3.7.15 … “Think little of being thought little of – despise being despised – was one of his oft-repeated sayings, as was the advice to love to be unknown – amare nesciri” … Saint Philip Neri and the Oratarians …

“Solvitur Ambulando” – It is solved by walking, 2015 Lenten Labyrinth Walks 16/40, The Oratory – Rock Hill SC:

It’s a good day for a labyrinth walk, a good day for any walk, and a good day for a car ride. I’m heading out to Rock Hill to walk the labyrinth at the Oratory. Here I go …



If my notes are correct, I have not walked this labyrinth since 2013. And it’s funny because in my mind I remembered it is being a full Chartres, but it is not.

IMG_2487 IMG_2490


I reread the information board as I sit on one of two “wobbly” benches.



According to the information board:

Metaphor for Life

As a prayer path, the Labyrinth is a metaphor for life. It is a spiritual tool meant to awaken the soul, which surrenders to the winding path and then find healing and wholeness. The Labyrinth symbolizes the spiritual journey. This walking prayer represents a choice between life as a “maze” with its confusions, wrong turns, dead ends and false hopes or life is a “labyrinth” with its many turnings, the center, living in a world in a more blessed way.

Labyrinth Design
People if they have been building and walking the labyrinth for thousands of years on most continents. Sacred geometry has been expressed in Jewish Kabbala, Hopi medicine wheel, Tibetan sand paintings, Knossos in Crete and the Gothic Cathedrals from Algeria to Chartres.  The balance and proportion of materials, numbers and design suggest a calming climate for the movement into harmony and integration for spirit and body. Although there are many variations of form and materials, the Labyrinth in the Oratory garden is a rounded, classical pattern of seven concentric circles in the single path eighteen inches wide and covered with white stone.
Labyrinth Spirituality
The spiritual journey is the main focus of the labyrinth experience. Walking and resting simulate the believer’s movement through life. In Medieval Times Christians who wanted to journey to the Holy Land would simulate this pilgrimage in a local Labyrinth walk and with the central Bible stories as a guide.  For others, the walk to the center is the path with and to God. Some believers  pray the Labyrinth journey to become clear on the direction for life and walk in silence or with a prayer phrase such as the mantra, “Show me the way, I will follow.” This may lead to surrendering and allowing the Spirit to lead the way. The Labyrinth journey is open to many meetings in our life with God. … prayer path with and to God.

So today, I will follow their lead and use their mantra: “Show me the way, I will follow.

And now I walk…




Sounds: dogs barking, cars on the nearby road, the crunch of my feet on the white rocks …

Sights: The white rocks, moss around the outer edge of the labyrinth as well as some interspersed within the white rocks, the white rocks, a beautiful evergreen tree, and a stand of evergreen trees, a tall oak tree with a nest way high, red berries on a bush, the back of an all white statue of Jesus, daffodils 🙂


IMG_2493 IMG_2498




Although I’ve been doing this for quite a while, sometimes I find I cannot truly focus. Today my mind wanders. I myself calculating if I could they could get in a full Chartres if they reduced the width to 12 inches, because in my humble opinion. 18 inches is too wide, but by my calculations they could only get in 10 circles. But there’s clearly room to get in one more concentric circle. I don’t think they will take my suggestion, but if someone connected to The Oratory reads this, it’s worth considering.

After my walk, I’m return to the wobbly bench (ha ha my dictation in the notes app, it typed “bitch,” instead of “bench ” – so, of course, I thought of one very special high school friend.) And what do you call those benches in South Carolina, the ones for children to play on, the joggling boards.

And lucky me right as I finish it is noon. And in the distance is one of my favorite sounds: the sound of a bell tower ringing on the hour, and it’s 12, so I get to listen to every ring. The bell tower then rings on  for several minutes. What a special treat (I think its the Bell Tower at Winthrop University.)

So I walk around the grounds of The Oratory …

Someone likes bunnies …


IMG_2510 IMG_2527                                    the dogwoods are budding,


and this dessert plant …


 But the biq Q … Is this Jesus or Mary? As I walked the walked the labyrinth I saw the statue form behind and assumed it was Jesus. Then I saw the statue from the front, and I said Mary, and then I thought, again, the outstretched arms would be Jesus. I think it’s Mary, but because of the draping to the gown … definitely feminine. I just laughed … gives new meaning to the saying “sweet Jesus.”


There were quite a few statues …

IMG_2520 IMG_2521 IMG_2526

(I wonder if one is Saint Philip Neri.)

And I loved the bells …


And my first crocus of the year


I then had to do some research.

What is the Oratory?

The Rock Hill Oratory, founded in 1934, is a part of a worldwide federation of 60 independent houses. It is the oldes t and largest house in the United States.Founded by St. Philip Neri in Rome, members of the Oratory are bound not by vows, but by bonds of love. The community remains deliberately small to encourage interpersonal relationships. Governed democratically, the entire community shares in making major decisions with all members having equal rights and responsibilities.

via History | The Rock Hill Oratory.

