Cum Angelis Canare: Essays on Sacred Music and Pastoral Liturgy in Honour of Richard. J. Schuler, ed. Robert A. Skeris,
St. Paul, MN: Catholic Church Music Associates, 1990, pp. 7-16
Richard Joseph Schuler was born on December 30, 1920 in
Richard’s parents were both of German descent. Otto Schuler’s parents had emigrated from the upper Lech valley in
As he grew older, his parents taught Richard the prayers of the Catholic faith and the Catholic traditions. He attended Mass with them and later, with his sisters. After six months in kindergarten in the public school, he began first grade at the Ascension. He made his first confession in the fourth grade at the age of nine. First Holy Communion followed in the fifth grade when he was ten. Richard graduated from the Ascension school in 1934 at the age of 13. He was also confirmed in that year. Clearly, the reception of the sacraments in these years together with the religious instruction he received from the sisten at the Ascension nourished and developed Richard’s faith. Further, the example and religious practices of his parents contributed in no small way to Richard’s own faith life.
During these grade school years, Monsignor Schuler began his music education. He took lessons in piano and flute—and played in the orchestra at the Ascension. As Monsignor explains today, none of this was out of the ordinary in a German family. Most children of German descent learned how to play at least one musical instrument. Otto and Minnie, at least in these early years, did not see any particularly special musical talent or ability in their son. Nevertheless, Richard’s ability and talent was nurtured and developed by the “ordinary” musical education that was part and parcel of growing up in a Catholic German family. Today, Monsignor Schuler notes that part of the tragedy of Catholic church music is that these “ordinary” things are not done. Lacking opportunities in the normal curriculum for music education, those children with musical talent and ability do not have the chance to discover their God-given talent and to develop it. By the time they realize they are interested in music, it is often too late because musical talent must be nurtured from a very young age. Taught by his own experience, Monsignor has constantly urged and tried to institute musical education in Catholic grade schools.
After graduating from the Ascension, Richard entered De La Salle High School, a school of the Christian Brothers. As with most of us, the beginning of high school introduced Richard to a much wider world. De La Salle had students from all parts of
He was at
In reflecting on seminary life, Monsignor admits that it was less than ideal. The courses were not of the same quality as those taught at the College. The living routine was highly regulated, probably too highly regulated. The students were not always treated with proper respect and dignity. In the same breath, however, Monsignor will also indicate that he and all his classmates regarded these difficulties as necessary steps towards the priesthood, a pearl of great price. Further, they felt themselves fortunate because many of their friends were fighting in World War II. In fact, Monsignor recalls the Archbishop coming to the seminary after World War II began. The Archbishop told the seminarians that they were doing as much for their country, perhaps more, through their studies as those who were fighting. The Archbishop saw the benefit to
The war brought changes at the seminary. Classes were continued through the summer months. As a result, Monsignor Schuler’s seminary class was ordained earlier than originally anticipated. Monsignor was ordained a priest of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and
After ordination, Fr. Schuler was assigned to the preparatory seminary, Nazareth Hall, where he taught music and history. He also continued as organist for Fr. Missia’s choir. (Fr. Missia was the seminary professor of music who had encouraged Fr. Schuler, while he was still at the seminary, to put his musical talents to use as a priest-church musician.) Further, at Nazareth Hall, Monsignor began his continuing and intense interest in young people and especially in vocations. This interest in young people has been one of the chief characteristics of his priesthood. The students at Nazareth Hall benefited from this interest as did the students at
At Nazareth Hall, Monsignor had the responsibility of training the students in Gregorian chant for use at Mass and in the celebrations of the Liturgy of the Hours. He continued his own education by pursuing an MA degree in music theory at the Eastman School of Music in
After earning his Masters in 1950, Monsignor had the next summer free.
