Diocesan News

Sacred Heart Church in Beaver Crossing: The Theology Behind the Design

Editor’s note:  Sacred Heart Church in Beaver Crossing recently finished a complete interior renovation of their existing church. It was rededicated by Bishop Fabian Bruskewitz Nov. 4.  The architectural design work was done by Father Jamie Hottovy and the renovation carried out by Jean and Char Kriz.

By Father Jamie Hottovy 

BEAVER CROSSING (SNR) - To enter into a church is to enter into "The House of God, the Gate of Heaven" (Genesis 28:17). Since a church is the place where Christ is truly present in the tabernacle, it should be a place of beauty and drama. It is the meeting place of heaven and earth, where, at every Mass, heaven breaks down into earth and earth is taken up into heaven. It is a sacramental building which makes present to us the realities of heaven and earth at the end of time. A church, then, should be designed in such a way as to help us enter into these mysteries of our faith.

The parish in Beaver Crossing is under the patronage of the Sacred Heart of Jesus - this was the guiding principle in the new design of the church. The overall plan was inspired by the early Renaissance with the addition of Doric pilasters, rounded arches, the entablature, and ornamented ceiling. This style is distinguished by order, balance, and symmetry - all of which inherently convey attributes of heaven (Revelation 21:15-21).

The original cement block walls were covered and painted candlelight beige. New, highly-detailed Stations of the Cross were obtained to complement the early Renaissance style with classical ornamentation, and are filled with a multitude of figures depicting the Passion of Christ. The aged stone tile throughout the nave conveys the timelessness of our faith.

The four gold inscriptions that embellish the nave relate the revelation of the Sacred Heart and other references central to this devotion to Christ’s Heart. In 1675, Our Lord appeared to St. Margaret Mary Alacoque in Parlay-le-Monial, France and said: "Behold this Heart which has loved us so much." This inscription is found in the sanctuary. "O Jesus, meek and humble of heart, make our hearts like unto thine," taken from the Litany of the Sacred Heart is on the eastern portion of the entablature. "O Sacred Heart of Jesus, I place my trust in Thee," from a prayer to the Sacred Heart is on the western section. And as one leaves the church, they view the passage from the Gospel of John 13:34: "Love one another as I have loved you." We are given the evangelical challenge by Christ that as we experienced the immense love of Him in the Mass, we are now to show that same love to others as we go out into the world.

The addition of bronze medallions framed by square panels on the ceiling symbolize the jeweled city walls of the heavenly Jerusalem (Revelation 20:10-21). The stylized flame motif within each medallion evokes the flame of love of the Sacred Heart, while the beads, scrolls, and leaves point to the ritual festivity that takes place in this House of God. The new pendant lighting alludes to the radiance of heaven.

The reflective onyx marble tile in the sanctuary evokes the gold, glass-like streets of the New Jerusalem (Revelation 21:21). New custom altars, ambo, communion rail, and side shrines were made for the sanctuary. The sacred furnishings are gilded with 24-karat gold and are topped with sandstone granite with abesque graining. The gold highlights and rich stone convey the heavenly qualities of radiance and beauty.

On the frontal of the altar of sacrifice is a three-dimensional, hand-carved detail of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary with rays of grace and glory emanating from the two hearts. The hearts are framed with an entwined crown of thorns and cross to recall the suffering both Jesus and Mary endured for each of us. The deep red behind the crown of thorns evokes the redemptive blood of Christ shed out of love for us and His Precious Blood in the Eucharist. Below the altar mensa are the relics of St. Bartholomew, Apostle and Martyr, St. Clare of Assisi, foundress of the Poor Clares and St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, the first native-born American saint and patron of Catholic education.

Statues within the church include: the restored Sacred Heart of Jesus in the traditional stance of Him revealing His Sacred Heart to St. Margaret Mary and to us; the unique Mary holding the Christ Child revealing His Sacred Heart as a young child in the posture of His crucifixion, with the devil represented by the snake being crushed at Mary’s feet; a newly acquired De Prado statue of St. Joseph holding a lily that signifies his purity (St. Joseph had an essential role in forming the Sacred Heart of Jesus in childhood before He began His public ministry); another newly procured De Prado statue of St. Therese of Lisieux, otherwise known as the Little Flower (St. Therese reveals to us the heart of Christ through her Little Way of doing small things with great love).

The parish obtained a plaster corpus of Christ that was refurbished and mounted onto an original, hand-fashioned, wood cross. It is placed in a new high rounded arch that accentuates the height of the church.

The tabernacle is understood as the Christian fulfillment of the Ark of the Covenant, the place of God’s presence, which was attended by two angels. The addition of two new angels in adoration surround the tabernacle for the same reason. A new domed tabernacle is topped by a sculpted flame that symbolizes the burning love of the Sacred Heart. The door of the tabernacle has an image of two pelicans. The pelican has traditionally been a symbol of Christ because the bird is known to pierce its own flesh to feed its young as Christ allowed His flesh to be pierced to feed us with His own Body and Blood. The pelican’s blood flows to the ground to represent the Blood of Christ that flowed to redeem the whole world. The central cross covered with foliage and flowers recalls the New Eden as well as the Tree of Life. The rays of light emanating from the cross convey the glory that we are called to share in - the glory of the New Jerusalem, heaven.

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