Beginning in 1934 a small group of faithful dedicated Christian soldiers ….. modern day apostles …. made their way one-by-one to the small city of Rock Hill, SC to establish the Catholic mission community known as the Rock Hill Oratory. They came armed with youthful enthusiasm …. with a strong love of God and His son, Jesus Christ ….. and with the knowledge that although they had no money, they would somehow build this giving, spiritual community in His honor. It would be a place of joy and faith and social justice. They would live in Rock Hill, work in and for the people of Rock Hill, and die in Rock Hill, all the while spreading their Christian message of faith and joy to all who would listen.

Now, 75 years later, most of those early Oratorians have passed into the house of our Father in Heaven ….. others are still here, holding the fort as younger Oratorians come forth, train, and prepare to lead in the coming decades. The numbers of young men entering into the priesthood or brotherhood are down considerably from what they were 75 years ago, but the Oratory waits with faith, as they always have . . .

via Friends of the Oratory | The Rock Hill Oratory.

Why is it called and “oratory”?  It has to do with its founder Saint Philip Neri …

Saint Philip Neri was born in Florence in 1515. From a very early age, he was attracted to virtue, and was awakened to the love of God through the Dominicans at San Marco, where the memory of Savonarola was still very much alive and the frescoes by the Blessed Fra Angelico still had their vibrant colours. In his late teens, he was sent by his family to live with an uncle in San Germano near the Benedictine Abbey of Monte Cassino, with the understanding that he would become heir to his uncle’s business and great wealth. But, through prayer, Philip soon discovered that earthly riches could never satisfy his heart. So he renounced the inheritance and left San Germano for Rome, where he arrived probably in 1533, at the age of eighteen.

St. Philip Neri

Once in Rome, Philip lived as a layman for nearly twenty years. He was given room and board in a family home in exchange for tutoring the children. This gave him much free time to learn about God and to speak familiarly about Him to people of all walks of life. For a time, Philip attended lectures in theology given by the Augustinians; but his deepest lessons about God came through prayer. It was while he was praying in the catacombs of St Sebastian on the feast of Pentecost in 1544, that the Holy Spirit descended into him as a ball of fire and lodged in his heart. From this time onwards, Philip always felt his heart to be dilated and filled with a great heat. (After his death, an autopsy revealed that his heart had in fact been enlarged and that two of his ribs were broken to make room for it.)

While still a layman, Philip encouraged the people of Rome to raise their minds and hearts to God. He was instrumental in popularizing the Forty Hours’ Devotion to the Blessed Sacrament. And he effectively organized works of charity such as the care of the sick, and lodging and feeding pilgrims who came to Rome. Because of his humility, Philip did not aspire to the priesthood, but in obedience he submitted to his confessor’s wishes and was ordained in 1551.

As a priest, Philip was able to win more souls for God through the confessional. He was also able to preach with more authority. Soon, the informal discourses on the Word of God, which took place in his room, developed into daily sermons in a small chapel which he had built for the purpose. This chapel, called an Oratory, would eventually lend its name to the community of priests who, under Philip, devoted themselves to this apostolate. By the time that this initiative received its first papal recognition in 1575, there were close to forty priests taking part in the afternoon exercises, which featured four talks, interspersed with music.

One of the remarkable things about Philip’s apostolate was the wide spectrum of people it attracted. Cardinals and other prelates, priests and religious, nobles and servants, musicians and artists, tradesmen, shopkeepers, soldiers, and people on the edge of respectable society – and sometimes beyond it – could all be found at the Oratory and among Philip’s penitents. Philip’s joyful character was irresistible and his talents for devising paths to holiness were legendary. To keep people away from the sinful excesses of various carnivals, he began a pilgrimage to seven of Rome’s most renowned churches. He took large numbers of people to the outskirts of Rome to enjoy a picnic in which religious truths were as much a part of the fare as good food and entertainment and Christian charity. And he counselled his penitents to put their faith into practice by visiting the sick in hospitals and helping the poor to find means to better their lot.

Saint Philip knew that humility was the indispensable requirement for sanctity. He counselled the mortification of the intellect rather than prolonged fasts and the wearing of hair shirts. Think little of being thought little of – despise being despised – was one of his oft-repeated sayings, as was the advice to love to be unknown – amare nesciri.

But Philip’s humility and total dedication of himself to God could not remain hidden for long. Stories abound of the Saint’s wisdom, insight, and holiness (and miraculous interventions) as he brought people from all walks of life closer to God. The second reading for the Mass in his honour shows the breadth of his imagination in his work for the Gospel: ‘Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honourable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things’ (Phil. 4:8).

Philip died on 26 May 1595, on the day after the feast of Corpus Christi, just two months shy of his eightieth birthday. During his lifetime, Philip had counted many canonized Saints among his friends – Saint Charles Borromeo, Saint Felix of Cantalice, Saint Ignatius of Loyola, Saint Camillus of Lellis, Saint John Leonard, to name just a few. So it is appropriate that he was canonized in 1622 on the same day as four other Saints – Saint Ignatius of Loyola, Saint Francis Xavier, Saint Teresa of Avila, and Saint Isidore the Farmer.

via St. Philip Neri | The Rock Hill Oratory.


Did I mention it was a great day for a labyrinth walk …

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