Last Friday morning, I was meeting with a Board Committee member (and parent of an alum) when the faintest hint of an alarm was heard. Tweaking my ears to hear exactly what it was (recognizing that I am still trying to attune myself to the sound of a tornado siren) I recognized it immediately; within a few seconds the sound was growing closer and stronger. It became clearer to me. I was hearing a whistle being sounded, and then kazoos, and then just plain old noise makers joined in this joyful chorus of disruption. This was the announcement of Congé!
To say my meeting ended would be an overstatement, but immediately my guest excused herself to reach for the phone in her bag and texted her family, sharing the announcement of Congé 2018 at the Academy of the Sacred Heart. The impulse to share this message was powerful and positive. I gladly agreed and smiled at the thought of this text reaching our alums and welcoming the happy memories such a message would elicit.
Congé, which translated from the French means to ‘take leave’ or ‘farewell,’ offers a day for students to take leave of the rigors of their studies and their seriousness of purpose to bring forth and experience joy. Congé is a much beloved Sacred Heart tradition, dating back to the early days of the Society in France and a day when the Religious would plan a day of fun for their boarding students. The tradition continues across the Sacred Heart schools, and while how Congé is started and how it is observed differs from school to school, one truth remains–it is firmly rooted in the hearts and minds of all children of the Sacred Heart no matter their age or where they find themselves across the globe.
Now, here is the question for all of us grown-ups: how do we celebrate Congé? Do we allow ourselves moments of pure joy, of leave taking from our daily and dutiful seriousness of purpose? By now you know I am a fan of the writings of Janet Erskine Stuart, RSCJ and so I offer a few of her thoughts.
The quality of our joy depends on the spring from which it is drawn. Where do we seek our joy?
The sources of our joy are deeper than the sources of sorrow. The joy follows the sorrow…as the flower breaks from the thorny branch, not the thorny branch from the flower.
To be a joy-bearer and joy-giver says everything; it means that one is faithfully living for God and that nothing else counts, and if one gives joy to others we are doing God’s work. With joy without and within, all is well. I can conceive no higher way. Joy is the most heavenly atmosphere found on earth–we ought to cultivate it as a duty always.
May each of us find anew our capacity for joy. May we be joy-bearers to our family, our friends and colleagues. May our hearts soar like those of the Academy students when our own Congé whistle is sounded…be it the warmth of a greeting received upon our return home, the sound of a song that takes us back to a special moment in time, or even in the sound of a tea kettle as we anticipate a quiet moment with a friend. Draw deep from these moments, for these help us to share and know the love of God.
Happy Congé to one and all,
February 8, 2018