Barcelona: Gaudi, Failure, and Being the Light

My last post was not a very pleasant picture of Barcelona.  Stolen wallets, the darkness we felt, and a close call with terrorists isn’t likely to be linked to by the Barcelona tourism board any time soon. 🙁

So it might surprise you that if asked whether or not I would recommend a visit to Barcelona, I would most definitely say it is a worthwhile place to visit.

Honestly, the darker moments were really good moments for all of us.  They left us with the conviction that we must try our best to be the light in the world.

And let’s be honest — often our best is pretty darn lousy — but we can’t use that as an excuse to stop trying.  Those “failures” to be the light in our world: we just need to dust ourselves off and try again.

Darkness and Light:  Barcelona was full of both — and those people who were the light — they shone all the brighter because of the darkness.

I think about one waitress in particular who served our family at a small restaurant across from our hotel.  She gave all the little ones gifts and shouted with delight as our 4 year old gave her a kiss goodbye.

Her heart was full of love and kindness and she showered our weary little family with love until we felt entirely renewed.

Encountering her kindness gave us hope again.  It helped us to venture out and see the goodness in people again.  I won’t forget her anytime soon.

And that light was also experienced in places that were unexpected — interestingly, they were all places that were designed and built by one man: Antoni Gaudi.

Take Parc Guell for example:

One of the most popular attractions of Barcelona — a “failure” in it’s time.

Parc Guell was a seeming failure in Gaudi’s time.  It had been intended to be a park built for a high-end housing development.

Only a few houses were built. The endeavor was — by all accounts — a failure.  People just didn’t want to move that far outside of Barcelona.  Gaudi received much criticism for his failure.

If you visit it today, you see no evidence of failure there.  In fact, it’s quite the opposite of that.

It is beautiful, inspiring, magical and full of light.  It’s one of the most popular tourist attractions of Barcelona.  It’s a “must see” in my opinion.

An interesting view point everywhere you look.

It is also highly Catholic.  Gaudi placed crosses and symbols of his beloved faith around every corner.

The secular eye might not even notice it, but Gaudi Parc is like the “where’s waldo” of Catholic symbolism.  It would be a good game to keep kids engaged while there.

Each house was adorned with at least one cross

For Gaudi, nature was his greatest inspiration, and he firmly believed that nature pointed man back to his Creator.  Gaudi wanted to draw on the beauty of nature in his projects — in order to draw man back to God.

As an architect, Gaudi saw his role as a “collaborator” with God.  This idea of drawing man back to God through one’s work might be one of the reasons that Gaudi’s cause for canonization is being considered in the Catholic Church.

If you ask me, after spending time in the places he built — I don’t doubt that he is a saint.

He may never be an official canonized Saint, but the light we felt in the places he built have convinced me that he was sharing God’s light with the world in a way that was uniquely his own.

The highest point in Parc Guell holds a cross that can be seen from any direction you stand.

In a real way, he faced criticism, failure, doubts and derision for his work.  He chose to ignore the criticism and keep moving forward in response to a call he felt from God.

Parc Guell stands as a reminder to us all that what seems like a “failure” today — might be one of our greatest accomplishments in the future.

And sometimes, we build, we work, we practically kill ourselves — for something that won’t be achieved in our lifetimes.  That faith, that vision, that perseverance when you don’t see the end result — it can only come with a deep life of prayer.

Gaudi was a man of deep prayer.  He went to daily Mass.  He frequented the Sacraments often.

Gaudi never lived to see the success of his Parc. I’m sure he’d be happy to witness the joy it brings to others today.

His work reminds me of Mother Teresa’s famous quote, “God doesn’t call us to be successful, only faithful.”  Gaudi showed fidelity to the call he felt from God, and he used his time and talents  to respond to God’s call as fully as possible.

He didn’t just build a park. He filled it with beauty, symbolism, and creativity.  The creativity of Gaudi seems to tap into the creativity of God, in unexpected ways.

It is beautiful, thought-provoking, and even whimsical at times.

The famous lizard
No doubt the ocean’s waves inspired Gaudi
Gaudi recycled before it was cool.
Those round green circles were recycled wine bottles.
Only one person was immortalized in the park — the woman who did the wash –Gaudi always believed in the dignity of the worker.

For me, it was a welcome retreat from the darkness we had experienced along Las Ramblas and the Gothic Quarter.  I needed that retreat from that darkness. Gaudi’s work renewed our souls and brought light to our day.

As an aside, it’s also just a fun place for kids to run and play and be free to be kids.

Chasing birds
Running down perfumed paths of rosemary and lavender
Interacting with the art
His work just begged to be climbed on, interacted with — perfect for kids to blow off some steam.

Standing in that park, knowing that this beautiful spot was because of one man’s “yes” — well, actually two, if you remember that Guell was a wealthy patron who made this project possible — it reminded me of the power of knowing God’s call and responding generously to it.

It also reminded me that sometimes, we have an important part to play in bringing God’s light to others.

And just maybe, we’re laying down a foundation for a work that won’t come into fruition until after we have left this world.

Sometimes we lay the foundation that others will enjoy and benefit from, long after we’re gone.

Sure, it’s just a park, but for Barcelona and the people that visit it, it is a haven — a place to dream, to connect with God, to be reminded of what’s really important in life.

As I walked through this place, I was reminded that time is a gift. One day, it will be all used up  — and we’re going to need to make an account of it.  It’s a sobering reality, if you think about it.

Fortunately, we know that fidelity to God’s call — not success — is what is required of us.  

Gaudi’s life is a great reminder to us all to use the time we’ve been given to live out that fidelity to God’s call — despite the criticism, the naysayers, the seeming failure.

What a great reminder when we’re feeling weary.  Just think about it:  today’s “failure” just might be part of our greatest legacy.  We need only remain faithful to what we feel called to do and leave the “success” of our efforts to God.

God just needs us to say “yes” to His plans for our life — and then, just watch out, it’s gonna be an amazing adventure.

Imagine that.  We are collaborators with God in bringing light and love to a world that is starved for it.  

Each one of us has an important part to play, and it’s going to look different for you than it does for me.  Each call is unique.

And that’s why we need to pray, people, because there’s about a million good things we could be doing with our day — but only a small handful of things that He’s actually asking us to do with our day.

And we’re not going to know the difference between the two, unless we pray.

Yeah, none of us is perfect, but God’s not seeking perfect people to accomplish these lofty goals.  He is seeking out you and me to be a part of something beautiful in this world.

So let’s say “yes” to God’s plans, just for today.  And then let’s get up tomorrow, and let’s say “yes” again.

Now it’s time to go out and try our lousy best to reflect God’s light in the world!

Linking up with Kelly

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