Be Glad to be Sad! | Clongowes Wood College

Posted: 13th May 2020

Union Day

Last Friday, the well-leaked news that this year’s Leaving Cert. was to be cancelled made it a unique day in the annals of the DES – and in the life of Rhetoric’20.

Amid all the media frenzy and the rumours – a final (?!) and definitive (?!) Plan C brought to an end the agony of uncertainty.  One can be sure that there were many school books thrown up in the air and cheers heard in many families across the country – while in others there was disappointment and continuing confusion.

Sometimes, when welcoming newly-arrived Elements to CWC – I find myself looking at a very sad and tearfully homesick Little One. My heart goes out to him – having experienced the very same awful sea-sick feeling myself – when I first set foot in the Holiday Camp way back in the first-half-of-the-last-century (!) – knowing that I would not see home again in faraway Belfast until Christmas [those were the days when men-were-men!] However, that is obviously not the comparison I make to my client in this delicate and very understandable situation.

The title above – Be-glad-to-be-sad – is the mantra which I often repeat to my miserable companion – occasionally offering a tissue and trying to encourage him to hang-in-there – and I share a memory of long ago, when I was HLP.  On the morning of a weekend break – I was chatting to a Rhetoric student and he told me that he couldn’t wait for the following Monday evening when he could return home to Clongowes [things were not going well in his Family and he was not looking forward to a weekend of discord].  I tell my tearful client how fortunate he is to have loving Parents and Sisters and Brothers.  I suggest that his present sadness is due to the fact that his Family means so much to him – and that he should be grateful …….. and I remind him that grateful people are always, deep-down, happy people  even if, on the surface, life may be a challenge. Many OCs have told me in later years of how true that was for them as they started off in Clongowes – and struggled with homesickness.

There was a great variety of reactions last  Friday – relief – happiness – disappointment – resignation – and rejoicing  – I am equally certain that it was a bitter-sweet moment for many who were, to put it simply ……….  sad.

I had been looking forward to seeing RH’20 back again in two months’ time. So it was certainly a bitter-sweet moment for me, when someone said: But that means that they won’t be coming back again!

Suddenly, I felt really, deeply sad – very sad.  I began to recall shared moments of our time in the Holiday Camp. I looked up photographs of Elements’14 [the very first First Year of our 3rd century] – the N.I. Trip – the Duck Push’17 – Camino/Kairos’18 – Lesotho’19.  Unexpectedly, I discovered that I was indeed glad-to-be-sad!

I was happy – as I realized how grateful I am for all that we have shared during their sentence in CWC!

So the following day I sat down and wrote to tell them how sad I was – and also to let them know that I was glad-to-be-sad! And I know from some of their replies that they felt the same – as they said Thanks to me.

Many of you in the extended CWC Family – TLers – LLers – HLers – Parents – Staff – OCs – have shared in the journey of RH’20  – and may well have felt as I did last weekend. The experience of life-sharing as boarders is a very special and unique, lifelong bond – and the tsunami of responses I have received from so many of you to my weekly encyclicals proves that to me. Let us be grateful for RH’20 for how they have enriched our lives – for all that we have shared together over the past six years ………….. and let us be-glad-to-be-sad!

My prayer to-day is twofold: (i) gratitude to God for the contribution which RH’20 has made to CWC – and (ii) gratitude to RH’20 – with the hope that they, in turn, appreciate what they have been givenboth from home and in CWC. I pray too that they show their gratitude in a generous, appropriate way – first and foremost to their Parents/Guardians – to their siblings and wider Family –  and also all the CWC Staff, who have given so much to them during their time at school. I pray also that RH’20 be grateful for the gift they are for each other – and that they will look out for each other in the years to come.

Last, but by no means least ….. I pray that RH’20 will be grateful to God for what they have been given – and for who they have come to be – and will prove it by a generous use of their talents in the world into which we are now proud to send them as competent – compassionate – and committed men-for-others – A.M.D.G.

May each of us in whatever part we have to play in our Family of Clongowes – simply say: Deo gratias !

Let us be happy to say that we are glad-to-be-sad !


Fr Michael Sheil SJ


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