A new labyrinth at the Sorrowful Mother Shrine in Bellevue, Ohio, offers a place where victims of abuse can pray, meditate and heal.
Called the Healing Place, it was constructed by Missionaries of the Precious Blood, who serve at the shrine; their lay associates; and other volunteers in August. The labyrinth is meant as a place of reconciliation and healing, said Precious Blood Fr. Leon Flaherty of Superior, who organized construction efforts.
“Our Precious Blood spirituality promotes reconciliation and healing,” Fr. Flaherty said. “The original idea was to provide a place for victims of clergy abuse. But it is a place where any victim of abuse is welcomed, anyone who feels the need for healing.”
The labyrinth, made of crushed granite with a red outline to represent the Blood of Christ, is in the shadow of a large crucifix on the shrine grounds. “People who come to the labyrinth will be walking quietly in front of a crucifix. If there ever was an abuse victim, there he is,”
Fr. Flaherty said. “I felt that as Precious Blood people, we should be doing something publicly to offer people a place to heal.”
Constructing the labyrinth, which took three years of planning, including gathering input from abuse victims, is just the first step, he said. The group hopes to add benches, landscaping and other amenities.
“It’s hard for me, because I’m so far north,” said Fr. Flaherty, who ministers in the Diocese of Superior. “I won’t get to see how people use it or how they react to it. But we hope that they do use it.”
The shrine is open to pilgrims and all who wish to pray there, every day of the year.
Labyrinths are found in many spiritual traditions and cultures around the world. Dating back to a time before Christ, they now have been incorporated into many Christian traditions. They were part of many European cathedrals in medieval times, such as the famous labyrinth at the Chartres Cathedral in France, where Catholics who could not make a pilgrimage to the Holy Land were encouraged to walk the path of the labyrinth instead. Today, 21st century Christian pilgrims are rediscovering the use of labyrinths as another way to pray and grow closer to God.
Each walk around a labyrinth is unique to the pilgrim who traces its path, Fr. Flaherty said. “Kids get in there and they run it. Adults get in and become very thoughtful as they go. Some walk it just out of curiosity. A labyrinth can be a quiet and peaceful place to pray and think,” he said. “The slow rhythmic walking eases the mind and acts as a full-body prayer. We hope that, as victims of abuse walk this labyrinth, they will feel the power of the blood of Christ flowing over them, bringing healing, reconciliation and peace. It is also hoped that perpetrators of violence, walking in the presence of the crucifix, will find forgiveness and reconciliation with their victims and with Jesus whom they have violated in the person of their victim.”
For more information, visit sorrowfulmothershrine.org.