Today, at the top of the hour (1600 UK – 1700 Rome – 1100 NYC) I will say Holy Mass with the 1962 Missale Romanum for the repose of the soul of Fr. Dan Schuh.
I never met this priest. I had never heard of him until just a few minutes ago when I read something that filled me with profound sadness.
Friends, take to heart what I wrote about the need for a return to black vestments and a proper sense of what a funeral is for. We must pray for the dead. Let us not canonize them or ourselves.
Read this and weep.
Priest’s funeral a celebration
St. Susanna flock says goodbye
By Sheila McLaughlin
MASON – Father Harry Meyer tried to imagine God’s reaction when St. Susanna pastor Dan Schuh appeared in heaven.
Probably, he said, it was the same as the teenaged skier who witnessed the 50-something priest tumble head over skis down the slopes one winter night at Perfect North Slopes.
"Awesome, dude!" Meyer told the 1,500-plus parishioners and priests who gathered for Schuh’s funeral Mass Wednesday morning.
Schuh, who was diagnosed with ALS – Lou Gehrig’s disease – last year, [poor man] died Friday, only six weeks after handing over most of his church administrative duties to an associate pastor and hours after attending a staff meeting. His death caught many by surprise. [The more reason to be prepared. This will come to all of us.]
Wednesday’s funeral was more of a celebration of Schuh’s life as a widower, father, grandfather and former Kroger manager turned Catholic priest than a solemn affair. [Because the "solemn", which in this case probably means something like "somber/focused/serious" would actually call upon those present to have an encounter with mystery. Instead, most people want to be distracted from what St. Augustine calls "our daily winter".]
The presence of more than 80 priests in cream-colored vestments and Cincinnati Archbishop Daniel Pilarczyk set it apart from the usual service.
The music was upbeat. The message was hopeful and light, often drawing chuckles from the crowd.
Meyer, St. Susanna’s pastor emeritus, referred to the 57-year-old Schuh as "Father Father" because of his dual role as father to his family and his church.
He joked about how Schuh – a hefty 280 pounds until ALS rendered him thin and frail – would certainly enjoy some of the benefits of heaven.
"Rich food and fine wine," Meyer quipped. "So, big Billy Pork Chop will no longer have to raid the refrigerator or be parched." [Yah... that's the sort of elevating rhetoric we need during the funeral of a priest.]
In the end, Pilarczyk prayed over the casket, dispersing incense as he asked God to "open the gates in paradise for your servant." [Thanks be to God for that prayer.]
He thanked all who had cared for Schuh in his last months.
Then, the archbishop and the priests led Schuh’s draped casket through the vestibule of the church, to the hearse waiting outside for the trip to Calvary Cemetery in Dayton, Ohio.
The procession passed easels with hundreds of photographs of a usually smiling Schuh in every facet of his life, even as a young baseball player for the 1959 Fort Thomas All Stars.
It passed poster boards of farewell messages from students at St. Susanna School. [Fine. There is plenty of room for that, too. There is a time for celebration and the sentiment. In. Its. Time. And. Place.]
"I will miss Fr. Dan," one boy scrawled in purple crayon alongside a stick-figure drawing of him and Schuh.
"And, I am happy that he is in heaven." [And we hope... and pray that he is. But let us first pray that God will show him mercy.]
I beg you, dear readers… for the love of God… If I have ever done anything to merit your attention, if ever you hear that I have died, please pray for me. FOR me.
Priests, so much under attack, need your prayers, especially in death.
Why does this account bother me so much?
Christ’s death is a mystery, because mysteries reveal something hidden. They show us something unknown, something outside our experience. In this case we are considering death as a mystery.
This mystery’s allure and repellence come from the fact that we all must die.
We instinctively flee from this reality.
Consequently, we arrange our worlds so as to avoid the fact of death and distract ourselves from it.
We look for way to occupy out time, shuttling from activity to activity. We surround ourselves with noise. We kill time with television, or the internet, or sports or endless forms of play, or even our work, noble though it may be.
Silence and solitude are shoved aside so that we are less likely to confront the terror.
That terror is death.
What terrifies us about the mystery of Christ’s death is not just that He died, but rather that we still have to die even though He died and rose for us.
We can’t avoid death. We cannot control death. We don’t understand death and we fear what we don’t understand. Fear, at its root, is a result of the Fall. Death and fear are inseparable, as cause to its effect.
This is why, I think, so many funerals today are as described above.
Death’s mystery is supremely confronted in Holy Mass, and in its deepest way during the Requiem. Perhaps this is why funerals tend to reveal the worst of our tendencies toward illicit liturgical creativity and bad taste. Corruptio optimi pessima.
Holy Mass must be celebrated in such a way that it leads us into the mystery of Christ’s death, and our death. Mass is therefore like the Cross. It is a mystery. It thus will allure and repel, reveal that things are hidden and demand faith in what is unseen, or rather seen only darkly as if through a glass.
We mustn’t dodge the reality of death. We shove death aside, or paint it over with bright colors and candy music, at our peril. So many funerals are arrange so that people can get through another hour or so without having confronted anything either frightening or meaningful. We avert our gaze from what Christ did for us and from what we must yet experience.
If Holy Mass is reduced to the banal it becomes merely another worldly distraction. It becomes a show.
But Mass is a sacrament, in the sense of its being a mystery. It prepares us for death, Christ’s and our own. What other reason is there to go to any Mass, much less a funeral Mass?
The elements of solemnity, the focus, and the confrontation which characterize the older form of Requiem Mass, are a fearsome challenges to 21st century man. They are precisely what we need to train the soul for an encounter with mystery. They purify us of our over-attachment to the immediate, to the easily and instantly comprehensible.
The soul grows in faith, hope and charity only in contact with a reality so far beyond itself, so transcendent, that it cannot be grasped or controlled.
The soul stands back in awe, in fear and wonder at what it cannot understand and yet knows somehow to be deeply true and necessary.
Holy Mass necessitates our own sacrifice, deprivation, self-emptying, even unto death. In this earthly life we are waiting for the Lord, watching for Him to come to fulfill His promises in us. We are waiting for Him to save us from our incessant fear of death, which St. Augustine called “our daily winter” (ep. 38).
Only by detachment from the merely worldly and through an interior movement of the soul upward, can the seeker come to “awe at transcendence” (William James), the experience of mystery. Awe at transcendence, which is the very object of religion, cannot be induced by empty spectacle or too much manipulation of those very elements which draw us to mystery, or, above all, the removal of those elements.
It must instead be promoted by a purification from distractions, from a measure of deprivation, of hunger, of longing for that which we glimpse only through the cleft in the rock, through the dark glass, through the mystery of the Cross.
Rest in peace, Fr. Schuh. At least one Mass will be said for your soul’s repose.