I stood there motionless, head arched upward trying to understand the Pillar of the Sacred Heart at the entrance of Stuart Country Day School of the Sacred Heart in Princeton NJ. I came in 1977 to be the fourth headmistress of the school following such extraordinary women as Sisters Joan Kirby, Mary Bush and Judy Garson. And at the age of 33, I needed all the spiritual strength I could find.
Stuart’s building was designed by Jean Labatut of Princeton University, renowned for his ability to integrate the spirituality of the Society and the Christian architectural humanism imbedded in the experience of Vatican II. Not allowing copies of Mater or statues of saints or Christ, he incorporated them into the very bricks and stone of the building.
His Statue of the Sacred Heart is a round pillar that holds up the concrete roof and the entire rotunda. As one approaches the school entrance, one’s eye is drawn to the pillar and feels embraced by the love of Christ. The morning sun and its moving shadows fall upon the face bringing life and warmth to the stone.
The face of Christ is a sculpture chiseled in the inverse by the workmen since Labatut insisted that it is the people of God who make up the face of God. The living water of the pierced side of Christ pours forth along flash lines of small white pebbles streaming down the length of the pillar. The same pebble motif is found inside and outside the school building. Rainwater rushes along the pebble lines symbolizing the love of the Heart of Christ poured forth for all.
Many a day, I stood or sat before the pillar praying that the children, faculty and alumnae would be held safe surrounded by the love of that Heart. Christ never let me down.
Joan Magnetti, RSCJ