Barcelona, Spain, Apr 30, 2015 / 03:02 am
Though the renowned Catalan architect Antoni Gaudi died nearly 90 years ago and his best-known work remains under construction, the beauty of the Sagrada Familia basilica continues to draw people to Christ.
"Almost nothing leads us to the divine, but then people go there," said José Manuel Almuzara Pérez, reflecting on the awe inspired in those who visit the Sagrada Familia.
Almuzara told CNA April 18 that "Even the other day someone said to me: 'Jose Manuel, I'm an atheist, what is happening to me?'"
The atheist who spoke to him, Almuzara said, "was thrilled, and didn't know how to explain what he felt. He was moved, at 70 or 75 years old, looking up at this wonder of architecture which lifts you upward."
Almuzara heads the Association for the Beatification of Antoni Gaudi. Originally started as a small group of laymen with a tiny budget, the association decided to investigate the possibility in of Gaudi's sainthood in 1992; the cause for his canonization was officially opened in Rome in 2003.
Since opening of his cause, letters have poured in from all over the world attributing graces, favors, and miracles to Gaudí's intercession, Almuzara said, noting that the atheist he spoke with is not the only one who has experienced a feeling of awe after seeing the Sagrada Familia.
Perhaps the most impressive conversion he's seen worked through the beauty of the basilica is that of a Buddhist sent by the South Korean government in 1998 to study Gaudi's work in Barcelona, in preparation for an exhibition on the architect.
Given only one week to complete his work, the man wrote a letter to the association several months later revealing that he was converting to Catholicism.
This man, Almuzara said, "came to Barcelona a Buddhist, a practicing one, and returned to his country wanting to be Catholic.
"What happened in Barcelona?"
In his letter, the man said that after studying Gaudí's designs, particularly the Sagrada Familia, "he discovered the divine that is present in Gaudi's work; and seeing and admiring his work, he discovered the existence of God."
After returning to South Korea, the man sought formal lessons in catechesis to build upon his experience in Barcelona, and afterward entered the Church.
Gaudi was born in 1852 in Spain's autonomous community of Catalonia. He was a devout Catholic, which together with forms drawn from nature greatly influenced his architecture; he has received the nickname "God's architect" due to the emphasis he placed on religion in his works.
He began his work on the Sagrada Familia in 1883, and in 1914 stopped all other projects to work exclusively on the masterpiece, to which he dedicated himself until his death in 1926.
The church was consecrated by Benedict XVI in 2010, and named a basilica. Still under construction, it is expected to be completed by 2026, to coincide with the 100th anniversary of Gaudí's death.
Gaudí is still alive through his architecture, Almuzara said, who spoke of the artist's commitment to doing beautiful things in his work.
"This is Gaudí, great amongst the great, but humble … a simple man," he said, explaining that these qualities are what made him want to promote the architect's cause for beatification.
"Why can't this person be a teacher, a saint, who guides us, who makes us see? Not just architects, but artists in general, he can teach us in our daily life to adapt to the difficult circumstances."
The association have previously expressed their hope that Gaudí could be beatified in June 2016, following their presentation of a 1,200 page portfolio on the architect in Rome in 2011. Gaudi's cause was also supported by Cardinal Ricardo Carles Gordo, who was Archbishop of Barcelona from 1990 to 2004.
Although no miracles have yet been formally acknowledged by the Congregation for the Causes of Saints as having been worked through Gaudi's intercession, the portfolio included two possibilities.
One is the cure of a Spaniard from Canet de Mar who suffered from stomach ulcers, and the second is the case of a woman from the town of Reus who lost her sight but later regained it after praying through Gaudi's intercession.