>As the Papal Visit to Barcelona nears, the Archbishop of Tarragona is taking the somewhat unusual step of expressing publicly his hope that a local son will soon be beatified. This coming Sunday parishioners in the Archdiocese of Tarragona will be able to read a letter from Archbishop Jaume Pujol Balcells asking for the beatification of Antoni Gaudí i Cornet, the great Catalan architect of the Expiatory Temple of the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona, which Pope Benedict XVI will be dedicating and raising to the level of a Minor Basilica when he visits the Catalan capital next month. One of his most famous quotes, when he was asked why the construction of the church was taking so long, was his response that: “My client is not in a hurry.” This in part has earned him the nickname of “God’s architect.”
Gaudí was born in the Archdiocese of Tarragona in 1852, although he later moved to Barcelona and made his career there. Tarragona is considered by many historians to be the oldest diocese in Spain, as it was probably established during Apostolic times. The port of Tarragona – or Tarraco as it was then known – was the largest and wealthiest city in the Roman province of Hispania Citerior, and was well-liked by the Roman emperors. In fact, Augustus briefly made Tarragona the capital of the Roman Empire while he was wintering there in his campaign to conquer the rest of Hispania.
Apart from the commonly-held belief that the Apostle St. James preached throughout Hispania and is buried in Santiago de Compostela, an interesting “what if” in Church history is that St. Paul definitely planned to go to Spain and preach the Gospel there. In fact his arrest to be taken to Rome, and later his famous shipwreck at Malta, interrupted his trip to Spain; he writes in his Epistle to the Romans, Chapter 15 that he hopes to be able to resume his trip to Spain shortly. Both St. Clement, disciple of St. Peter and the 4th Pope, and later the great Doctor of the Church St. Jerome, among others, apparently had evidence that St. Paul did finally get to Tarraco, but what that evidence was has today been lost to us.
In any case, in his forthcoming letter entitled “Gaudí: God’s Architect”, Archbishop Pujol will point out how Gaudí himself always remained personally humble even while he was building grand structures, and that he lived his life as an exemplar of lay Christianity. Pujol expresses his hope that one day we will see altars honoring Gaudí among the other saints. The Archbishop also states that he is aware of many people who are already privately praying to Gaudí for his intercession.
While Gaudí’s cause is still pending in Rome, I suspect that efforts such as this, as well as the Pope’s experiences when he arrives at the Sagrada Familia on November 7th, may have an impact on the efforts of the Congregation for Causes of Saints. As the saying goes, the squeaky wheel gets the grease, and so if this particular wheel is squeaking louder than the rest within the next few weeks, it may be that the Congregation will feel a bit of pressure to redouble their efforts with respect to this particular candidate, as they go through the mountains of documents and testimony needed in considering candidates for sainthood. Whether or not “God’s Architect” is to be a canonized a saint, this is certainly a good time for the powers that be in Rome to focus intently on that question.