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Dr Jane Anderson

Today, I took my dryness of thought and exhausted emotions on a day-retreat, entrusting myself to the spiritual heritage of Celtic ancestors, for they too must have known such impasses. By treading their legacy of the labyrinth, I hoped to restore and refresh my pilgrimage.

At its entry, I took a few moments to clear my mind, and then I stepped into the strange unknown. As I slowly traced the curved pathway, I found myself feeling very confused. In daily life, I understand my walking to be in straight lines; this leads to the parallel thought that life is a linear journey. However, the labyrinth, with its winding pathways, challenged that image and demanded that I let go of my preconception.

So I trusted the spirit of the maze, entering into its timeless journey. Unwinding, uncoiling, settling, relaxing, silence: I reached its centre, the hearth of its home. There I sat down and breathed out my last contorted thought.

After a while, I saw the beauty that surrounded me. Ragged moss-covered rocks, laid out amidst some lemon-scented gums, marked the labyrinth: its pathway was a carpet of perfumed leaves.

Nearby, pink and grey galahs foraged for seed, and magpies chortled their birdsong. A few insects buzzed around, adding anothermusical tone to this quiet and secluded place.

My thoughts lingered upon other good things in my life, especially my family and closest friends. These explain much of the quality of my existence. I know love and laughter, tears and anxiety through these people. They are the ones I think and pray about the most.

And they are the reason why I want and need a Catholic community that is relevant and meaningful. Negatives such as inequalities, lack of communication, secrecy and marginalisation do nothing to help my most valued and cherished relationships. For I seek a pattern of Christianity that witnesses to invitation and compassion, draws spirit and matter together, and values mutuality and equality through ongoing dialogue.

I pondered for a while on my dream, and then, I left ‘home’, filled with resolve to persist with my efforts to bring about reform. That trek would not be linear; it would weave through the ordinary everyday pilgrimage of life, sometimes moving forward or backward, other times leading to dead-ends or stopping all together. However, I know there is a place in which I can take refuge, a home of faith that I can return to in both good times and bad.

When I arrived at the exit, I was reluctant to leave the tranquility. I sat on an old grey stump, enjoying the centred peace that now washed over me, through me, in me.

But the spirit of the maze was not quite ready to release me. There, on the ground, was a handsome, burnished, bronze leaf, lying on a litter of damaged others. I picked it up and admired its beauty, tracing its lines with my finger.

Nevertheless, it was quite dead. No longer did it rustle in the canopy or provide shelter. That function had finished, but the leaf didn’t seem to know that, for it remained stubbornly intact. No one had crumpled its leathery form, nor had the elements denatured its strength.

I felt tempted to crush it, to hasten its journey. However, my newly acquired peace quietened the thought, and I returned to where it had lain. Time eventually would humble and return it to the earth, where its final destiny would nourish other leaves that are yet to come.

Acknowledgement: My thanks to Sharon Jendrzejczak, Illyarrie Nursery and Garden, Torbay, Western Australia.

Dr Jane Anderson’s recent thesis on celibacy and sexual intimacy in the Catholic priesthood is to be published in the near future.