Labyrinth at Holy Family

I’ll See Ya Around… And Around… And Around…
The Labyrinth at Holy Family Retreat, Farmington

April 10, 2009

labyrinth.jpgI’ve passed signs for the Holy Family Retreat a billion times, as it is in between Damian’s daycare and our house. I’ve even read about it here and there, only noting that it was a nice place to walk around. It wasn’t until this morning I decided to Google it again, for no other reason than sheer boredom.

So imagine my glee at reading they had installed a new labyrinth just 7 months ago! Awesome; something for me and Damian to do to occupy our closed-preschool morning. Plus, the boy likes walking in the woods.

We suited up and found the Retreat easily. I don’t think I’ve ever driven the length of Tunxis Road before, even though it’s sort of a shortcut I should have known about. The Center was pretty packed, as today is Good Friday. Quickly: “The Holy Family Passionist Retreat Center is a spiritual center in the Passionist tradition, open to all who seek to lab1.jpgdeepen their relationship with God and one another. We welcome men, women, and youth to weekend, day and evening retreats, and programs where they can journey with God in an atmosphere of respect and hospitality. Consistent with our tradition, we are a community that values spiritual development, the holy word, creative ritual, and the sacred in our world.”

Damian and I weren’t really interested in any of that, we just wanted to check out the labyrinth. So we walked down the path, down the hill, and then onto a trail through the woods. Damian was having a grand ol’ time and the forest echoed with the happy chirps of birds. (I didn’t have any St. Francis of Assisi moment, unfortunately.)

The walk is maybe 1/5 of a mile (by way of the trail rather than the paved path) and it’s pretty unremarkable. There is an alternative “Path to Peace” which merely goes to a basketball court in the woods, which is kind of weird. Our path, by the way, was the “Path to Quiet.”


By this point, you’re asking yourself, “What the heck is a labyrinth in this setting all about?” Fair question. Allow the Holy Family website point the way:

The labyrinth is an ancient symbol of wholeness and a metaphor for life’s journey. While labyrinths date back more than 4000 years, the medieval labyrinth dates to the Middle Ages when medieval pilgrims, unable to fulfill their desire to make pilgrimages to Jerusalem, went instead to many pilgrimage sites throughout Europe. They often convened at a labyrinth formed of stone in the floor of a Gothic cathedral. Within the safety of the cathedral, they would walk the labyrinth, symbolic of their life’s journey to God.


Hm. That’s interesting. What else?

Life is full of twists and turns. Life’s journey is rarely one straight path directed toward our goal. Unexpected events can take us in directions that may surprise and even stress us. Our faith steadies us in the midst of many twists and turns. Throughout the walk, we rely on our faith and trust that the winding path truly leads to God, the center of our lives. Unlike a maze, a labyrinth has only one path leading from its entrance to its center and back out, albeit by a winding route. When we walk the labyrinth in the presence of God, even though we do not seem to know where we are going, we trust that we will find our way back home.


I can certainly relate to that, what with Damian’s special needs and all. I’ll reserve my personal thoughts on spirituality here and quite frankly, I just thought the stonework was cool.

At the center of the labyrinth is a circular sculpture created by stonemason Dan Sieracki. The circle is a symbol of eternity and the fullness of life to which God calls each of us. This empty circle at the labyrinth’s center reminds us to empty ourselves so that we might be filled with Christ’s peace.

labd.jpgThe sculpture was very reminiscent of Andy Goldsworthy’s work, which I absolutely love. It also afforded me one of the better pictures on this whole blog.

There is a brochure and a sign as you enter the labyrinth, explaining how you should approach and walk it.

Begin in silence. Walk it with an open mind and heart. Quiet your mind and become aware of your breath. Allow yourself to find the pace your body wants to go.

Maybe next time. I had Damian with me and we just barged right in. I’m glad no one was there actually getting all spiritual. Apparently, there are three stages of the walk:

  • Purgation (Emptying) ~ Walk slowly and breathe mindfully. Empty yourself of thoughts, burdens, and distractions. This is the time to open your heart and quiet your mind. Become empty like the great circle at the labyrinth’s center.
  • laba.jpg

  • Illumination (Receiving) ~ When you reach the center, breathe mindfully and stay there as long as you like. This is a place of meditation and prayer. Receive from God what is there for you to receive. Imagine yourself as an empty vessel being filled with God’s love and peace. Remember that God lives at the center of your being.
  • Union (Returning) ~ As you leave, breathe mindfully and follow the same path out of the center as you came in. In your departing, you are joining God and God’s healing power at work in the world. Each time you walk the labyrinth you become more empowered to find and do the work you feel your soul reaching for.
  • lab5.jpgAlas, I did none of that. Damian actually walked the path as intended for a little while, but he grew frustrated with walking back and forth and not really getting anywhere. Again yes, there sure is a parallel to this labyrinth and the our life raising Damian with all his challenges.

    The brochure asks a few questions that we’re supposed to answer while there. I’m game…

    What am I experiencing? Fun! Damian was enjoying himself and I was getting some good pictures in a really cool place.

    Are there any surprises? Yes. Initially Damian wasn’t excited about the big circle (“Hoooole” in his language) initially which bummed me out. But he came around. Get it? “Around?”

    Do I feel lost? No. Not geographically or spiritually.

    How do I parallel this with my own life story? Sigh. To answer this properly would require an hour of your time. I guess you can go read the original post about Damian to get a gist.


    Where am I on my journey at this moment in time? Oh baby, it’s just begun.
    Have I found the center of my life? The treasure of life? How does it feel? Whoa, heavy stuff. Hoang is the center of my life and Damian is the treasure of my life and I love them more each and every day and that feels pretty darn good.


    Wow, I had no idea this place would weigh on me so heavily. Time to take this kid to daycare already.

    Back to Arboreta, Gardens & Greenhouses, Labyrinths, Trees & Plants


    Holy Family Passionist Retreat Center
    The labyrinth
    The Labyrinth Society
    The 43 labyrinths in Connecticut


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