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Training a Lens on Ignatian Spirituality

Fr. VerEecke’s ‘For the Greater Glory of God’ dance piece captured on video documentary

09/17/15
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Jeremy Zipple, SJ ’00, STM ’14 filming a performance of “For the Greater Glory of God,” a piece created by Robert VerEecke, SJ (front), based on the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius. Fr. Zipple screened the video last week at Robsham Theater.

By Rosanne Pellegrini | Chronicle Staff

Published: Sept. 17, 2015

For decades, St. Ignatius Church pastor Robert VerEecke, SJ, has explored Ignatian spirituality through dance, and created pieces for holidays and worship services. Now, the acclaimed choreographer and longtime Boston College artist-in-residence has had one of his signature works captured on a professionally produced video, thanks to a BC Jesuit alumnus.  

Award-winning documentary filmmaker Jeremy Zipple, SJ ’00, STM ’14 depicts a performance of “For the Greater Glory of God,” a dance/theater piece of Fr. VerEecke that was inspired by the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius. The video, which has the same title, was screened at Robsham Theater on Sept. 10, an event sponsored by the Center for Ignatian Spirituality that brought Fr. Zipple back to campus.

“Almost since the founding of the Society of Jesus in the 16th century, Jesuits have been immersed in the arts,” said Fr. Zipple, executive editor of America films and a University trustee associate. “Jesuits have been painters and playwrights, composers and musicians, and it’s exciting to witness this great tradition continued so vibrantly today at Boston College.”

Fr. VerEecke said the performance piece — which he created in 1990 for the 450th anniversary of the founding of the Society of Jesus and the 500th anniversary of the birth of St. Ignatius — holds special significance for him.

“The first live performance of ‘For the Greater Glory of God’ was at St. Ignatius Church in 1991,” he explained. “Twenty-five years later, it is very gratifying to see that the premiere of the video version is at Robsham, where we presented it live many years ago. And, of course, Robsham has been home to so much of my work over the 38 years I have been at Boston College.”

Since its debut a quarter-century ago, “For the Greater Glory of God” has been performed, by a company of musicians, dancers and actors, in many Jesuit universities, parishes and retreat centers.

The making of the video took place last summer at St. Ignatius Church, with one aspect done in Robsham Theater, due to the need for a larger space.

Fr. Zipple’s video, Fr. VerEecke said, gave him the opportunity to view the performance anew, by seeing the movement and expressions of the piece from many different perspectives.

“The most amazing thing for me is to see Jeremy’s ‘choreography,’” he said. “Because he used multiple cameras you see the dances from different angles. Ordinarily an audience only sees what is right before their eyes. The camera creates a very interesting interpretation of the dance.”

Fr. Zipple said the project “was especially meaningful for me because I got to collaborate with Bob, a brother Jesuit artist who is so creative and so talented. I’m a filmmaker in my 30s, and Bob’s a choreographer in his 60s. Though we work in different mediums, have different styles, are of different generations, we’re both Jesuits. That means we approach our art with a common conviction: that the divine is to be found in all things, most certainly creative expression.”

In an article for America magazine this past spring, Fr. VerEecke – who portrays St. Ignatius in “For the Greater Glory of God” – described how he used the basic structure of the Spiritual Exercises to weave together music, dances and Scripture texts that “would bring the exercises to life through artistic imagination.

“For those who know the exercises, imagination is a key to St. Ignatius’ genius of inviting people into an intimate relationship with God. Although this exercise of the imagination would happen in the prayer of the person making the Spiritual Exercises, I wanted to use the exercise of the artistic imagination to help others to ‘see’ and ‘feel’ the exercises through the power of music and dance.”

Read Fr. VerEecke’s piece in America, which includes a segment of “For the Greater Glory of God,” at americamagazine.org/issue/gotta-dance.