Fr. Schuler stayed on at
Returning in 1955, the Archbishop asked Fr. Schuler to teach at the
In addition to his teaching and academic responsibilities, Monsignor also directed two choirs. In 1955, shortly after returning from
At the same time, Monsignor was active in national and international Catholic church music circles. He wrote articles for the American church music journals Caecilia and Catholic Choirmaster and also usually participated in the
Monsignor Schuler also directed the music for the ordination of Bishop James P. Shannon in the Cathedral of St. Paul in March, 1965. Bishop Shannon was named auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and
In the same year as Bishop Shannon’s ordination, Monsignor Johannes Overath from
There were those at the congress, he notes, who were opposed to the liturgical reform as given by the Council. Had the program of the church musicians as presented at the Fifth International Congress been followed, the state of Catholic church music would be far better. Unfortunately, the program of the congress remains a dead letter. As Monsignor Overath notes, “The Council has not failed; it has never been tried.”
From 1965 to 1966, Monsignor was a member of the Church Music Advisory Board. This was a committee of church musicians who were asked to advise a subcommittee of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops on matters of church music. There were some very significant decisions made at these meetings. Unfortunately, these were somehow leaked to the press and publicized as though they were decisions of the bishops, when they were only decisions of an advisory board to a subcommittee. Monsignor had argued with some decisions, especially one approving the “hootenany Mass,” but the vote went against his position. His membership on the Advisory Board was terminated rather abruptly—probably because he had opposed some of the more radical decisions. He had stood, as he always had, for the Church and the conciliar decrees. One could say that the actions of the Music Advisory Board did much to leave the program of the church music congress a dead letter.
In the Sixties, Fr. Schuler was much in demand and traveled around the country giving workshops and conducting seminars. These invitations gradually decreased as it became known that he stood with the program of the Congress. Still, he decided to continue his work with his own choir, the Twin Cities Catholic Chorale. He could implement the conciliar decrees as he understood them through the cooperation of the members of this choir. This was particularly gratifying because in 1965, a year before the congress, he had given up the Nativity parish choir.
Still, the Chorale offered a limited stage on which to implement the conciliar decrees. Further, the
The parish of St. Agnes has offered Monsignor the chance to implement the conciliar decrees on a parish level according to the mind of the Church and in light of principles he has followed throughout his life. As you would expect from a man who has devoted his rich musical talents to the service of the Church, there is a well-developed liturgical life at St. Agnes. At the Sunday High Mass, the Twin Cities Catholic Chorale together with members of the Minnesota Orchestra sing the Masses of Mozart, Haydn, Beethoven, Schubert and other great composers. These Viennese settings of the ordinary of the Mass are sung together with the propers in Gregorian chant. The program of the Council as proposed at the Fifth International Congress can be seen at St. Agnes. But the liturgy is not enhanced solely by the music, there are solemn ceremonies with appropriate vestments.
There are processions—especially noteworthy are those on the feasts of
Monsignor’s other major focus in his priestly life has been his interest in young people. St. Agnes affords him ample opportunity to express this interest because of its grade and high schools. Of course, of primary concern to him is the teaching of the faith. For this reason, he has and continues to take an interest in the teaching of religion in both St. Agnes schools. He supports new efforts, but wants to insure that the students of St. Agnes schools receive the unbroken teaching of Christ.
He explained his attitude towards catechetics in a remarkable homily he preached in the early seventies. He indicated that there had to be a second
Monsignor’s interest in young people has born fruit in the number of vocations to the priesthood from St. Agnes. There have been twelve priestly ordinations from St. Agnes since Monsignor has been pastor. He attributes this to the sacred liturgy as it is celebrated at St. Agnes, but one must give some credit to Monsignor’s own hospitality and personal warmth.
While at St. Agnes, Monsignor has directed the complete redecoration of the church’s interior. St. Agnes was built as a baroque church, but the interior was never completed. As part of the 100th anniversary of the parish, Monsignor launched a fund-drive to pay for the interior decoration. Previously, he had redone the exterior stone work. In 1990, the bells were renewed and a fourth, named Richard after the present pastor, was added.
