One of the churches in our neighborhood chose to encourage reflective time by creating a beautiful meditation garden encircling a labyrinth, and as I walk it, I am reminded of a simpler, yet just as beautiful labyrinth created by Sr. Betty and Fr. Peter in Juarez, Mexico. Each time I walk a labyrinth, I expect to have a similar insight as the previous time, and yet I should in no way expect that since every time I enter the labyrinth, it is like entering it for the first time. Here are a few reflections that connect to mission work.
- Slow down. Thich Nhat Hanh says, “Walk as if you are kissing the Earth with your feet.” How fast is too fast? In our Covid culture, we have had particular difficulty with quarantines, staying home and not being so busy, and trying to slow down and enjoy our time of quiet. St. Vincent DePaul said, “If necessity urges us to make haste, then let it be slowly.” So much of mission work urges us to make haste, to respond quickly, to tend to the needs we see, and yet, how are we called to slow down as if kissing the Earth?
- The path is narrow; the turns in the road are difficult; how do we keep our eyes on the path. We need to focus, to not lose sight of the core of our mission, to make the turns with care, to not stray from the path when the turns are sharp. Vincent’s prayer, “God, grant us the grace to see things with the same eye as you do,” requires attention to the path, even when it is narrow or has twists and turns.
- Finally, in reaching the center, balance becomes vital. Standing in the center, there is a need to plant our feet so that we can ever so slightly lean to one side and then the other so as to maintain our balance. Vincent’s understanding of mission focuses on the mutuality of our relationships, mutuality that not only brings balance, but humility.
When we truly reach the center, by slowly walking the narrow path, we are in balance because we are that much closer to God who is The Center. Pope Francis tells us, “Going out to others in order to reach the fringes of humanity does not mean rushing out aimlessly into the world. Often it is better simply to slow down, to put aside our eagerness in order to see and listen to others, to stop rushing from one thing to another and to remain with someone who has faltered along the way.”