Are you sleeping?

by Faithful Friar

Did you ever learn the translation to the childhood song “Frère Jacques?”  It hit me as we were ringing bells in our tower one night to mark the end of Vespers. The literal translation goes something like this: Brother John, are you sleeping? Sound the bell for Matins! Ding, Dang, Dong! This dates back to the duty of the monks to ring the “pre-service” bell to alert their communities to the service that will begin shortly. Poor Brother John must have been very tired because he slept heavily and ignored his sonorous duty to his Brothers! We have our own Brother John in our Community, and he is often responsible for ringing the pre-service bell! (So far he hasn’t slept through his commitment.) We ring the bell prior to our Midday Office and Vespers services.   

The tune for Frère Jacques was first published around 1780 in France, and the words were first seen in 1825. The tune is so familiar as to be claimed as a national folk song in many countries around the world, with Frère Jacques’ name changed to fit the country….Bruder Jakob,  Fra’Martino,  Panie Janie, and Mester Jakob to name a few.

So, whenever Br. John rings our pre-service bell, we are fitting right in with years of “Frère Jacques” tradition!   


This entry was posted in Bell Ringing, Bells, Church of the Transfiguration by Faithful Friar. Bookmark the permalink.

About Faithful Friar

I am a 20+ year member of the Community of Jesus Brotherhood, so I live in the Friary with the other vowed brothers along with any novices or combination of guest/ resident men – young or old – who may be with us at any given time. Our vows are the same as any simple or solemnly professed Community member, with the addition of consecrated celibacy and poverty. I moved here shortly out of high school to study music for a summer. At the end of that summer I chose to stay here as a CJ member. Shortly thereafter I knew another change was needed, and asked to be accepted into the brotherhood first as a postulant, later as a novice. My life in the Brotherhood involves a variety of occupations, but they are centered on the continual service of prayer and praise in our church and on the outreach ministries springing from that service. This means manual labor as well as ongoing study and training: theological, musical, technical/ scientific, artistic, historical, philosophical, etc. Sometimes this involves teaching others, so that is part of our life too. It’s a life of poverty and yet full of hidden riches.

2 thoughts on “Are you sleeping?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *