Thoughts from Dr. Joe: Reflecting on Flintridge Sacred Heart's history

We’re all stories, when all is said and done. The past becomes our mythology with hidden metaphors tucked in the crevasses of our life. The metaphors become our poetry and in time, poetry becomes legend. Legendary truth, however, is different than historical truth. Legends change us, as they are the historical notes of those who left a treasure.

Last week I sat on the hill at Flintridge Sacred Heart High School contemplating the age-old legend of three Dominican Sisters who, in 1931, walked humbly up the slope to take possession of their new school. They carried a statue of the Blessed Mother and a $5 bill. I can see the sisters struggling as they carry the statue upward in the August heat. I see them carrying something else: a vision to build a school. Eighty-two years later, Flintridge Sacred Heart rests peacefully on the hill educating young women under the banner of “VERITAS,” truth.

“Peace, Peace! When there is no peace,” said the prophet Jeremiah. His words depict the current reality of Sacred Heart. A coalition calling themselves Protect La Cañada Flintridge continues to demonize the hill, attempting to stop FSHA’s improvement plans. FSHA has left no stone unturned to assure and maintain the quality of life and aesthetics of the community. Their efforts have conformed to the scrutiny of the commissions that adjudicate development. Their plan improves parking, builds an arts and humanities space, and renovates high school classrooms. Their goal is to create a school for young women of the 21st century.

Under the guise of “protecting” La Cañada, the coalition’s newspaper ads destroy any vestige of credibility they may have. They must think we’re a bunch of babbling idiots whereby they can print conjecture, assumptions and hyperbole and pass it off as truth.

“You can’t argue with irrationality,” my philosophy professor, Sister Audrey, told us.

“Clear and present danger” was a doctrine adopted by the Supreme Court to determine under what circumstances limits can be placed on the first amendment freedoms of speech, press, or assembly. The purpose of government is to protect the citizenry. Such protection extends to ludicrous suppositions that hide under the cloak of “freedom of speech” and thereby deter the progression of life. Government becomes an enabler by allowing the irrationality of fringe groups to hijack the provisos of freedom.

I continued to meander through the grounds of Sacred Heart. The dance pavilion is my favorite. I’m a metaphysical soul; subsequently I feel the pavilion’s linage of time. I hear the music and see the dancers of a bygone era. Novelist E.M. Forrester reminds us, “Only Connect!” Connection is foundational to life. Sacred Heart is a magical place; some buildings aren’t just buildings. They’re living and breathing entities that have been the stewards of the life that evolved through FSHA for 82 years. I feel the connection of the hill.

Sacred Heart is a treasure. We have a stake in her welfare and should come to her defense. Activist Eldridge Cleaver said, “If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem.” In life we get what we deserve by not defending righteousness, because the protectors will eventually come for us. In the end what has transpired on the hill will be just a story. This story will end well for Sacred Heart because it’s righteous.

Prior to leaving campus, I met Martha Lem, director of boarding students. She took me through the residence. Martha recanted her sadness as each year she loses her seniors to the greater world. She expressed, “After the seniors leave, I lock their rooms and I still hear the laughter and life that was once part of Sacred Heart.”

She paused, then said, “I then pray them off the hill.”


JOE PUGLIA is a practicing counselor, a retired professor of education and a former officer in the Marines. Reach him at Visit his website at

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