A labyrinth? A lot of people are not aware of their existence or even their usefulness. “What is a labyrinth all about?” is a question one often hears asked.
After a recent get together with some resident students in our “House of Silence” in Westerhelling (Nijmegen), I pointed out to them the presence of a labyrinth on the property and I commented on its purpose. Since some students expressed some interest in it, I indicated to them the best way to experience the labyrinth. They had to firstly go to the entrance indicated by the presence of five large stones and read the explanatory notes.
We owe the idea of building the labyrinth to Brother Gerard de Haan who wanted to mark the Bicentenary of the Founding of the Marist Brothers.
The labyrinth takes the same shape as the much admired labyrinth in the Cathedral in Chartres. It was Gerard Lobker, a Carmelite confrere, who, at the beginning of February 2017, started working on the project. Essentially, he used left-over construction materials and different coloured bricks to build the path through the labyrinth. It is about one kilometre in length, out and back. All he had were his hands, a few basic tools and a lot of goodwill. It must be said that the result is rather astonishing. The labyrinth creates within itself a sort of mysterious atmosphere of union and fraternity. It really invites those who enter to go on an inner pilgrimage.
The official opening took place on 6th June, Feat day of Marcellin Champagnat. Brother Gerard said a few words of blessing and as he concluded, he invited those present to “set out on a road of discovery of their inner self”.
Yes, it’s really true! On entering the labyrinth, you have no idea what is you are going to experience. You cannot get lost, which is already an advantage. Turning back is probably shorter than going back to your daily existence. Those who are interested are advised to stop half-way round and ask themselves the following questions: “What are the sensations that I experience as I move along? What impact can they have when I return to my normal life?” Then comes the moment to set off again and return to your departure point.
You sometimes have the impression that you in an area not far from the centre, and another time, that you are on the outside edge only to suddenly find that you are at the centre. Perhaps this is an image of our actual lives.
Since it opened, the labyrinth has touched a good few people. Quite recently, someone told me this: “I noticed that I was afraid to lead off, and then, on examining the path, I saw the traces of some footprints. It was then that I realised that I often followed the paths that others had laid out for me. I decide to try to follow my own path in future.”
Another person, suffering from burn-out, confided in me: “I found the journey through the labyrinth very interesting because I noticed that the inward path was of equal length as the return path. My actual situation is probably the result of my many errors in the past. My conclusion is that there is no urgent need to do things; that the way back can take time.”
One of the young people at the “House of Silence”, who is always striving for perfection, had the following experience: “I have followed the labyrinth path twice. After the first walk, I was struck by the beautiful red colours of a Japanese maple tree near the labyrinth. After the second walk, I noticed that the tree with the beautiful red leaves also had many dead leaves. I was touched by this because, in spite of the dried up leaves, the tree had still kept all its splendour. I realised that perfection was not essential, and that some dried leaves took nothing away from the beauty of the tree.”
You can get a glimpse of the labyrinth from one of the “House of Silence” windows. One evening, one of the youngsters saw a fox walking through the labyrinth. You can also marvel at the many flowers that are germinating everywhere in the vegetable garden, at the yellow petals of the daffodils that surround the labyrinth, and at the many other flowering herbaceous plants, such as the lady’s mantle, that are beginning to push up through the ground at the edge of the park. Long live spring!!
I hope that in the years to come, many people will come to fill the path of the labyrinth. Whether it is for a first visit, or on another occasion…May they be enriched with a new experience in their daily lives.
An Easter Gesture
On Friday 22 nd March, as part of a day entitled “An Easter Gesture – a morning on citizenship” held at L’Institut Sainte Marie d’ Arlon
(Belgium), a former Marist School, nearly 400 young people came
together to celebrate the Eucharist.
On this occasion, Brother Albert, who is still involved in many
different activities within the school, gave a short presentation and
handed over an icon created by Mr Nektarios Mamais, to a 12 year
This young girl then symbolically handed this icon to Monsieur Michel
Colling, Director of the school. It was a beautiful opportunity to
encourage pupils and staff to live the spirit of Marcellin Champagnat
in their daily lives.