While at St. Agnes, Monsignor Schuler has continued his interest in the national and international Catholic church music scene. For ten years, from 1969 to 1979, he was vice-president of the papal church music society (CIMS). In that capacity, he attended the Sixth International Church Music Congress in
Further, it was during his second year at St. Agnes that he was named an honorary prelate (Monsignor) of the Church. The honor was announced at Monsignor’s twenty-fifth ordination anniversary in 1970.
Of course, not everything has been easy in the postconciliar Church. In the early years at St. Agnes, Monsignor had to maintain his right as pastor to determine the catechetical materials to be used in the school. Further, not all the priestly vocations from St. Agnes have been warmly received by the archdiocesan vocation office and the seminary. In all these matters, Monsignor has always asked that everyone in the Church follow the Holy Father and implement the teachings of the Council. There will always be difficulties, but if there can be agreement on the fundamentals, the other things will take care of themselves.
Thankfully this biography is not finished because we hope and pray that God will give Monsignor Schuler many, many more years. Ad Multos Annos!
Richard J. Schuler: A Select Bibliography
Harold D. Hughesdon
“Music in the Preparatory Seminary”, Catholic Music Education Bulletin (October, 1952).
“The Motu Proprio and Progress in Church Music”, The Catholic Choirmaster (Fall, 1953).
“Renaissance Polyphony”, The Catholic Choirmaster (Fall, 1955).
“The Encyclical ‘Musicae Sacrae Disciplina”’, Caecilia (May, 1957).
“Music Collections of the Vatican Library”, Caecilia (February, 1957).
“Roman Choirs”, Caecilia (December, 1957).
“The ‘Modem Question’ in Church Music”, The Catholic Choirmaster (Spring, 1958).
“The Roman Chant”, Caecilia (Winter, 1959).
“Meaning in Modern Music”, Musart (January, 1961).
“The Life of Giovanni Maria Nanino”, Caecilia (Summer,
“The Cappella Sistina”, Caecilia (winter, 1963).
“Joannes de Tinctoris, 15th Century Theorist and Composer”, Caecilia (Winter, 1965).
“Our National and International Meetings, 1966”, Sacred Music (Autumn, 1965).
“Joseph Gelineau. Voices and Instruments in Christian Worship” A review. Response. (No. 2, 1965).
“The Fifth International Congress and Church Music in the United States”, Musicae Sacrae Ministerium Special Edition, 1965.
“More about our National and International Meetings”, Sacred Music (Spring, 1966).
“The Sacred and the Secular in Music”, Sacred Music (Autumn, 1966).
“Education in Music, the Answer to our Liturgical Problems”, Sacred Music (Summer, 1966).
“Some Comments on the New Instruction”, Sacred Music (Summer, 1967).
“Estados Unidos”, in Presente y Futuro de Ia Musica Sagrada, Conferencias Pronunciadas en la Radio Vaticana (Madrid:Editorial Razon yFe, 1966).
“Implementation or Deterioration?” The Wanderer (November 30, 1967).
“The Congregation: Its Possibilities and its Limitations”, Sacred Music (Winter, 1967).
“Christmas in Tirol”, The Wanderer (December 21, 1967).
“Music and the ‘Word and Worship’ Series”, The Wanderer (February 29, 1968);
“The Congregation”, Musart (February-March, 1968).
“By Whose Authority?” The Wanderer (April 4, 1968).
“Christmas Days in Rome”, The Wanderer (December 19, 1968).
“Who Killed Sacred Music”, Triumph (March, 1969).
“Teaching Music History in College”, Musart (February, 1969).
“An Answer to the Problems of Sacred Music Today”, The Wanderer (November, 20, 1969).
“Christmas at St. Agnes”, The Wanderer (December 18, 1969).
“Humanism and the Sacred”, Sacred Music (Winter, 1969).
G. M. Nanino: Fourteen Liturgical Works. Volume V in Recent Researches in the Music of the Renaissance Madison: A-R Editions, 1969.
Sacred Music and Liturgy after Vatican II. Rome: Consociatio Internationalis Musicae Sacrae, 1969 (Edited English edition).
