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The Surprise Pilgrimage

Posted: July 23, 2015

Last week I had an amazing opportunity to spend a week on holiday with my daughter touring Barcelona and Nice. We saw some incredible churches and art museums. What started out as a, “Girls trip,” became a pilgrimage of sorts. We found ourselves drawn into the beautiful old Catholic Churches of Nice and Barcelona dazzled by the architecture and art that filled the spaces. My daughter remarked that we were on a, “Catholic Pilgrimage”…

Visiting churches in these old cities was inspiring. I think beyond the stunning physical beauty, I could sense the aspiration of people seeking God. It is hard to express the feeling I had when I entered the Sagrada Familia. The church continues to be a, “work in progress”… It is a church of an epic scale under construction when funds are available. It was designed by Gaudi to be a church of the people funded by donations. My daughter said it is one of the most visited churches in the world. It’s not a surprise.

The Sagrad Familia is breathtaking in scope, scale and architectural detail built by a simple man whose life was devoted to serving God. He designed the church with cutting edge ideas, drawings and details. Modern architects are mystified that he drew the plans for this church by hand. They are using 3-D Technology and computer models to try to figure out the details. 
The church stands out from all of the other buildings in Barcelona and can be seen from its highest points. Sun streams through the stain glass windows creating a brilliant rainbow of bright red, green, yellow and blue. Gaudi created an interior forest with gigantic pillars of stone that reach to the interior sky. The exterior and interior tell Biblical stories and illustrate the birth, death and resurrection of Christ.

One is moved by his desire to show the spaciousness of God’s creation. Gaudi aspired to capture truth, beauty and the divine. He spoke of, “living water” and God being, “the light of the world”… This builder spent his life on the crucial questions of faith, “Who are we?” “What are we called to do?” He believed the answer to those questions was held in the Lord’s Prayer.
Gaudi started each day with prayer and Mass. He walked to work and wore a simple black hat and coat. His days were devoted to his building projects. The last years of his life were spent at the Sagrada Familia. Sadly he was struck by a car one night on his way home from work. He was thought to be an indigent and died in a hospital for the poor. Later it was discovered that he was a man of greatness.

Perhaps his death was a true reflection of his life. He did not seek personal glory or fame. Although he is credited with starting the Renaissance in Barcelona, his desire was to build a church of the people. Perhaps his greatest legacy is leaving a church that inspires people from all faith traditions around the world a space to seek out and to contemplate God.

I didn’t anticipate that a holiday would be so energizing for my faith. What these beautiful churches and cathedrals remind me of is the universal pilgrimage that we are all on… seeking ways to find God and meaning in our lives. Our trip was amazing. It was filled with so many unexpected surprises!                                                                                     -- Maura Schnorbach