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Veritatis Splendor

"Keep your eyes fixed upon Jesus, who inspires and perfects our faith" --Hebrews 12:2

Pope Benedict XVI before our Lord

And only where God is seen does life truly begin. Only when we meet the living God in Christ do we know what life is. We are not some casual and meaningless product of evolution.
Each of us is the result of a thought of God.
Each of us is willed,
each of us is loved,
each of us is necessary.
There is nothing more beautiful than to be surprised by the Gospel, by the encounter with Christ. There is nothing more beautiful than to know Him and to speak to others of our friendship with Him.
~Pope Benedict XVI, Homily April 24th, 2005

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Dies irae dies illa...

The parish of St. Agnes is well known for their ability to celebrate a worthy Mass using Mozart's Requiem setting. I've been to St. Agnes for their annual All Souls' Day Mass - twice. And I was at the Requiem Mass for the Holy Father John Paul II after his death. Tonight, however, was the most memorable one yet. Tonight, I was there to pray for, and for the prayers of, Msgr. Richard Schuler. And so were a LOT of other people!

I got there an hour early, and already the crowds were pouring into the nave. I managed to snag a decent center pew about 2/3 of the way back, and also managed to find a couple of friends amidst the chaos of mourners arriving. The church was full well before 7pm, I think a lot of people were standing. According to the St. Agnes website, the church holds 1,500 people - wow! What a tribute to this man's holiness!

I don't know why, but I was frankly surprised to see the huge number of priests who turned up to concelebrate. We didn't try to count them, but we all agreed (including the priest we talked to afterwards) that there was well over 100 priests there to pay tribute to Msgr. Schuler's life and to pray for the repose of his soul. And most of these priests were young ones, associate pastors, or older retired priests. Think of how many more priests would have come except as pastors they had other responsibilities! I bet we're talking at least a 1/3 of the priests of the Archdiocese either were there or wanted to be there, to honor Msgr. Schuler. Even Archbishop Flynn was there, though he had to change the Confirmation schedule to do so (I think Bishop Pates got the duty instead, God bless the man :) and he was in choir, not concelebrating (not sure why?). Fun to see him all decked out though in choir dress! And very cool to hear him speak "on behalf of Bishop Pates and now-Archbishop Nienstedt"! (Very interesting how Msgr.'s funeral and the announcement of our new coadjutor bishop coincided!... hmmmm. ;)

Fr. Richard Hogan was the main celebrant, he is well known to many through his works in text (with Fr. LeVoir) and on EWTN on JPII's Theology of the Body. I had no idea that he was also Msgr. Schuler's nephew, and had his own vocation influenced by that great encourager of priestly discernment. You know, we will only know in heaven the real impact that Msgr. Schuler had on the Catholic Church locally and globally. Between his constant efforts to aid the universal Church in the organic growth of the liturgy and sacred music post-Vatican II and his constant efforts to foster holy vocations, which produced such a marvelous group of priests that I can't even begin to name them all (though I wish the vocations office would try - it would be really neat to do a survey/study to see how many priests point to Msgr. Schuler in some way as aiding their discernment of their call), I find it very hard to imagine what life here would be like now without the gift of that man's life to the Church. We might be an entire Archdiocese (or world!) of St. Joan of Arcs, instead of a (fairly) balanced grouping of (mostly) good, honest, orthodox faithful at (many) good parishes. Think I'm exaggerating? Take a look at that man's history and think again.

I always get shudders when I hear Mozart's Requiem Sequence ("Dies irae..."), this time was no exception. But, this time I suddenly had the impression that this Sequence was REALLY HAPPENING. I can't really explain it. I guess in the past times, even the Mass for John Paul II, I wasn't really there because it was a funeral Mass but more because it was a beautiful Mass that helped me to pray better (I hate to admit that... On the other hand, I did actually cry at the Mass for John Paul, and I didn't cry tonight. So... perhaps it's apples and oranges.) But tonight, there was a real body lying in a casket towards the front of the church. There were tons of priests. There was an honor guard of Knights of Columbus. I was surrounded by tons of people who, while they might have gotten started going to St. Agnes because of the beautiful liturgy, were now here because they knew the man for whom the Mass was being offered for and they wanted to offer it for him too in their own personal way. So when that booming Dies irae began, my shivers were for the REALNESS of it all, the literal meaning of those words, that were not just gorgeous to listen to but also speak to the depths of our heart. Death comes. And here we were praying for one such as Msgr. Schuler, as we prayed for such a one as Pope John Paul II. And I can be complacent about my own death, or take a cue from the masters. The Dies irae, I finally realize, is not so much for the one who has died, as it is for those of us who are still in the process of dying. And though that may seem to be a morbid, sorrowful thought - it is actually one of the most comforting thoughts I have ever had. We are dying. I am dying. Vita e Bella! Life is beautiful! And our death is meant to be merely a transition from life to life, from a beautiful life to THE beautiful life!

