By now, it’s not news to anyone that adult coloring books are tremendously popular as ways to de-stress and promote mindfulness. And if you’ve been reading our articles, it’s probably not news to you that Pauline Books & Media offers a whole series of Catholic coloring books for adults meant to aid in prayer and meditation.
But what you might not know is that this practice is not new. In fact, it offers many of the same benefits as those accrued by our “spiritual” ancestors when they traced (or walked) a labyrinth.
Along with the stained glass windows that we’ve talked about previously, the great cathedrals of France—Chartres, Bayeux, Rheims, Sens, Poiters, and Amiens, among others—have astonishing labyrinths embedded in their floors. In all, there were 22 labyrinths in the 80 Gothic cathedrals constructed during the Middle Ages throughout Europe! These aren’t mazes: these labyrinths have a single path in and out. There are no false entrances or dead ends in a labyrinth.
It was during the Middle Ages that the Church adapted the labyrinth (previously used in a variety of ancient cultures for over 3,000 years) for its own purposes, specifically within its cathedrals. The classical form gave way to a more intricate design of 11 circuits in four quadrants, usually called the “medieval” design. Within Catholicism, the labyrinth could symbolize several things: the hard and winding road to God, a mystical ascension to salvation and enlightenment, or even a pilgrimage to Jerusalem for those who could not make the actual journey.
(Medieval Christians were expected to travel to the holy land at least once during their lives. But as travel was often both difficult and dangerous, labyrinths were designed as alternative pilgrimages. If travel was out of the question, spiritual merit could be gained by prayerfully and meditatively walking a labyrinth.)
Catholics are slowly rediscovering the significance of this important spiritual tool that holds power for prayer and reflection. We are all on the path, and we are all exactly where we need to be. The labyrinth is a model of that path, a metaphor for life’s journey.
Labyrinths and mazes have often been confused. When most people hear the word labyrinth, they think of a maze. A labyrinth is not a maze. A maze is a puzzle to be solved. It has twists, turns, and blind alleys. It is a left-brain task that requires logical, sequential, analytical activity to find the correct path in and out. But a labyrinth has only one path; the way in is the way out. There are no blind alleys. The path leads you on a circuitous path to the center and out again. A labyrinth is a right-brain task. It involves intuition, creativity, and imagery. With a maze, many choices must be made, and an active mind is needed to solve the problem of finding the center. With a labyrinth, there is only one choice: to enter or not.
And, like the pages of our coloring books, there is no right way to walk a labyrinth. You only have to enter and follow the path. In coloring, there is no right way to do it, or no correct color to choose. Your choice is to color or not.
For some people, physically walking the labyrinth in prayerfulness and with an open spirit can be an extraordinary way to feel the closeness of God. We don’t all have access to a labyrinth, however, and so for many Catholics wishing to experience the labyrinth, tracing one of the great cathedral designs on paper with their finger—again, with prayer and mindfulness—can bring them that same experience. For us, the invitation to pick up crayons or markers or pencils and color in the life of Jesus, while praying and meditating on his words, is another way of being keenly aware of that closeness.
God is reaching out to you in many ways. Perhaps this most ancient of practices—reimagined now as a coloring book—is right for you today. Perhaps, as you meditate and pray and color, you’ll be able, even, to get a glimpse of heaven…in your own home!
by Jeannette de Beauvoir
This is it! The moment you’ve been waiting for! Jesus Speaks To You, our most recent coloring book for prayer and meditation, releases today!
And right now you can purchase it for 20% off the retail price, but only until August 15th. On check out use coupon code JSCB20.
Take time for quietness, for reflection, and for prayer with this exquisite coloring book by artist Veruschka Guerra, and act now for 20% off!