Tuesday, November 1, 2005

Report From St. Agnes

By Mitchell

Someone asked how it went for Msgr. Schuler's 60th anniversary Mass on Sunday, so I thought I'd post this brief report:

The day itself was cold, cloudy and damp. The church was full - not standing-room only, but the side pews were filling up, which is usually an indication that we've got a much larger congregation than usual. The procession from the back of the church took about five minutes to wind its way to the altar. Fr. Richard Hogan, Msgr. Schuler's nephew, was the celebrant and preacher, along with 11 concelebrants from as far away as Wisconsin and Illinois, Archbishop Flynn, the Knights of Columbus, and U.S. Senator Norm Coleman (former mayor of St. Paul), his wife, and his father. Fr. Zuhlsdorf flew in all the way from Rome to take part (and was the chief concelebrant, up at the altar).

Fr. Hogan and the deacons were wearing vestments that Msgr. Schuler's mother had made for him when he was ordained - as Fr. Hogan said, for being 60 years old, they were a little frayed around the edges but still in one piece! (Actually, they were beautiful, white with ornate dark red and gold trim.) The music, Haydn's Pauken Mass, is apparently a kind of Schuler-Hogan family theme - it's one of Msgr. Schuler's favorite settings, and was played for Fr. Hogan's ordination, and also for his parent's wedding anniversary. (The Pauken Mass is also known as "Mass In Time Of War," which, Fr. Hogan's father once said, was a very appropriate piece of music for a wedding anniversary.)

Sunday's readings were quite appropriate for the service that Msgr. Schuler has performed over the years, especially the Gospel reading from Matthew. ("The greatest among you must be your servant. Whoever exalts himself will be humbled; but whoever humbles himself will be exalted.") In the homily, Fr. Hogan spoke about the meaning of the priesthood, and the larger question of faithfulness to the truth. The Church represents that truth, as revealed by Jesus, and to obey Christ means to obey the teachings of the Church. Msgr. Schuler has always been the humble servant of thet truth.

In comments following communion, the Archbishop also spoke of Msgr. Schuler's service through the years, and of the role he played in creating the glories of the Mass that are now a staple of St. Agnes (while also pointing out that he was going to be celebrating Mass later that day in a prison, under conditions quite different from where we were, but with the same God present).

One of the most moving tributes to Msgr. Schuler was not spoken at the Mass at all; it was the "Pastor's Page" comments written by Fr. Welzbacher. Reading this piece, one comes to appreciate not only the role that Msgr. Schuler has played in the parish and the Church as a whole, but also the ways in which he has touched others - priests, seminarians, and parishioners alike. At the reception following the Mass people had a chance to give Msgr. Schuler their own personal greetings, and I'd imagine quite a few of them had similar stories to contribute. (A man standing next to us told me he thought he might be Msgr. Schuler's most surprising guest; he'd gone to school with him all those years ago.)

Fr. Welzbacher mentioned how it was a great, historic day for the parish, and it truly was. We see Msgr. Schuler every week, whether it's conducting the chorale and orchestra (something he does rarely now), celebrating the Mass (usually the early Mass on Sunday), or sitting in choir. We see him, and we're aware that we're watching a piece of history move among us. On Sunday, that feeling was just a little bit stronger, and one couldn't help but wonder if you might even be in the presence of a future saint. But it is no time to think of the future; the priests who have passed through Msgr. Schuler's orbit will continue to be a testimonial to his influence. Better to reflect on the past, and to enjoy him in the present.

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