The prayer labyrinth's winding pathway is an ideal pattern for structured contemplation. Dee Crane encourages parishioners to engage in the labyrinth's metaphor as a journey to seek Christ at the center of all things. (COURTESY)

Faithful use prayer labyrinth to walk with God

West Palm Beach  |  Dee Crane has been walking the labyrinth at Holy Name of Jesus Parish in West Palm Beach for 22 years. Typically used as a form of meditative prayer during Lent, the labyrinth symbolizes our never-ceasing journey in seeking Christ. 

“I found the labyrinth during a time in my life where I was experiencing hardship and struggle. The labyrinth was a way for me to center myself in Christ through meditative prayer,” Crane said. 

The labyrinth at Holy Name of Jesus parish is modeled after the ancient labyrinth at Chartres Cathedral in France, which dates to the 13th century and is 42 feet in diameter with pathways that lead to the center of the cathedral. Now, after dedicating years to walking the labyrinth, Crane facilitates the labyrinth ministry at the parish. 

Within its winding path, the labyrinth holds symbolism rooted in Catholicism of the Middle Ages. Many cathedral’s in Europe were sites of pilgrimages and early Christians would often take a vow to visit Jerusalem as a part of their formation as followers of Christ. During this time, however, travel to Palestine was hindered because of the Crusades and the outbreak of plague. Thus, the labyrinth was a substitute pilgrimage to those who vowed to visit the holy city. 

Crane explained that the labyrinth used at Holy Name of Jesus is a 12-circuit design divided into four quadrants. These four sections are cruciform in appearance and represent the four Gospels and four stages of life (birth, childhood, adulthood, death). The 12 circuits that fold back on each other echo the 12 tribes of Israel and the 12 apostles. It’s important to note that unlike a maze, which has dead-ends and roadblocks, a labyrinth has one path that leads directly to the center. 

The center of the labyrinth represents divine illumination and Christ within, a place for receiving clarity and insight. The return walk is viewed as a path of union — joining God — bringing back to the world a renewed vision or a refreshed spirit. The labyrinth enhances prayer life as a symbol of the world’s complexities and difficulties, which we experience in our journey through life. 

Crane said anyone walking the labyrinth is encouraged to personalize their prayer and meditation, but to keep five key principals in mind: focus on the path to feel the experience, spend time in reflection when you reach the center, face the labyrinth in reverence when you exit and walk often. 

“Like our journey in Christ, the labyrinth is a sure path in a changing and uncertain world. It is a one-on-one conversation with God that only you can have as you journey through the labyrinth,” Crane said. 

The labyrinth also holds a sense of community for those who walk it. Often, there are many people walking the labyrinth at one time and they might cross each other’s paths along the way. This symbolizes the way we encounter our neighbor and the good we are called to do through spiritual support. “An older woman came to walk the labyrinth for the first time, and she said to me that she was unsure of the path and wanted me to walk it with her,” Crane said. “I did, and at the end of the labyrinth she confessed to me that she had been feeling like she was left to die alone in this world. After the labyrinth, we were united in our meditation and prayer and she expressed that her heaviness had been lifted.”