bookshelf and noticed this line marked from Yeats: ‘How can we know the dancer from the dance….. Toni, for us, you are the dancer, and now the dance. You who have recognized and created beauty, have become beauty. You who shaped earth on the wheel, have become earth….” etc “Toni, lead us in the dance.”

    “For our dear Toni, called into the energy, joy, and beauty of eternal Mystery, we pray…” “Jesus Christ, hear our prayer.”

    Sisters bring 2 big glass pitchers of wine to the altar. Father incenses the altar. Sister incenses Father, then the congregation. They sing perfectly well some ICEL missal chants for the “lift up your hears” dialogue. Father says “…the cup of My Blood which will be poured out for you and for all for the forgiveness of sins.” “All glory and honor is yours almighty God, forever and ever.” There is a large amount of walking around during the sign of peace, which lasts a good while, and Father leaves the sanctuary to shake hands with the congregation. During the Lamb of God there are Sisters standing at the altar pouring the Precious Blood from the glass pitchers into wine glass type glass communion cups. During the priest’s Communion there are 4 or 5 Sisters standing at the altar.

    I looked at the next funeral, that of Sr Marie Andrew Taylor, for this one there was a coffin. The Gospel is read by the priest, who has his stole over his chasuble,but I forgive him, because he even gave the homily. Sister died just short of her 100th birthday, that’s beautiful.

    I looked at the next, Sr Marie Frederic Lucks. She has a coffin. Father reads the Gospel and gives the homily. May she and all of them rest in the peace of Jesus.

  65. Rushintuit says:

    Liberal Nuns get jiggy with labirynths. Vatican declares Paul VI venerable. Checkmate.

  66. Midwest St. Michael says:

    Late to the discussion but here is my question in all of this.

    Do any of the Saints and/or Doctors of the Church write about “praying” the labyrinth? I do not recall reading *any* of them saying anything about them. (but, to be fair, I have not read all of them)

    I recall a few years ago at a good size gothic parish in our diocese the pastor wanted to construct a labyrinth walk. There were concerns presented to the pastor by certain parishioners because of the the connection the labyrinth has with a certain “Catholic” women religious order in the area that has become as goofy in their “spirituality” as the Sinsinawa Dominicans.

    The DRE of the parish, in the midst of the brouha that ensued, would ask the pastor again and again to provide examples via the Saints of the “use” (or whatever you want to call it) of labyrinths. He could not do it and in the end scuttled the project. (he really dislikes controversy)

    What to the Saints say? Pray your rosary. Pray the Stations of the Cross. Have devotion to the Holy Eucharist and spend time with Him in Adoration (that is to say *in* the church/chapel/oratory). Pray your chaplets. Etc., etc. Can one pray some of those devotions while walking a labyrinth? I suppose. However, I will err on the side of caution and just imitate the Saints. What was good enough for them is good enough for me. (and I don’t have to walk around in circles “finding myself” to do that)

    MSM

  67. Charlotte Allen says:

    I’m a trained medievalist (doctorate from Catholic University of America), and I can assure readers that Gail F. is right: No one really knows what, if anything, the labyrinth at Chartres was supposed to have been used for. It might have been purely decorative, it might have been borrowed as an architectural motif from references to King Minos’ labyrinth in classical mythology, or it might contain, as some early Christian labyrinths contain, an explicitly Christian symbolic reference: Christ as the center and ultimate destination of the labyrinth’s path. That said, I can’t see anything wrong with using a labyrinth as an aid to prayer. The problem I see is using the labyrinth syncretistically, as a form of pan-religious practice that is intrinsically superior to traditional Christian practices such as saying the rosary.