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Monday, May 27, 2024
The Observer

Spires of hope

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Photo by Steven Van Elk on Unsplash


Every day when I leave my dorm in the morning, I am fortunate enough to look up and see the Basilica of the Sacred Heart. As the sun rises, I watch its spire adorned with a glittering golden cross, stretching up toward the Indiana sky. 

There’s something special about a church spire. It stands perched above all else in its vicinity, transcending the chaos below to reach for something higher.

In medieval times, the church spire was usually the highest point in the town. It watched over all, serving as a guide, a beacon and a home for the faithful. 

To some, the idea of a church spire might seem silly, as though we could reach heaven simply by building a little higher. Of course, it would be impossible to do so, and if it were, heaven would probably not be as incredible as we hope it is. 

What, then, is the purpose of a spire? Is it a superstitious practice? Is it an anachronism, a relic from a bygone era, just waiting to be replaced by something newer and more innocuous? 

I think not. Like nothing else, a church spire serves as a reminder to look up from the monotony of life to something higher. To take a break from all worldly pursuits to remind ourselves of what lasts forever and what eventually returns to dust.

A church spire cannot be ignored. 

The world around the spire may change. It may try to ignore the spire, to establish supremacy over it, but it will not succeed. 

A church spire cannot be forgotten.

In New York, the spires of St. Patrick’s Cathedral are now dwarfed by the high-rise buildings surrounding it. Saks Fifth Avenue and a plethora of other shops draw in pedestrians to spend more money and get the next new thing. Utilitarian office buildings hold the many thousands of lawyers and bankers, going about their business. The Rockefeller Center reaches for the sky, many stories above St. Patrick’s. 

At the base of the Rockefeller Center, directly across the street from the Cathedral, lies a statue of the mythical figure Atlas. The statue depicts Atlas holding the world upon his shoulders, crippling under the immense weight. This is what the world around St. Patrick’s would have us do — take all our burdens upon ourselves, alone, without help, without comfort. “You can do it all yourself,” the statue seemingly says. In reality, of course, we can’t.

The spire reminds us of all of this. It stands strong amidst the chaos. It does not change. It does not waver. It responds with abounding love. “Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest.” 

At Notre Dame, the spire of the Basilica still stands above all other buildings. Elsewhere this is not always the case. But no matter where we go or where we may find ourselves, chances are there will be a church spire somewhere. It may be hidden amidst all the noise and distractions, but it will be there. All it takes is for us to shift our gaze upwards and look for it.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.