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St. Patrick’s labyrinth a tool for meditation and prayer

Special to The PREVIEW

Photo courtesy Sally Neel The outdoor labyrinth behind St. Patrick’s Episcopal Church offers a path of heightened spirituality and solitude to members of the community and is open to the public night and day.

Photo courtesy Sally Neel
The outdoor labyrinth behind St. Patrick’s Episcopal Church offers a path of heightened spirituality and solitude to members of the community and is open to the public night and day.

The outdoor labyrinth behind St. Patrick’s Episcopal Church in Pagosa Springs offers a path of heightened spirituality and solitude to members of the community, and is open to the public night and day.

The church, located next door to the hospital at 225 S. Pagosa Blvd., has become known for its offerings of spiritual solemnity through its monthly Sunday Night Unplugged music and meditation services, but few realize the existence of the beautiful labyrinth located on the land behind the parking lot. A joyful-looking sculpture marks its entrance.

The labyrinth is an ancient design found on pottery, coins and walls of caves dating as far back as 430 B.C. Though the designs have been likened to mazes, labyrinths differ in that they offer a continual winding path to the center and back out without the dead ends that mazes present. The medieval labyrinths came into full flower on the floors of Gothic cathedrals such as Chartres, Reims and Amiens in France in the 12th and 13th centuries. No one knows for certain how these paved labyrinths were used. Some speculate that they offered a symbolic pilgrimage to Jerusalem during high holy days.

A renaissance of interest and constructions of labyrinths came about in the late 20th century with churches and spiritual centers utilizing them for meditational purposes. The modern-day labyrinths come in a variety of patterns, though the Roman style is perhaps the most common. Each offers a long complex and winding path to the center, causing the walker to lose track of direction, allowing the mind to shake loose pervading thought patterns and be more receptive to spiritual messages.

The outdoor labyrinth at St. Patrick’s is outlined with natural rock and only minimally paved. A magnificent old pine tree marks the center and allows walkers a place to sit in silence beneath its lofty branches. Walkers finish their walk from the center along the same path on which they arrived, returning gradually to the outside world refreshed and renewed, perhaps with new insights, hopefully at peace. Some people choose to walk with friends, others privately. Some carry a prayer intention with them, seeking answers, while others walk to calm their mind and spirit.

“We are all on a journey,” says Fr. Doug Neel, rector of St. Patrick’s. “We offer the labyrinth to all of our fellow sojourners. May God bless you along the way.”

This story was posted on July 3, 2014.