Sunday, October 18, 2009

Question Box: Lost in a Labyrinth

I would be interested to find out the Catholic position on labyrinths. I had no trouble finding the Catholic position on other things like Jung, enneagram, centering prayer to name a few. But I couldn't find anything definitive on this topic. What does the Church teach?

Like a lot of subjects, the Catholic Church does not have an official position on labyrinths. For topics like this we have to use the witness of Tradition, fidelity to the teachings of the Church on similar subjects, and common sense.

Labyrinths appear in many very old Catholic churches in Europe, but their original use gets debated back and forth a quite a bit. One thing we can be sure of is that their original intent was not for some New Age or occultic purpose.

I don't know of any full length treatments of this on-line, but Catholic Answers has a short and to the point answer to the question in one of their "Quick Questions" columns from "This Rock" magazine. It works for me: hope it works for you too. God bless!

Q: Should Christians build prayer labyrinths? My child’s Catholic high school is considering building one.

A: In Christian spirituality, labyrinths originally symbolized the winding streets of Jerusalem, and walking in a labyrinth while praying Christian prayers was a form of virtual pilgrimage for medieval Christians who could not afford the expense and risk of an actual pilgrimage to Jerusalem. If the prayers said in a labyrinth are representative of authentic Christian spirituality and the purpose of the labyrinth is explained to those who will be using it, then the proposed labyrinth would not pose a problem. If, on the other hand, the prayers are representative of a non-Christian or an otherwise questionable spirituality, Catholics should not pray them and a Catholic high school should not promote it to its students.

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