Hymns, martial anthems, lullabies?songs since the beginning of recorded time have allowed man to express his deepest emotions. And a people?s culture often finds its most universal bond in shared singing. Probably no other activity can so elevate the spirit and the ?humanness? of us all as that special awareness generated by music and song.
Among the ironies confronting science is the inability to explain, within the Darwinian concept of evolution, man's acquisition of the ability to make and appreciate music. Never was man's survival furthered by music on the long evolutionary path to homo sapiens. Yet, by some divine means man acquired this gift, so distinct from that of all other creatures. With the emergence of each civilization has come its particular expression, through its own instruments and voice, of a people's yearnings, love and triumph over adversity.
Born 82 years ago into the family of a farmer and herbal physician in Dankotuwa, Sri Lanka (then Ceylon), MARCELLINE JAYAKODY at the age of 10 chose the vocation of a Roman Catholic priest. While studying in the English-language St. Joseph's College he became troubled by the rift between Western-oriented Christianity and Sri Lanka's predominantly Sinhalese Buddhist culture. Following his ordination in the Oblate order on December 21, 1927, his concern over this rift deepened and finding bridges became his personal quest. His talents and life-view found new dimensions with studies at Visva-Bharati University at Santiniketan in Bengal, India, where he added to competency on the violin, piano and organ, mastery of the sitar and tabla, and an appreciation of Eastern music. Travels to the Holy Land, Europe and America enlarged his ?world view? of society.
In Sri Lanka Fr. JAYAKODY served for 21 years as a parish priest and has been a teacher off and on since then. In 1958 he launched the Faculty of Eastern Art at St. Peter's College and 23 years later was still teaching as a visiting lecturer in music at St. Thomas' College. Today he faithfully spends one day a week at Kala Lanka -- the school for training young people from poor families in the performing arts of Sri Lanka -- which he established and maintains at his own expense near Colombo.
In 1933 JAYAKODY began writing a newspaper column and composed his first hymn, Sapiri Sama (Full of Grace). His six lyrics, written in 1957 for the first Ceylonese feature film, Rekawa (Palm Line of Destiny), achieved national popularity and still are sung throughout the land.
In all, Fr. JAYAKODY has written the lyrics and music for some 1,000 songs. Although severe religious and ethnic divisions remain in Sri Lankan society, the songs he has given his people to sing have helped bridge these tragic differences. From lullabies to Christmas carols, they have been put on records and tapes and have added joy to daily life. Like his essays and poems, they have also become vehicles for enabling his people to understand the deeper significance of what they see in nature. His Muthu (Pearls) was judged the best book of poetry in 1980.
This silver-haired, singing priest, who stands tall and cheerfully exudes his faith, has helped through music and song to bring to every Sri Lankan an awareness of his heritage. His travel books are alerting his people to the beauty of their country, its sounds, history, the rhythm of the cropping season and their profusely flowering trees. Not neglecting his westernized church upbringing, his radio plays on the lives of Western composers bring a broader dimension to the culture.
Fr. JAYAKODY is a living demonstration that accepting a vocation in the priesthood need never be a retreat from life. His versatile creativity continues to enthuse with spiritual content and philosophical insight the everyday experiences of young and old. As his songs so gladly proclaim, man can take a few steps further along the path where God beckons -- to realization of his better self.
In electing Fr. MARCELLINE JAYAKODY to receive the 1983 Ramon Magsaysay Award for Journalism, Literature and Creative Communication Arts, the Board of Trustees recognizes his enriching his country's "world of song and music" with spiritual and human rejoicing.