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SOME CAPUCHIN VIEWS OF, AND CONTRIBUTIONS TO SACRED MUSIC Tt has been objected by some that the Capuchin Franciscan Order is *¦ not interested in the field of sacred music, and that the Order has contributed little or nothing to this field of apostolic endeavor. This view is far from the truth either in the early years of the Order or in present times. History bears witness to the fact that the Order has always been interested in the arts and sciences that promote the glory of God and the welfare of mankind. When we speak of views and contributions to sacred music, we must keep in mind the place of sacred music in the liturgical worship. For, unless we understand the place of sacred music in the liturgical worship of the Church, then sacred music becomes something of little use except as an art form for its own sake. Why should not the Capuchin Order be the inheriter of that gay spirit of song that fills every page of the Fioretti? that marked every footstep of St. Francis from the streets of Assisi to the mountain of Alverno ? St. Francis was interested in music, not as an emotional thing only, but as a most fitting expression of worship. Music for him was not an end in itself but a means. When his eye affliction was causing him much pain, St. Francis called to his side a companion who had been a lute player in the world and said, "Brother, I wish that you go and borrow a lute in secret, and compose a song, and thus bring comfort to my Brother Body who is full of pain." The companion replied, "I fear much, Father, that the people might attribute this to levity on my part." The Saint then answered, "WeU then, brother, be it so. It is good to omit many things lest we give scandal."1 During the night, while rapt in prayer with God, St. Francis heard the marvelously sweet music of a lute. He could see no one, yet he heard the music as though the lute player was walking back and forth. The 1 Felder, Hilarin, O.F.M.Cap., The Ideals of St. Francis of Assisi, Benziger, 1925, p. 234. 325 326A. KNOLL spirit of the Saint was so filled with the heavenly joy because of this angelic music that he thought he was in another world. In the primitive days of the Franciscan Order religious song was fostered by St. Francis and his sons in aU places and in all its forms "as choral, as hymn and prose, as unison and polyphonic cantilena, as rhyme poetry in the Latin as well as in the vernacular tongue."2 History shows us that this musical background is one of the reasons why the Order appealed so strongly to that exceptionally musical and poetic period. It explains why many gifted musicians joined the Order and dedicated their song, which they had once sung in praise of knightly adventure and love of fair lady, to the praise of the Eternal Knight and the Mother of God. St. Francis wished to cultivate the spiritual song for the sake of spritual joy. He called himself the joyous minstrel of the Lord; he deplored deeply that musical instruments served any other purpose than to sound the praises of God. "Joyous minstrels of the Lord" is the title he gave to his disciples. "We are the minstrels of God who should lift up the hearts of men and move them to divine joy."3 The desire of St. Francis to foster the spiritual song for spiritual joy does not exclude a scholarly understanding of the art of music and must not be taken in a figurative sense only. The Order aimed to foster the arts and sciences, and not the least was the art of music. The Golden Age of music appeared during the Ufe time of St. Francis and extended half a century after his death. The Order, then, grew up in the best traditions of music. It was by the end of the 13th century that the period of decadence was under way. This period was the smuggling of a...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1945-9718
Print ISSN
0080-5459
Pages
pp. 325-333
Launched on MUSE
2015-07-01
Open Access
No
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