Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Memorial Homily for Monsignor Richard J. Schuler, April 22, 2008


Memorial Mass for Msgr. Richard Schuler

Homily Given by

Rev. William E. Sanderson

Church of St. Agnes

April 22, 2008, St. Paul, MN

“Every high priest is taken from among men and made their representative before God, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins. … No one takes this honor upon himself but only when called by God” (Hebrews 5:1-4). “The Lord called to Samuel, who answered, “Here I am” (I S 3:4).

Reverend fathers and deacons, dear sisters and consecrated religious, dear friends in Christ: I am Father William Sanderson, pastor of St. Mary’s and St. Francis of Assisi Parishes in south Omaha. It is a great joy and privilege for me to be here tonight to celebrate this Mass with you to commemorate the first anniversary of the death of Monsignor Richard J. Schuler. Many of you may remember that Monsignor Schuler called on me over twenty years ago to sing the parts of the celebrant for the recordings of the Masses for Christmas, Easter and Pentecost from St. Agnes that were produced by Leaflet Missal Company. After that, whenever he introduced me to someone I had not previously known, he introduced me as, “the Voice” on the recordings.

My first visit to St. Agnes was nearly thirty years ago in October of 1978. I had just entered the St. Paul Seminary and became acquainted with a seminarian from St. Agnes, Richard Hogan. There was a memorial Mass for Pope John Paul I, the Mozart Requiem, to which Father Hogan invited me to attend. I wept for joy that night when I heard that beautiful music and experienced the full beautify of the Roman Liturgy that I thought had been swept away in the backwash of Vatican II. I was at the altar of God and Monsignor Schuler brought me back, at least briefly, to the joy of my youth in that high Mass.

I had come to know about St. Agnes even before that. I had attended St. John’s Prep School in Collegeville during the school year 1968-69. Through the influence of some classmates I started to cultivate an interest in classical music. I kept in touch with these classmates, who later would ride the bus from North Minneapolis on Sunday mornings to attend Mass at St. Agnes. I vicariously came to learn about and purchase vinyl disk recordings of Hayden’s, “Pauken Mass,” Mozart’s “Lord Nelson Mass,” and “Coronation Mass” which I would later come to experience, in person, in this very church.

I entered the St. Paul Seminary in September of 1978 and in 1979 I entered St. Agnes Seminary on Tuesday nights and began to cultivate a friendship with Monsignor Schuler that I will always cherish.

Tonight we will commemorate the first anniversary of the death of a great man, a great priest, a great musician, a great teacher and a great friend. We reflect on the gift of his life, his faith and his priesthood.

As a young man Richard Schuler heard God’s call to the priesthood and he responded, “Here I am.” Having completed his studies at the College of St. Thomas and the St. Paul Seminary on August 18, 1945, the day of his ordination, he was called by Archbishop Gregory Murray by name and he responded, “Ad sum Here I am” as he was ordained a priest. He sought to carry out God’s will in his assignments at Nazareth Hall, College of St. Thomas and in his own advanced studies. In 1969 he began what I consider his greatest work: that as pastor of St. Agnes.

What made Monsignor Schuler so great was his love for the Church and the priesthood. On the day of his ordination he made certain promises as does every priest. He promised: with the help of the Holy Spirit, to discharge, without fail, the office of the priesthood as a conscientious fellow worker with the bishops in caring for the Lord’s flock. He promised to celebrate the mysteries of Christ faithfully and religiously as the Church has handed them down for the glory of God and the sanctification of Christ’s people. He promised to exercise the ministry of the word worthily and wisely, preaching the Gospel and explaining the Catholic faith. He promised to consecrate his life to God for the salvation of his people and to unite himself more closely every day to Christ the High Priest. And on that day, as he knelt before Archbishop Murray, he placed his newly-anointed hands on a chalice and paten and, in the words of the rite of ordination, he “accepted from the holy people of God the gifts to be offered to Him.” He was admonished: “Know what you are doing, imitate the mystery you celebrate, model your life on the mystery of the Lord’s cross.” As I see it, he never forgot those promises nor did he ever tire of living them out.

