Sr. Melannie Svoboda, author of Traits of a Healthy Spirituality, has just penned a new book: When the Rain Speaks: Celebrating God’s Presence in Nature.” Each of her meditations offers a unique perspective on things we often take for granted. In “The Art of Beholding,” she says that beholding lies at the heart of spiritual life and that it is the first step toward contemplation, which is the prayerful attentiveness to something–a word in scripture, the blueness of an iris, a movement of one’s spirit, the song of a chickadee, the sound of rain on a porch roof.
“As a child growing up on a small farm, I experienced a deep love for nature,” she said. This love has carried over to her vocation as a teacher, author and spiritual director. Formerly the provincial of her congregation, the Sisters of Notre Dame of Chardon, Ohio, Sr. Melannie Svoboda currently writes and gives talks and retreats nationally.
There was a delightful article in the December 20, 2007 New York Times on labyrinths. Written by Ann Raver, it chronicles the experience of Pamela White, a garden designer, who built a labyrinth in the woods in Maryland.
This ancient form has been used for walking meditations in which those who enter shed their emotional burdens, fears, sorrow, and even evil spirits. According to Robert Ferre, a labyrinth builder and teacher in St. Louis, fishermen had a great belief in labyrinths. “They would walk the labyrinth before going to sea, to shed the evil spirits that sank their ships or made the weather bad.”
Labyrinths are easy to draw, find and research, as shown on the Labyrinth Society’s website, a good source of historical and practical information.
“The design of a labyrinth echoes spirals in nature, from a snail’s shell to the inner ear to the winding of a bean vine as it springs from the earth. Evidence of labyrinths has been found in Minoan Crete as well as Europe, India and the American Southwest, according toe Hermann Kern’s “Through the Labyrinth: Designs and Meanings over 5,000 Years.”
A famous church labyrinth in the United States is Grace Cathedral in San Francisco.