Europe

A Bird's Eye Perspective

May 14, 2007

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JOHAN VAN PARYS

Belfry in BrugesOne of the most fantastic things to do during a European trip is to climb the bell towers of cathedrals. Not only can you look down on the plaza and rejoice in the colorful hustle and bustle of people, but from on high you can enjoy the beautiful distant vista. Scanning over the red tiled roofs of the homes set up as building blocks of the horizon, you can see farmers working the fertile fields surrounding the town, attempt to identify ships on the neighboring lakes, and guess the names of mountains in the distance. Yet, above all you can let yourself be inspired by the towers which dot the landscape in between. There are water towers, church steeples, bell towers, watch towers, towers of belfries and city halls, palaces and fortresses.

These towers are intended for many reason: water towers allow the flow of water in the city; bell towers house the bells which keep time and announce religious and civic events; towers of belfries and city halls declare the city’s freedom and speak of its wealth; church steeples are raised to the glory of God and those who financed them; watch towers allow to spot friendly visitors and enemies alike.

St. Savior Cathedral BrugesAll these towers are carefully planned and are a testament to the intelligence and industriousness of the people who built them. However, there are some towers that either were not finished or have not withstood the time because they were poorly constructed. Sometimes that makes them perfect for photographs and more memorable than the completed ones. Just think of the ruins in Ireland or the leaning tower of Pisa. Yet, despite their loveliness, these towers are failures as the goal is to build beautiful, sturdy towers that last for centuries.

I believe this holds true for our faith, too. Jesus calls us to have a faith that has solid foundations; that is strongly and intelligently constructed; that is going to weather the inevitable storms of unbelief and temptation.

Belfry Tielt BelgiumA tower allows for many things, such as providing necessary water, defending against the enemy, and announcing both good and bad news. Likewise, our faith provides us with constant nourishment during our earthly journey. This nourishment is not only important but necessary. Also, our faith, when strong and secure gives us the strength to face the darkness and to turn away from sin. Finally, our faith is our inspiration in times of need and it is our impetus for celebration in times of plenty.

As I admired these towers, I could not help but think that they took much time to build. They required careful planning and they need to be maintained and sometimes re-enforced or restored. Faith also develops over the course of a lifetime. It is not built in a matter of days; it takes planning, diligence and persistence. Maintaining faith requires constant vigilance and strengthening when it grows weak.

Thankfully, as a tower is not the result of the work of one individual, similarly, my faith is supported by the Christian community. I know that as a Christian, I am not alone.  I have my brothers and sisters in Christ, and we share in the responsibility of growing in faith.

Gargoyle Notre Dame Paris FranceI believe faith is the most precious and important task and tool we have in life.  It is good that we spend time developing and nourishing it.  It is necessary that we rid ourselves of everything that will distract us from it.  It is important that we ask for assistance and guidance when we need it. Only then will the tower of our faith proudly dot the spiritual landscape of our life.

Johan van Parys lives and works in Minneapolis, MN.

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