Today would have been the 89th birthday of Monsignor Richard Schuler, a priest of the Archdiocese of St. Paul-Minneapolis. He died in 2007, and I would like to request that you say a prayer for the repose of his soul. Everyone who loves sacred music owes Monsignor Schuler a debt of gratitude for keeping it alive during a time of great upheaval in the Church. I also wanted to post a true story about Monsignor that shows what it really means to be "pastoral."
Msgr. Schuler did have friends in high places (which didn’t shield him from regular criticism from the chancery or attempts at sabotage), but he also had friends in “low” places. One of my favorite memories of the few months I lived at St. Agnes was the afternoon that Monsignor knocked on my door and asked if I was doing anything important. I said no, and he said, I’d like you to come with me for a bit.
We drove to a pretty decrepit-looking apartment building and walked up a couple flights of stairs. On the way he had explained to me that the woman we were going to see was agoraphobic. she had contacted him several months ago, saying that, though she seldom left her apartment, she did a lot of reading. In the course of her reading, she had become convinced of the truth of the Catholic Church. She wanted to be baptized. He met with her several times, instructing her in the faith until he was convinced she was ready for baptism. He set up a date and time and waited for her in the Church, but she failed to show up. When he called her, she said that she couldn’t bring herself to leave the apartment that day – her anxieties were just too severe. So, he told her he’d be over to visit the next week – that is what we were doing.
When we got to her apartment, he introduced me, and she welcomed us in. He spoke with her at length, in the most pastoral way I had ever witnessed. When she said that she was second-guessing her decision to become Catholic, because she wasn’t sure that she could make it to Mass on Sundays, owing to her psychosis, he reassured her that no one is bound to the impossible, and if it was truly impossible for her to make it to Mass, she was not under that obligation. He encouraged her to continue in counseling and medication, and to make every effort to come to Mass.
He also cautioned her about the ways in which Satan would use her mental condition to prevent her from joining the Church. In the end, he convinced her to be baptized.
He baptized her then and there in the kitchen sink, using the ritual in Latin at her request, with me as her godfather, confirmed her and gave her her first Holy Communion from the pyx in his pocket. We stayed with her for awhile after that, chatting – the glow on her face was amazing. As we were leaving, the bells from St. Agnes were ringing in the distance. He told her that she should remember, everytime she hears the bells ringing, she should know that she has a parish praying for her – and that she now has an obligation to pray for her parish, and especially her pastor (with that trademark twinkle in his eye).
I saw her once or twice after that at Mass, always in the back, by herself. I didnt get her address, and can’t even remember her name, but I pray for her often.
After that experience, anytime someone would speak of Msgr. Schuler as cold-hearted and reactionary – “Msgr. Rigid J. Schuler” – I would laugh and say, you have no idea what you are talking about.
Comment by Tim Ferguson