To Build a Cathedral

Lauren Lola

In this day and age, there are college students who tend to lose focus as to why they are attending classes in the first place, as far as fulfilling their goals and ambitions. They tend to stray off the path and question exactly what they are working for. There are also those who are impatient when it comes to their education. As a freshman, I have General Education classes with other freshmen pursuing various majors and sometimes, I hear them ask, “Why do I have to take this class?” or “How much longer before I can start on my major?” These observations make me think back to a story my dad told me the night before I started college; a story about my Great Aunt Justita.

In the early 1950’s, she was studying at a university in Barcelona, Spain. Every day when she walked to school, she would always pass by a construction site. One day, she asked one of the workers, “What are you doing?” He replied back, “I’m laying bricks.” The next day, she asked the same question of another worker and his answer was, “I’m building a wall.” The next day, she asked the same thing of yet another worker and he said, “I’m building my cathedral.” (The cathedral the third worker was referring to is the present-day Sagrada Familia Cathedral, shown in the photo below.)


It was symbolism at its finest! All three workers were describing the same task. The only differences were their perspectives on it. It was the third worker who kept the big picture in mind; he was building his cathedral (continuing the work of his grandfather and father) and he was doing it right then and there!

Justita later went on to tell that story to my dad before he started college and whenever she would write to him, she always ended each letter with this question: Are you laying bricks, building a wall, or building a cathedral? My dad would always respond by saying that he was building a cathedral.

There is no “right or wrong” answer. Anybody can say that they are “laying bricks” or “building a wall” and mean it. However, it’s all about maintaining the big picture, the “cathedral,” that today’s college students need to work on.

So what defines the “bricks”? What defines the “stepping stone beginnings” to building the foundation of your goal? In this case, that could be anywhere from GE courses to the various prerequisite classes that are needed for one’s major. Declaring a major can even be considered as “laying the bricks.” For someone who lives on campus or is very involved in extra-curricular activities, it could even run a little deeper than that, such as adjusting to a new setting, making connections with other people, and maybe even managing money. It depends on one’s circumstance as to what their “bricks” will be, but regardless, “laying bricks” is the necessary foundation to building towards a goal.

Once the “bricks” have been cemented in, now a person can focus on “building the walls.” So how can that task be defined? It could be taking on classes for one’s major and completing both the lower and upper division courses. Creating networks with other people could fall under this category too. It’s a pretty flexible method when one “builds a wall” because it is as individual as each student, but structured to be strong enough to hold up the “cathedral.”

Despite it all, no matter how the “bricks” are laid or how the “walls” are built, the outcome and primary focus should be “building a cathedral;” working towards fulfilling your ultimate goal. In which case, that could result in not only graduating college with a degree in your hands but also leaving with knowledge gained in several subjects and various philosophies. It’s one thing knowing all aspects of the subject that you majored in. However, having an acquired knowledge in a wide variety of subjects is what’s going to help a person succeed in the world; that along with having an open mind for learning more knowledge. It’s this mindset that can really help motivate college students to fulfill our goals. If anything it could serve as inspiration in fulfilling a degree.

Justita was one of those people who “built many cathedrals” and helped countless others “build cathedrals.” Not only did she obtain degrees in several subjects but she also acquired two PhDs in Physics and Philosophy. She was a very wise and intelligent woman and it’s because she pushed herself into several fields of study that she was knowledgeable about life. She was a college professor as well who taught for over 40 years.

“Laying bricks” and “building walls” are all very essential tasks. Whether or not you look beyond to see the big picture, “the building of the cathedral,” what you’re working towards- your goal- is up to you.

With that being said, I ask you this: Are you laying bricks, building a wall, or building a cathedral?