His greatest love was for the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass: protecting, preserving and presenting the Roman Liturgy in all its splendor even at a time it was being trivialized in the wake of Vatican II with the many liturgical and musical abominations that were wrongly foisted on the faithful in its name.

He understood with clarity the opening lines of Chapter VI of the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy about Sacred Music. “The musical tradition of the universal Church is a treasure of inestimable value, greater even than that of any other art. The main reason for this pre-eminence is that, as a combination of sacred music and words, it forms a necessary or integral part of the solemn liturgy” (n. 112). “The treasury of sacred music is to be preserved and cultivated with great care. Choirs must be assiduously developed, especially in cathedral churches. Bishops and other pastors of souls must take great care to ensure that whenever the sacred action is to be accompanied by chant, the whole body of the faithful may be able to contribute that active participation which is rightly theirs” (n. 114). “The Church recognizes Gregorian chant as being specially suited to the Roman liturgy. Therefore, other things being equal, it should be given pride of place in liturgical services” (n. 116). He never forgot that the Council not only called for the “active” participation of the faithful but, as stated in paragraph 50 of the Constitution on the Liturgy, the “devout” active participation of the faithful.

Monsignor Schuler was an outstanding promoter of vocations to the priesthood and consecrated life. His parish and rectory were like a “little United Nations of the Catholic Church.” The doors were open to any bishop, priest, deacon or seminarian in good standing — even liberals. I don’t know exactly the number of first Masses celebrated at St. Agnes during his tenure or the number of vocations he salvaged and sent to other dioceses when rejected by the seminary. I don’t know the number of hours he spent with the “underground” seminarians, providing a safe haven where the faith could be shared openly and presented unabashedly and heretical distortions corrected with clarity, charity and forthrightness. The Church, especially in this portion of the Midwest, has been greatly enriched by his willingness to share his faith and commitment to the Church so openly and generously with young men in formation. In the Acts of the Apostles today we read, “They proclaimed the good news to that city and made a considerable number of disciples They strengthened the spirits of the disciples and exhorted them to persevere in the faith, saying, ‘It is necessary for us to undergo many hardships to enter the Kingdom of God.’” And so he offered encouragement, support and whatever assistance was needed for any worthy candidate to the priesthood to accept whatever hardships he may need to endure along the way to the day of his ordination.

I would like to share with you, at least briefly, some of the correspondence I shared with Monsignor Schuler through the years. The memories I treasure the most with Monsignor deal with the production of the Leaflet Missal recordings and the program that preceded them. This all began with a radio broadcast in fall, 1984 on National Public Radio’s weekly program, “Lincoln’s Music in America.” That program featured otherwise little known musicians, ensembles and choirs throughout the country. Monsignor invited me to travel to St. Agnes to be the celebrant for the Beethoven Mass in C. The broadcast featured many parts of the Mass and an extensive interview with Monsignor Schuler. It came to be the most requested re-broadcast of “Music in America.”

After the recording session and initial broadcast, Monsignor wrote to me on October 27, 1984:

As I write this I am listening to you sing the Oratio super oblations and the preface. Marvelous. The tape is enclosed. It is really fine, done in good taste and truly all I had hoped it would be. Did you hear it in Omaha? I had a call from someone in Jacksonville, Florida who heard it. I will let you know the reactions we get.”

He also shared with me a copy of a letter he had received dated October 19, 1984 from Evans Mirageas, the man from WMFT in Chicago who recorded the Mass at St. Agnes for “Lincoln’s Music in America” on National Public Radio and conducted the interview. He wrote:

“Here are the finished tapes of the ‘Music in America’ program on St. Agnes. I hope that we have done justice to your efforts. I was mightily impressed with the dedication and spirit of your performers, both in the choir and the soloists. And to have the Minnesota Orchestra as instrumentalists was a real pleasure.

“I cannot thank you and the other fathers enough for the assistance and cooperation you extended before and during last Sunday. It was a pleasure to be able to carry your musical message to our audience … Your parishioners are very lucky to have you, Father.”

Monsignor was kind enough to share a copy of a letter dated November 14, 1984, he received from a priest in Oklahoma City, a retired Latin teacher who wrote to him about the broadcast. He wrote:

“The October 28th broadcast of music from St. Agnes Church on ‘Lincoln’s Music in America’ prompts me to write to you. I would like to express my sincere gratitude to you personally and to your musicians, professional and amateur, for your musical accomplishment and for the faith which so clearly motivates your efforts.

“I have never met you or even, I am sorry to say, heard your name, but please accept my expression of deep gratitude for the statement about Catholicism, worship and the interior life of humanity which your work is. It is a great joy to recall that there exists someone who is capable of dealing with the American Church’s well-intentioned trivialization of the sacred; I cannot express how encouraging it is to know that this person is a priest.”

Not quite a year later in a letter dated September 23, 1985 he wrote me another letter. I think it is important that I share this because a priest so often becomes so wrapped up in the cares of his office and responsibilities that he sometimes may forget to acknowledge his gratitude to those with whom he works the closest. Even if this is not the case, I believe that if Monsignor were here tonight, he would say something similar to all of you tonight. This is what he wrote.

“Sunday, September 15th was a great day at Saint Agnes and a day I shall always remember. It was full of great surprises and so much that was beautiful and friendly. I don’t know how I can possibly express my gratitude and my appreciation for all that was planned and carried out to observe the fortieth anniversary of my ordination to the Holy Priesthood. The presence of so many dear friends and parishioners, the wonderful music of the Twin Cities Catholic Chorale and the members of the Minnesota Orchestra, the fine sermon by Father Hogan, the careful ceremonies of our altar boys, the exquisite reception, the many details and loving care — all made the occasion perfect.

Monsignor Schuler taught us many lessons worthy of remembrance. About the proper approach to the Sacred Liturgy he always said: “It must be reverent and it must be dignified. Reverent so that it does not offend God; dignified so that it does not offend man. About music itself: “It must be sacred and it must be music.” About keeping proper time with the music as written: “There must be NO toe-tapping and watch the conductor.” About fidelity to the musical score especially when departures were being made: “That’s very nice, but I don’t think that’s the way Schubert wrote it.”

Yes, “Every high priest is taken from among men and made their representative before God, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins … No one takes this honor upon himself but only when called by God” (Hebrews 5:1-4). It was one year ago God called Monsignor one more time: After eighty-six years on this earth; after sixty-two years of service as a priest; after fifty-one years as Director of the Twin Cities Catholic Chorale; after thirty-two years as pastor of St. Agnes, he set down his baton and the burden of years. With the strains of the Beethoven Mass in C playing softly in the background we can be sure he whispered in his heart one more time, “Here I am.”

Monsignor Richard J. Schuler (1920-2007): A Biographical Sketch, by Father Richard M. Hogan (Msgr. Schuler's nephew)

Monsignor Richard Schuler: Church Loses Sacred music Champion

“Msgr. Richard J. Schuler” by John Janaro

"Active Participation" in the Church's Liturgy: What Did the Second
Vatican Council Mean? by Monsignor Richard J. Schuler

“The Spiritual Impact of Monsignor Richard Schuler’s priestly leadership and example” by Fr. John T. Zuhlsdorf

”Monsignor Richard J. Schuler (1920-2007)”: A Biographical Sketch By Richard M. Hogan

“Monsignor Richard J. Schuler Dies; Requiescat in Pace” by Michael Matt, The Remnant

“A Chronicle of the Reform: Catholic Music in the 20th Century” by Msgr. Richard J. Schuler

“Participation” by Msgr. Richard Schuler in Sacred Music, Winter 1987

“How Can You Have a Latin Mass” by Msgr. Richard Schuler in Sacred Music, Spring, 1976

Sacred Music and Liturgy, Parts 1 and 2, by Msgr. Richard Schuler, Lectures; download for $1 each.

Church Music Association of America

Memories of Monsignor Richard J. Schuler; by the Twin Cities Catholic Chorale

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