BY Deacon Tom Picciano
SUN contributing writer
ENDICOTT —- Music started as a hobby for Dan Schutte. He had planned to be a pediatrician, but God led him down a different road.
“I don’t know if I’ll ever understand why God has blessed me with this gift to write music, but I do my best to embrace it and use it for good. I could have never planned my life to turn out this way,” Schutte said. “It’s amazing to hear people sing the songs I’ve written, one of the great graces of my life.”
Schutte will be at Our Lady of Good Counsel Church in Endicott on Oct. 23 for an evening of music and reflection. The following day, he will lead a workshop for liturgical ministers, “Here I Am Lord: Liturgical Ministry at the Service of the Community.”
“Here I Am, Lord” is Schutte’s most recognized hymn, written in just two days for a friend who needed it for a diaconate ordination. But he had no idea how important it would be for so many people and he continues to be amazed at the power it has.
“I suspect that part of its ‘magic’ is that it’s written in the form of a dialogue between God and us,” Schutte said. “All of us have our own conversations with God. But the song makes that dialogue explicit. We listen first to God speaking in our hearts, and then we respond as best we can. The song is able to connect with so many of the moments in our lives.”
But the work which has generated the greatest number of letters and emails is also Schutte’s favorite, “You Are Near,” based on Psalm 139. “It is a piece that offers great hope and comfort to people reminding them that God is always near, that God understands what’s going on and that God loves us so much to come looking for us first,” he said.
As a member of the St. Louis Jesuits for 15 years, a group founded in their seminary days, Schutte and the group generated a large volume of music. He called it a great blessing in his life. “Our collaboration,” he said, ”afforded each of us an entry into the world of sacred music that I doubt we would have had as individuals.” Although they’ve gone their separate ways, the St. Louis Jesuits still perform together several times a year.
“Most people don’t realize that during our 15 years, we only lived together in the same place for five of those. We were scattered all over the country, pursuing our Jesuit studies or doing different ministries. There came a point where we all seemed to realize that we needed time and space to pursue other things,” he said.
For Schutte, going solo has meant publishing nine music collections on his own. Many of his songs are based on the Psalms, which he calls the prayers of humanity.
“My inspiration comes from a variety of sources — from Scripture, from liturgy, from need, from events and from personal prayer.” he said. “There are times when I’m sitting in church on Sunday and suddenly realize that people need a song to express their prayer during a part of the ritual. I will often write from the heart of my own prayer, saying to God those things that I need to say.”
Another, newer song of Schutte’s favorites is “Come Stay With Us,” based on the story of the two disciples on their road to Emmaus. ”It’s an inspiring human story about my own journey of faith, a story of how Christ the Risen One comes to be with us and we don’t recognize him. And then suddenly we realize that our hearts are burning within us and our eyes are opened to see that it’s him. It’s a song about needing to have him tell us stories of what heaven will be like, stories of hope and light and peace,” Schutte said.
Schutte looks forward to people attending the Endicott events and bringing away what is important to them to hear. He calls it a wonderful grace of praying the songs based on sacred Scripture.
“A particular Gospel story will mean one thing to me and another thing for you. We each receive the grace that we need most at the moment,” he said. “So too, a Scripture passage will mean one thing to me at one time in my life, and something very different at another time.”
Schutte’s Evening of Music and Reflection begins at 7 on Friday, Oct. 23 at Our Lady of Good Counsel Church, 701 West Main St. in Endicott. Tickets are $10 in advance or $15 at the door. The Liturgical Minister’s workshop on Saturday the 24th runs from 9 a.m. to noon. Tickets are $10 in advance or $15 at the door. For tickets, call the parish office at (607) 748-7417.