Nov. 18, 2015 – During an eight-day retreat in Cape Cod this past summer, Fr. Robert VerEecke, SJ, was inspired to write lyrics for a song inspired by Pope Francis’ encyclical on the environment, Laudato Si
. Fr. VerEecke is the pastor of St. Ignatius Church in Chestnut Hill, Mass., and teaches homiletics and liturgical practices to seminarians at Boston College’s School of Theology and Ministry. In addition to his work as a songwriter, Fr. VerEecke has produced religious dance pieces. In 1978 Fr. VerEecke started the Boston Liturgical Dance Ensemble
, a nonprofit which works to integrate dance with religious expression in a way that is accessible to everyone.
Below is a Q&A with Fr. VerEecke on this song:
You were inspired during a retreat to write this song. What in particular inspired you to write it?
During my retreat in Cape Cod, I was using the encyclical for prayer and each day when I was walking I would just pay attention to the exquisite beauty of creation. In the back of my mind was the question, “What in the world have we done?” After a number of days of praying and reflecting on Laudato Si, I sat down and wrote the lyrics to what I hoped would be a song.
How did you go about producing the song?
After the retreat I gave the lyrics to Paul Melley, whom I collaborated with before on two of his songs. One of them You Will Know I wrote when I was on a parish retreat whose theme was "On Holy Ground." Paul was working at St. Ignatius Church at the time and I asked if he would be interested in putting the lyrics to music. When he was director of liturgical music at the College of the Holy Cross I asked him again if he would compose music to Who is My Neighbor which I wrote for a Nativity Prep fund raiser and which the students acted out. Paul now has returned to St. Ignatius as my assistant and liaison with BC. Before I left for retreat this summer he jokingly suggested that, “Maybe a song will come from it.”
How long did it take to go from an idea to a recorded song?
It took about a month from writing the lyrics to Paul’s scoring it and recording. Paul has worked with the liturgical publishers GIA and OCP and we are hoping that one or the other will pick up the song and have it recorded for wider distribution.
What do you hope that people walk away with after listening to this song?
There’s something about Laudato Si that is very moving and engages the imagination. Music and poetry have the power to capture the feeling of the encyclical. That was my purpose. I’m hoping that people will read it, act on it and be engaged with the heart and not just the mind.
What has the initial response to the song been like?
During the time that I was writing the song, I had been invited by the leaders of the conference on Pope Francis and Climate Change
to participate with some artistic presentation. I met with Laura Hake from the BC biology department who was helping Fr. Jim Keenan, SJ, to coordinate the conference. I told her about my idea of having my movement/dance class enact the seven days of creation as part of the conference. I also sent her the lyrics to the song which was not yet composed. She was so moved by them that she sent them on to Jim. The song so moved Fr. Keenan and his colleagues who were preparing the week long conference on Pope Francis and Climate Change, that it premiered at Cardinal Turkson’s Canisius Lecture at Boston College on September 26.
Click the player below to listen to his song as sung by composer Paul Melley: