ezekiel

Rewrite Those Epitaphs

Courtesy Odyssey Networks
Rewrite Those Epitaphs. Courtesy Odyssey Networks

Sunday, April 6 is National Epitaph Day.

Reading through a list of bizarre and unique holidays is fascinating for any month. Looking at this list during Lent can provide new perspective. We know “April Fools Day” unfolds as March gives way to April. But the first week of April provides ample opportunity for celebrating events such as National Peanut Butter and Jelly Day, Don’t Go to Work Unless its Fun Day, Go For Broke Day, National Sorry Charlie Day, No Housework Day, and Draw a Picture of a Bird Day. Which of these holidays do you want to celebrate?

National Epitaph Day stands out amid the myriad of options in its simultaneous opportunity for solemn reflection and humor that defies the grave. Epitaphs provide an opportunity to have the last word, to exert one last bit of control, to imagine the poetics of our lives summed up in just a few words of prose. One calendar of observances provides this invitation: “[National Epitaph Day] day is a chance for control freaks everywhere to plan out what their gravestone is going to say.”

House of Prayer and Dreams

A rendering of the reconstructed cathedral.

WE WERE LOOKING at cathedrals while others were mourning and burying their dead.

It was the first day of the international design competition that would help choose a few architectural plans that might be used to rebuild Notre Dame de l'Assomption, Our Lady of the Assumption, Port-au-Prince's most famous cathedral. This cathedral was so central to the city that, before it was leveled in the Jan. 12, 2010, earthquake, its turrets could be seen from most places in Port-au-Prince, as well as from the sea, where mariners used a light on the cupola of the church's north tower to help bring their ships home.

During the 2010 earthquake, the Catholic archbishop of Port-au-Prince, Monsignor Joseph Serge Miot, was killed inside an administrative building adjoining the cathedral, along with priests and parishioners. It was the images of their crushed bodies and their loved ones wailing around the perimeters of the cathedral's rubble that motivated me, a non-architect and non-Catholic—but a lover of cathedrals—to agree to join a development strategist, a preservationist architect, a structural engineer, a priest and liturgical consultant, the dean and associate dean of two architectural schools, and the editor of a magazine that discusses the dual issues of faith and architecture to help select three out of the 134 moving, elegant, and in some cases totally out-there designs that we had received from architects all over the world. Among the panelists, three of us were Haitian born, and many of the others had either worked in Haiti or in the Catholic Church for years.

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Why Exclude Women from Ministry?

Lean and lanky, the 30-something teacher probed the congregation with a practiced eye as he wound down his presentation. Ezekiel, or "Zeke" (pseudonym), teaches at a secondary school in another country. Backed up by a carefully constructed PowerPoint presentation, Ezekiel shared his passion for sensitively pouring truth and grace into the lives of his students, particularly the girls. His blue eyes blazed as he asked if a woman in the Community Christian Church (not its real name) congregation would be willing to come forward and pray for the women of his host country.

No one moved.

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