St. Louis Jesuits to reunite at Loyola Nov. 5
Whenever Dan Schutte finds himself, anonymously, in a back pew at Mass and hears “Here I Am, Lord,” the hymn he wrote as a member of the St. Louis Jesuits, he reflects on the awesome power of sacred music to inspire a journey of faith.
Normally, Schutte says, he can let go of the heady notion that he composed one of the Catholic world’s most recognizable hymns of the last 35 years and simply reflect on the scriptural basis for the dozens of popular hymns written by the five members of the St. Louis Jesuits.
“I can pretty much let the music take me,” said Schutte, who will join Jesuit Fathers Bob Dufford, John Foley and Roc O’Connor and former Jesuit seminarian Tim Manion in a rare reunion concert at Loyola University New Orleans’ Roussel Hall Nov. 5 at 7:30 p.m. “One of the things that has made our music effective over the years is that, first of all, St. Ignatius was insistent on basing prayer in Scripture.
“When you look back over our music, so many of our pieces have their foundation in Scripture, sometimes word for word. The other thing is, when we write a song, we know it has to be our prayer first. If it works for me, as a prayer, to connect me to God or just expresses something of God that’s in my heart, then there’s a pretty good chance that it will have that potential in other people.”
Since they live all over the country and serve in different ministries, the St. Louis Jesuits usually get together only once a year in concert. They chose Loyola this year because it is a Jesuit university celebrating its centennial, and they will sing with a choir of Loyola students, liturgical singers and local Catholic parishioners.
Schutte, a former Jesuit, says it is “a humbling experience” to hear people thank him for writing the songs that have become synonymous with Catholic worship in the U.S.
“As a composer, you’re sitting in your room, most of the time alone, writing these pieces, and once they’re published, they’re out in the world and you don’t have any control of that anymore – they’ve left home,” said Schutte, who sings mostly solo at parish missions across the U.S. “Then God takes those things and uses them with grace and power in people lives. Many times, I don’t even know what they’ve done in people’s lives. It’s an honor and a privilege and very humbling.”
Their songs are so ingrained in Catholic culture that many people can start singing them as soon as they hear the title – songs such as “Be Not Afraid,” “Blest Be the Lord,” “One Bread, One Body” and “Earthen Vessels.”
Songs connect individually
Schutte said the dynamic he has seen played out while singing across the country is that people seem to connect with different songs at various times in their lives.
“Sometimes my favorites are not the most popular pieces that other people connect me with,” Schutte said. “Speaking for myself, when people come up to me and say thank you, 90 percent of their comments are about ‘Here I Am, Lord.’ But I’ve found that there are songs that are barely known by other people that I absolutely love and are dear to my heart and dear to my own prayer. It’s such a personal thing.”
The St. Louis Jesuits formed almost accidentally when they were in formation at St. Louis University and began singing at daily and Sunday Masses.
“There was no conscious decision on our part to say, ‘Let’s form a group and write music together and publish it,’” Schutte said. “That whole process happened in very small steps along the way, and God led us along and brought us to this place, where – surprise, surprise – people are calling us a group. It was something that was bigger than us. It was not a plan that we had. God did that.”
Schutte said music can lift a person’s heart and mind to God in a way not possible with any other art form.
“There is something, when you combine text with music, that is more powerful,” Schutte said. “As with all art, there is that element of beauty which you experience – something profoundly beautiful – and those moments can take your breath away. Something happens in our human soul that connects us with the divine.”
Reserved tickets are $15, $10 for Loyola faculty and staff, and $5 for students. VIP tickets are available for $60, which include reserved seating, a pre-concert reception with the artists, and a signed copy of their book, “The St. Louis Jesuits: Thirty Years.” For tickets, visit www.etix.com. For more information, visit http://mm.loyno.edu/jesuit-center/come-experience-st-louis-jesuits or call 865-2304.