One of the special features of Mercy Conference and Retreat Center is our outdoor labyrinth. It is one of only eight permanent labyrinths in the St. Louis area, and may be the largest. Ours is based on the design found at Chartres Cathedral in France. It is located in the field beyond and to the right of the Stations of the Cross walking path.
Unlike mazes, labyrinths have no tricks or dead ends. They are not a New Age phenomenon, but rather an ancient form of walking meditation that was very popular among Catholics in the Middle Ages. They were originally walked as a pilgrimage, for repentance, or to become closer to God. Today, many people use them to meditate, pray, clear their minds, or seek answers to problems.
Walking a labyrinth has been scientifically shown to ease stress and grief, as well as aid in physical and mental healing, as reported in the Annals of the American Psychiatric Association, Clinical Journal of Oncology Nursing, Journal of Palliative Care, Explore-The Journal of Science & Healing, and Journal of Analytical Psychology.
In their September 1997 issue, Prevention magazine featured labyrinths, reporting, “The effortless concentration and movement of following the winding path deepens breathing and helps bring about a release of tension. People say that walking the labyrinth helps them solve problems or find inspiration. Others use it as a simple focusing tool at the beginning of the day or before starting a new project.”