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A Christmas Interfaith Stroll In City Park!
By Keith John Paul Horcasitas   


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Taking an interfaith walk at a local labyrinth to enrich the Holy Day Season.

Photo: Medieval labyrinth at Chartres Cathedral, France

As I went to take a promenade at the Baton Rouge City Park one bright sunny winter morning in December, I reflected back on the past and pondered some things for the upcoming new year. It was a great way to get some healthy activity done and enrich more than just the physical mode to include emotional and spiritual exercises as well.

While I was on my own for this adventure, taking a dog out for a daily walk is also such a joy - to be out in the neighborhood or park, visiting with neighbors and others, and even providing a type of neighborhood or community watch. After a hard day's work with all the stresses that may come, it is helpful and healthy to take such walks with our canines that can even be seen as a form of prayer.

So since I don't use an iPod, Walkman or other electronic device on my walks, I tried to use this semi-retreat time on the beautiful grounds by the Baton Rouge Gallery for a better appreciation of “the sound of silence,” like the ole Simon & Garfunkel song noted. While I certainly am an affection ado of many types of music when driving or in other venues, these outdoor times are more attuned to the sounds of chirping of birds or chattering squirrels.

So as I proceeded on this stroll, I soon took some abrupt turns along the way and almost bumped into some others who also enjoyed these types of excursions. Some folks I recognized while others were from varied and diverse backgrounds but all were very friendly – even if we did not exchange words.

At that point on my City Park outing, I was reminded sort of when I am on my annual silent retreat at Manresa. After the silence has begun at those yearly gatherings, all retreat participants will occasionally pass one another from time to time without verbalizing and/or making any eye contact or gestures yet still convey a very respectful and loving “space grace.”

As I continued along the way, I decided to silently pray the rosary while I gingerly moved on with the beads in my hands giving me a sense of balance and stability as well as facilitating it to be a form of walking contemplation. Since I had never been to that part of City Park before, it was like walking into foreign territory, so I almost got lost and off track at times.

At some point, I stopped walking and quietly joined others at a rounded area in prayerful meditation. We all used varied and individual forms to express this. For me, this entailed kneeling down in homage to the humble and simple outdoor stone-like environment. Next, I sensed that I actually was lost and maybe had “passed this way before,” almost like I was unintentionally heading back to where I had initially begun.

Despite all of the above, I then experienced a general sense of peace and serenity as I exited the Baton Rouge Labyrinth and began to notice others doing the same and externally expressing their own form of this harmony from their own faith walk with the Lord. These were all somehow not distractions to what had been an overall emphasis on unity for all of us.

This walking experience noted above actually occurred on May 31, 2008 when many representatives of other faith communities came together at City Park's Reopening Interfaith Gathering held at the Labyrinth, including Rabbi Barry Weinstein of the Temple Shalom in Lafayette, Cleric Emad Nofal of the Islamic Center of Baton Rouge and members from many other Christian denominations, Muslim, Hindu, Zen Buddhist and other traditions.

I couldn't help but recount this event now as I am preparing to promoting more “peace on earth and good will to all” men and women in this Holy Day Season. Godspeed to all! Merry Christmas!

Parts of this were noted in an Advocate "Letter to the Editor," 12/23/2011:
http://theadvocate.com/news/opinion/1633346-123/letter-a-meditative-stroll-in.html  


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