“The ‘Ordo Missae’ and Sacred Music, The Wanderer (April 30, 1970).
“The Virtue of Religion”, Musicae Sacrae Ministerium (Autumnus, 1970).
“Man, Art, God”, Triumph (October, 1970).
“CIMS, Recent Activities”, Sacred Music (Winter, 1970). “Pope Paul on Sacred Music”, Sacred Music (Summer, 1971).
“Law or Opinion?”, Sacred Music (Fall, 1973). “Preparation of the Diocesan Clergy in Church Music”, Sacred Music (Fall, 1974).
“Corpus Christi, 1975”, Sacred Music (Summer, 1975). “Native Music for the Missions”, Sacred Music (Winter, 1975). “What We Profess”, Sacred Music (Fall, 1975).
“How Can You Have a Latin Mass?”, The Saturday Review (Spring, 1976).
“The State of Music in American Churches: Additional Viewpoints”, Church Music (1976).
“Wedding Music”, The Saturday Review (Summer, 1976).
“Church Music Association”, Sacred Music (Spring, 1977).
“The 1967 Instruction Ten Years Later”, Sacred Music (Fall, 1977).
“The Wanderer Stands at the Center”, The Wanderer (October 6, 1977).
“Holy Mary, Mother of God”, The Wanderer (October 20, 1977).
“Modernism: A Continuing Assault on the Papacy”, The Wanderer (June 30, 1977).
“Easter is a Feast of Triumph”, The Wanderer (April 21, 1977).
“Let our Catholic Culture Rise up from the Thorns”, The Wanderer (August 3, 1978).
“Sacred Music and Contemplation”, Sacred Music (Spring, 1979).
“Book Bargain”, Sacred Music (Summer, 1979).
“The Place of Prayer”, Sacred Music (Fall, 1979).
“Vatican Congregation Critical of BCL Paper on Eucharistic Bread”, The Wanderer (1979).
“The Popes and Marian Piety”, The Wanderer (July 8, 1979).
“Evangelization Must Stress the Teachings of Christ and His Church”, The Wanderer (September 13, 1979).
“What’s Behind the Crisis in Priestly Vocations?” The Wanderer (December, 14, 1979).
“Gregorian Chant and Latin in the Seminaries”, Sacred Music (Spring, 1980).
“Easter: A Time for Life”, Immaculata (April, 1980).
“The Sacred”, Sacred Music (Fall, 1980).
“Why the Latin Mass Has all but Died in America”, The Wanderer (February 5, 1981).
“The Spiritual Blindness of the Neo-modernists”, The Wanderer (March 12, 1981).
“A Priest Must Show us Christ”, The Wanderer (June 11, 1981).
“The Funeral Liturgy”, Sacred Music (Winter, 1981).
‘Success’ of the Liturgical Reform”, Sacred Music (Winter, 1981).
“New Approach Needed in Training for the Priesthood”, The Wanderer (May 20, 1982).
“A Chronicle of the Reform” (7 parts), Sacred Music (Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter, 1982, and Spring, Summer, Fall, 1983).
“The Remedy for the Restoration of Sound Catechetics”, The Wanderer (March 17, 1983).
“The Tridentine Mass”, Sacred Music (Winter, 1984).
“A Pastor’s Reflections on ‘Reconciliatio et Poenitentia’”, The Wanderer Supplement (January 17, 1985). “What Makes Music Sacred?”, Sacred Music (Spring, 1985). “Toward a Sacred Liturgy”, Lay Witness (April, 1985). “A Good Beginning”, The Wanderer (October 30, 1986 “Papal Honors for American Musicians”, Sacred Music (Summer, 1987).
“Saint Agnes, Sunday Morning”, Sacred Music (Fall, 1987).
“Christmas Angels”, The Wanderer (December 24, 1987).
“Gregorian Chant in Today’s Parish”, Sacred Music (Summer, 1988).
“A Thousand Years of Catholicism in Ukraine”, The Wanderer (1988).
“The Crib at Bethlehem”, The Wanderer (December, 1989).