20 August 2003 - 3:59 PM
So, explain to me why it is I had to go into school for a prayer service (and nothing else) yesterday, and today I had to drive out to Marriottsville for a retreat and Mass? Don't get me wrong, I'm all for spirituality, and when Father Andy says Mass, you feel like you've really been to Mass. That thing in the liturgy of the Eucharist about "lift up your hearts"? You know he's doing it, and that kind of enthusiasm is infectious. But still, it seems to me we could have ... condensed things a little.
Oh, and if one more person says something about teaching being a ministry and an act of service, I am going to scream. OK, yes, teaching is a tremendous responsibility and it's important to the future of the species and all that. I know. Really, I know. But Americans have a terrible habit of looking at teachers as though we have some kind of sacred vocation, like priests, and, accordingly, we get paid like churchmice. I am not a priest. I am, however, a highly educated professional, and it sure would be nice to be treated (and paid) like one.
Enough whinging. Our retreat site the last couple of years has been at Bon Secours, which has a lovely meditation garden with the mother of all water features (pond! bog! waterfalls! bridges! koi! ducks!) and a labyrinth I have never walked and even decent food. There are plans to build a Zen-style meditation garden starting this fall, so if we go back again there will be that to look forward to.
I confess I am a little suspicious of the whole labyrinth-walking revival. In the context of Christianity, labyrinths, such as the much-copied one at Chartres, were meant to represent pilgrimage, with the centre being Jerusalem. Think of it as a kind of microcosm, in which the believer who couldn't just drop everything and go tromping off to the Holy Land could, through meditation and reflection, achieve some of the spiritual benefits of pilgrimage.
As a concept, I like this. The problem is that modern labyrinth-walking tends to be discussed as a sort of squishy New Age esoterica, and I find my tolerance for mysticism in general (and squishy New Age mysticism in particular) has decreased rapidly in the years since I turned 16. I'm also afraid I tend to get a little annoyed with the Church for being so pacifist sometimes, so when they take a perfectly good tradition like the labyrinth walk and and turn it into a platform for pacifism (as suggested by the signs at Bon Secours), it grates on my nerves.
That said, I would love to walk the Bon Secours labyrinth, if only because it *is* a piece of mediaeval Christianity which is still within reach for me, but I don't want to do it under the conditions I'm likely to find it at a faculty retreat. It's the sort of thing I want privacy for, and for some reason the labyrinth tends to draw gawkers. It's hard (for me, at least) to meditate effectively when half-a-dozen people are watching.