Karl Keating on Sinsinawa labryths

via Karl Keating
Just when you think the New Age movement has faded into 1980s oblivion, you learn something like this.

The Sinsinawa Dominicans is a women's order located in southwest Wisconsin, just across the Mississippi River from Dubuque, Iowa. Its Sinsinawa Mound Center includes a 750-seat auditorium, retreat facilities, meeting rooms that hold up to 400, and walking trails.

The order sports not one but two labyrinths:

"The labyrinth is an ancient spiritual tool, founded as early as 200 B.C.E. Its history includes use in Crete, Tibet, Greece, Celtic spirituality, early European art, and in the Christian tradition. It is a spiritual tool and an effective metaphor for life's journey for believers of all traditions."

"The indoor labyrinth is available for walking most days." The outdoor labyrinth "consists of 6,000 limestone bricks placed end-to-end to form a perfectly round circle encompassing the symmetrical path walkways to the center. Walking the quadrants in this peaceful atmosphere among the natural surroundings enhances one's meditation experience, usually exceeding expectations of the labyrinth."

(How appropriate that the Sinsinawa Dominicans were unable to bring themselves to use "B.C." Too overtly Christian, I guess.)


  1. I hope the sister in the middle spends as much time on her knees in the chapel, looking as lovingly and longingly at Our Lord in the Eucharist, as she does looking at the empty white labyrinth center.

  2. What the heck is he talking about?

    Ancient Labyrinths are found in cathedrals and churches all throughout Europe. The claim that Labyrinths are a "New Age" phenomenon is utterly false. Labyrinths have been used as legitimate Christian means of prayer for centuries.

  3. From the comments on his post...

    Karl Keating - Peter: I would like to see references for the claim that labyrinths were used for prayer in the Middle Ages. In "The Maze and the Warrior" Craig M. Wright speculates that the labyrinth at Chartres "may" have been used that way in the seventeenth century (rather than Middle Ages), but there appears to be no contemporary evidence. I'd take a Chestertonian approach: the Medieval cathedral mazes were clever and entertaining art but weren't meant for "spirituality exercises"--and certainly not for the New Age-type purposes pursued by the Sinsinawa sisters.

  4. I just don't understand the labyrinth. I'd be too tempted to cheat and walk across the lines. Give me a nice path through the woods instead.

    My Dad was a volunteer gardener at a Marianist retreat center before he was incapacitated by a stroke. He installed a "Rosary Walk" there. Flat stepping stones for each bead and some nice statues. I may be biased because he's my Dad, but it's really nice.

  5. Wow, I have been there in the last year! In my clerics no less, I was not warmly received... I'll tell you right now, I don't care if labyrinths have been used for 1000s of years by Christians those quickly aging sisters do not care. That place is full of "gathering spaces" and weird 70s art. If you go (don't go) please don't miss the "Reliquary Room" where they have almost 100 relics on display mixed in and decorating art pieces you would find at Pier 1.

  6. LOL, Br. David. The FSPA in La Crosse has a similar amount of relics which I think they do show but only on a guided tour. I hope they all find a good home when the orders disband.

  7. On a trip to the UK, just out of college, a friend and I periodically came across a labyrinth in some garden or other. We thought they were hilarious, and have more than a few pictures of us "getting lost" in them.

    When I heard about the labyrinth at Sinsinawa, all I could think of was the picture I have of myself eating my shirt because I couldn't find the way out of one. Only thing is, I was pretending...

    The difference between something like this and a Rosary Walk (or Stations, or whatnot) is that the Rosary Walk points, through Mary, to Christ. Where does a labyrinth go except inwards?

    And I really do think those things look like (a) brains or (b) crop circles.

  8. Trust me, those labyrinths have nothing to do with those that are in some medieval Churches & everything to do with New Age.
    Remember this is the same group that has had 2 members banned from speaking at Catholic Churches, schools etc because they promote New Age.
    Also this is the home of Sr. Donna, the abortion mill escort who is now berating Cardinal George for reminding people what the Church teaches about gay marriage & working to get Illinois to recognize "gay marriage".
    Sadly, they also have the most complete collection of items related to Venerable Mazzuchelli because he founded the convent. It is the only thing worth seeing there. & even then, they are trying to remake the saint to be in to their inclusive image rather that the solid evangelical Catholic he was.

  9. Thanks for linking to my post. I just want to make clear that I think labyrinths are great fun. Probably all of us, as children, had puzzles books that contained labyrinths. And 3-D labyrinths in gardens are great for kids to get "lost" in, as I watched my granddaughter do in a labyrinth in Yokohama. The New Age movement has given the labyrinth a "spiritual" meaning that has nothing to do with any use of the labyrinth before about 1970.

  10. The Sinsinawa Dominicans have a brochure on the labyrinth. I've put it on my blog. It has a big hint about what it may mean to some of them. Think, walking toward Christ... then away.


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