(Here is the complete text of the Dies Irae in Latin and English.)

(And, a fitting tribute to Msgr. Schuler might be to buy one of these totally POD Dies irae wall clocks from the CMAA, one of Msgr. Schuler's many sacred music apostolates!)

At the time of Holy Communion (which took forever and a day, seems like, because of all those concelebrating priests that needed to receive :) I suddenly had the thought to grab my trusty rosary beads and bring them up with me. As I walked past the good Msgr.'s casket, I paused briefly to touch my rosary to his "tomb" - guess that's a relic now, if he is indeed a saint (declared or not). I've decided that while I will continue to pray for his soul, and not let myself be TOO presumptuous, I also want to ask him to be a patron for the future of my parish, especially since it is going through a crucial time of "long range planning" now. I don't think I'm alone either (though I hope my parish and I are early enough to be higher on the list ;) and I would venture to suggest that, just maybe, there will be a lot of unforeseen "changes" happening for the better in many of our area parishes, due to the intercession of our new (hopefully - pray God) heavenly prayer warrior for all that is true, good and beautiful in our churches!

Oh, and I'm quite happy to report that at long last I have met the man behind the o{]:¬) - and I sure hope he posts himself on the Mass tonight...

In paradisum deducant te Angeli; in tuo adventu suscipiant te martyres, et perducant te in civitatem sanctam Ierusalem. Chorus angelorum te suscipiat, et cum Lazaro quondam paupere æternam habeas requiem.

May angels lead you into Paradise; may the martyrs receive you at your coming and lead you to the holy city of Jerusalem. May a choir of angels receive you, and with Lazarus, who once was poor, may you have eternal rest.


Blogger Ray from MN said...

Wonderful post, Mary. Thank you. You captured the flavor for me.

I have been at one of the Mozart Requiem performances on All Soul's Day. Wonderful!

I debated coming but as I had not been a parishioner nor had I ever met him, I decided to let someone else have my seat.

April 25, 2007 8:25 AM  
Anonymous Tim Ferguson said...

Archbishop Flynn would have sat in choir because the rubrics require that, if a bishop is celebrant, he should be the main celebrant - he could only concelebrate if there was another bishop as main celebrant. So, sitting in choir (technically, presiding in choir dress), rather than taking over as main celebrant allowed Fr. Hogan, Monsignor's nephew, to do the honor of being main celebrant at his uncle's funeral.

Thanks for the wonderful post - I, along with many others around the country would have loved to have been there, and was only able to participate through my prayers. God rest the good Monsignor's soul.

April 25, 2007 8:31 AM  
Blogger Landrew said...

I was also at the funeral Mass for the late Monsignor. The service was indeed beautiful just as he would have wanted it. Not for himself, but because he always stressed the need for beauty in the liturgy. The long procession of priests was impressive. It reminded me of the “white robed martyrs” of the book of Hebrews. Mozart’s requiem was absolutely magnificent.
The only fly in the ointment was the homily by father Hogan. He spoke all about the need to change. He said an institution must change if it is to survive. He even said the Monsignor liked to “push the envelope”. Such talk at St. Agnes would be insulting even in the best of times. Our beloved Monsignor Schuler often spoke about sacred music being fostered and preserved. He promoted beautiful Gregorian chant when it was being dismissed as old-fashioned by “progressives”. He preserved Latin in the liturgy when everyone else abandoned it. He refused to allow “altar girls” to promote male service at the altar.
People at St. Agnes are often accused of refusing to change with the times, because we refuse to abandon the eternal truths of the Church. Coming to St. Agnes and demanding we change is tantamount to asking us to throw out everything Monsignor Schuler worked so hard to preserve over the years. To make such comments when we are all grieving and worrying about the future of our parish anyway is insufferably crude. I could not imagine a more inappropriate, insulting, insensitive, and factually incorrect set of comments to make.
To be fair, Father Hogan was obviously very emotional, and one can only hope that if he had more time, he could have come up with something better to say.
Archbishop Flynn’s comments were right on the money though. He said that all the priests and the beautiful music were a monument to the hard work of Monsignor Schuler. In this regard the Archbishop was absolutely correct.

April 25, 2007 12:51 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I, too, was a little perplexed by what Fr. Hogan had to say about change. He must have mentioned change two or three times and even now I can't wrap my head around what he was trying to say, particularly because he was speaking to a St. Agnes crowd.

Oh, and because I have this obsession with counting things, I counted 96 priests in the procession.

April 27, 2007 11:58 AM  

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