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Architect Humble About His Unfinished Work

In 1882 the artist and architect Antoni Gaudi started work on his masterpiece, The El Templo de la Sagrada Familia (or The Church of the Holy Family), in Barcelona, Spain. For Gaudi La Sagrada Familia was the unfinished summation of his life's work. For several years he actually lived on the building site, breathing the dust, and drawing his ultimate inspiration from the organic symmetry of creation as well as the teachings of the church. As the building rose skyward from its foundations, Gaudi's fame also soared. Kings and queens came to see the building site, imagining what it would one day become.

But then, in old age, Gaudi was run over by a tram. Because of his ragged attire and empty pockets, taxi drivers refused to pick him up, thinking he was a tramp, and he was eventually taken to a pauper's hospital. Nobody recognized the great man until his friends eventually tracked him down the next day. They tried to move him into a nicer hospital, but Gaudi refused, reportedly saying, "I belong here among the poor." He died of his injuries two days later and was buried in the midst of his unfinished masterpiece.

Gaudi had begun planning La Sagrada Familia in the 1880s and was still working on it the day he died, some 40 years later. When Gaudí died in 1926, the basilica was between 15 and 25 percent complete. Other architects have since continued to apply and interpret his designs, but the towers and most of the church's structure are to be completed in 2026, the centennial of Gaudí's death; decorative elements should be complete by 2030 or 2032. Gaudi's vast project reminds us that we are all called to pour our lives into something bigger than ourselves. "My client," joked Gaudi on one occasion, "is not in a hurry."

Possible Preaching Angles: Life is not a short story and I am not the star. And so, like Gaudi the apparent tramp giving his life to the construction of an edifice that outshone and outlasted him, we too contribute what we can to the epic story of God, a tale with many characters, vast battle scenes, a million interweaving sub-plots and many perplexing twists and turns.

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