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  • Gaudí the Christian, as seen by one of the people who knew him best

    The year that recently ended has seen the formalization of the beatification process of Antoni Gaudí

    BARCELONA. (La Vanguardia.) - In order to truly understand how Antoni Gaudí lived the Christian life and the Catholic faith, it is necessary to listen to what his contemporaries have left us. We have chosen for our readers the testimony of Mosén Gil Parés, who was the custodian chaplain of the Templo de la Sagrada Familia from 1907 to 1930. The educator Alexandre Galí made a curious praise of him for the labor he performed in the schools constructed by Gaudí inside the temple grounds.

    The text which follows is an extract of the article published in the magazine "El Propagador" (June, 1927), under the title "Gaudí, cristiano" (Gaudí: Christian). Mosén Parés pronounced various conferences during those years.

    "I have had the luck of spending more than 20 years with Gaudí. First, while he lived in Güell Park; then, when his family had died and he only went home at night, there was not a day in which I did not speak with the brilliant architect. Lastly, in these last eight months, he moved to live in the temple, and my cohabitation with don Antonio was constant. Thus, for twenty-some years the heavens have allowed me to enjoy the company of don Antonio, a constant model of virtue, of total sacrifice, with the shining lights which, to our eyes, seem to surround Gaudí with the aura of holiness. Don Antonio was a man with a living faith; his hope in God had no limits; at the same time he was all heart-in other words, a burning ember of charity. How natural it was, therefore, for him to interpret these three virtues, foundations of all the rest, on the three facades of the temple of his love!

    "Let us remember some of his words to a priest, who was intimate with him, on the very eve of the day he was run over. 'I am,' he told him, 'a battler by temperament. I have always fought and I have always got what I wanted, except in one thing: in the fight with my temper. I have not been able to defeat it.' More than once in my happy cohabitation with Gaudí, I had been witness to this struggle. On one occasion he told me, after speaking a bit harshly to the people he had at his side: 'So-and-so has left angry. But what can I do, poor me, if God has given me the grace to see things with absolute clarity at the moment, and to others no? This is the cause of a certain hesitation to do what I say; with my temperament I have to say things without beating around the bush, just as they are, and of course, people are annoyed . . .'

    "The quality of this struggle was the austerity towards himself which he had achieved, especially in the last third of his life. It was no longer the life of a career man, as it had been before, but extremely austere in dress and meals, as well as in rest. He reduced all things to what was indispensable for his individual survival: he did not live to eat and rest, but rather he ate and rested as necessary not to die.

    "He heard the holy mass and received Holy Communion daily, and also visited the Host everyday. He never missed the grandiose collective religious celebrations of the city or the temple, and the rest of the hours of the day he spent between prayer and work.

    "From this life of faith sprang an extremely firm hope in God, which gave him an absolute spiritual tranquility in moments of tribulation. 'What can we do,' he said frequently in times of adversity. 'God wants it. Let us not forget that there is a Providence which watches over us.'

    "If anybody asked him how he could continue through all the years that the temple required for its construction, he would immediately answer: 'Don't hurry-St. Joseph is a saint with many resources.' A product of his faith was the extremely fervent veneration which he felt for the Vicar of Jesus Christ on earth. I was preparing to travel to Rome . . . and don Antonio trusted to me a significant donation from his not abundant personal money: two thousand pesetas. But he demanded of me, as a condition, that it not be recognized as a separate donation, but as the Josephine Association's mite. 'Since I cannot go,' he said, as if excusing the gesture, 'I will give the Holy Father approximately what I would have spent on the trip.' And he only made one special request: that I ask the Pope for a special blessing.

    "He was a devotee of the Holy Family, especially of St. Joseph. During the winter of 1914-1915, when he visited different people everyday, along with our treasurer, to seek charitable donations to prevent stoppage of the construction of the temple, he usually said, with so much grace, 'I am 64 years old: I have spent exactly half of these years in the temple . . . and now I am the doorman.'

    Published in "La Vanguardia" newspaper. Barcelona, December 27 1998.

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