The “Vitus Project” is an interactive worldwide opportunity for teachers and students in Jesuit schools to share in a common focus over the course of the Ignatian Year.
During this year when we remember the process by which Ignatius turned his heart to the things of heaven, we examine similar stories about transforming hearts and growing in spiritual freedom. This project looks at the ways in which the Jesuit theater tradition can be a way of engaging in creative work that is transformative.
To do this we are choosing a play that was a common project for the students of the Jesuit College of St. Omer’s.
The Ratio Studiorum, a document of best practices for teaching, mentions the activity of theatrical productions as being a help to integration of the studies of the school. In the Jesuit schools, students were involved in every aspect. Latin students were involved in the writing of it. Diction was practiced in the rehearsal and performance of the text. History students gravitated around the events of the play. Even the sciences were involved in the technical aspects. It is said that the slide projector was invented by Athanasius Kircher, SJ (calling it a “Steganographic Mirror”) as a way of enhancing the performance of the school play.
We are grateful to the Institute of Jesuit Sources (Chestnut Hill, MA) for permitting us to share the text of this play. It appears in the book Jesuit Theatre English: 5 Tragedies of Joseph Simons.
This year’s “Vitus Project” is a way for Jesuit schools to rediscover this integrative tradition. It is flexible to the needs and desires of each participant and each school. We focus on a common discussion about the play, the theme of transformation of hearts, and the way in which theater can be a common ground for exploration and integration.
is a story of a courageous youth Vitus.
When he embraced the Christian faith, he was rejected and had to flee his home town. Known for his healing powers, he incurred the jealousy of many others who were out to destroy the faith. His sincerity, goodness and compassion came close to converting even the Emperor, whose son Vitus cured. In the end, he suffered under the persecution of Christians, but was brought home by an Angel to die in the place of his birth.
Theology teachers can use it as a means of looking at themes in their curriculum. Theater teaches can use individual scenes or monologues for study, or can work on a production of the play in part or as a whole.
Campus ministry can use these resources as a way of animating students for the Ignatian Year.
Let us know how you would like to use this play and we will do our best to provide resources for you on this site. Since the site will be constantly growing over the course of the year, your feedback will help us include what is most helpful for you.
An easy way to start might be to look at “the play within the play.”In Act IV, there is a depiction of the conversion of St. Genesius the patron saint of actors. The scene demonstrates how this comic actor, while enacting a comedy intended to mock the rite of Baptism, uses the real words of the formula and experiences the power of the sacrament first hand. His deeply spiritual experience compels him to give witness to the Emperor about the reality of the Christian faith and urges him to call for an end of the persecution.
To read the play in the original Latin you can access the text here
We hope you and your school will find this project an adventurous link to the past and a fun way of making it present. Let us know what you’re doing by posting on the Discussion page!