Barcelona: a land of endless romance. There are couples in streets holding hands and displaying affection at every corner. There are people from every corner of the world walking the same sidewalks, people of different beliefs enjoying the city simultaneously and everyone doing so peacefully. Here, reality may seem romantic in two ways, both by a preoccupation with passion AND by an idealization of the world. This sort of peace seems so effortless and natural. Would it be odd to believe that it could be translated to other places around the globe?

Taking a little step outside of Barcelona into the mountain range Montserrat, our group began the journey up to the monastery that is located near the top of a mountain. The midday heat baked the wild rosemary bushes filling the air with a gentle aroma as we stumbled along dusty paths toward the summit.

After a long trek we entered the monastery. Huge vaulted ceilings towering over the dark golden walls welcomed hundreds of people. A few of us managed to push our way through the bustling and stifling crowd to hear the famous boy’s choir sing. Even with the elderly women aggressively pushing past me at the back of the church, listening to the lovely voices of the young boys near the alter was a magical experience.

Within a few short minutes of the performance ending, the church decongested. Having several minutes before our group’s meeting time I explored the chapels within the church. Some were magnificent with fine gold lining every niche, others displayed dramatic Crucifixion paintings, however, the one that caught my attention merely had a delicate imprint of Jesus’s figure on the wall of a plain room.

Places of worship that were elaborate with art have always had the power overwhelm me with chaotic feelings. The simplicity of the space gave me the room to breathe and drew me in like a magnet. I am a practicing Catholic so I took a few minutes to pray and reflect within the chapel. During those moments I was thankful that I was easily able to spiritually engage with Him, something that often takes a lot of effort. Around me my classmates explored the chapels for their architectural beauty and ambiance.

The plaza in front of the church entrance. All types of people congregated here.

And here I was posed to a romantic reality. Friends that do not share my beliefs, people that have no interest in faith, people that do share my faith all in the same environment which is religious at its core. For many people across the globe this kind of tolerance is unthinkable. Open any news provider and there will be a daily dose of stories on hate violence, for example Christian vs. Muslim, black vs. white, male vs. female, just to name a few. Wow, and here I prayed, authentically reaching out to someone I whole-heartedly believe is my Savior while others with other views respected everything I had but did their own thing. That is powerful. This SEEMS romantic.

But is it really? Why is it romantic to think that someone’s life could be safe from judgment, criticism, and violence? Why is it whimsical to believe that nations would save themselves from financial strain and the bloody horrors caused by war? Why is it irrational to suppose holding back hateful thoughts, words, and actions would create safer environments for our children to strive in?

Barcelona promotes a view of the world that is romantic but the reality is that living in peace and acceptance with others is not. It is only sensible. Mitt Romney says it is in our mutual views that we can come together.

“People of different faiths, like yours and mine, sometimes wonder where we can meet in common purpose, when there are so many differences in creed and theology. Surely the answer is that we can meet in service, in shared moral convictions about our nation stemming from a common worldview.”

View of the Montserrat monastery