This story appeared in the spring 2014 issue of Chapman Magazine.
On a free afternoon during the Chapman University Singers’ Texas Lone Star Tour, we headed for Houston’s Museum District. Art, natural, history, holocaust, Japanese Garden – there were so many options. But I added another possibility to the mix.
I had just learned that St. Paul’s United Methodist Church has an outdoor labyrinth, a full-sized replica of the one at Chartres Cathedral in France. We exited the bus and started getting into groups for different destinations. What surprised me is that about a third of the choir wanted to walk the labyrinth with me.
No one is completely sure why a number of Europe’s 12th-century cathedrals put labyrinths in their floors, but there is a worldwide revival for building these meditative paths. Some years back I got to study at Chartres and learned how to facilitate using the labyrinth for prayer. I gave the students a few minutes of introduction and then spaced them out so they would not be bunched together on the path. All was quiet as they began their inward journey.
That is when I noticed him — a distinguished looking man was watching us from the sidewalk. He approached and walked around the labyrinth several times before joining us.
A labyrinth is a continuous winding path that leads to center and back out again. One by one we exited, and the students sat quietly nearby until we all had gathered. We took some time sharing our experiences, and when the stranger exited I invited him to join us. He told us his story. He is from Trinidad, and the next day he was beginning cancer treatment at the nearby M.D. Anderson Cancer Hospital. He thanked us for being there, for he wouldn’t have found the labyrinth on his own. He appreciated being with us in silent contemplation. I encouraged him to come back again during the long days ahead, for labyrinths are very healing. He thanked us kindly and walked on.
Throughout the tour, I prayed for his healing, even as my own soul was calmed and fed over and over by spectacular concerts. St. Augustine once said, “One who sings, prays twice.” But I know it truly — we have prayed three times.
Watch highlights from the Chapman University Singers’ Texas Lone Star Tour.
Photo courtesy of St. Paul’s United Methodist Church in Houston, Texas.
The Rev. Nancy Brink is the director of Church Relations at Chapman.