|Fr. John Randall|
Remembering Father John Randall
BY ROBERT BURNS
On June 18th we laid to rest Father John Randall, a friend to thousands of us in Rhode Island, New England, the USA, and the world.
As I attended Father Jake’s wake Friday afternoon, his Memorial Mass Friday evening, and his Concelebrated Funeral Mass Saturday morning at St. Charles, I was struck with a plethora of emotions, some profound theological insights, and some reminiscence that helped me clarify who Father truly was.
I had the privilege of being with Father at his dear friend’s birthday party, Rene Plante, on May 23. Another dear friend, former State Representative, William McKenna, had organized the gathering since Rene needs assisted living. It was a happy gathering and Father Jake gave a beautiful Grace before the dinner and his Grace reflected his love for the Holy Spirit, his love for our Lady, and his love for his friend, Rene. As Father prayed, no one would have thought he was battling his own health concerns. All of us in attendance will always cherish that last dinner with Father. I thought of Jesus as we gathered around Father Jake and how we were his disciples.
As I walked in the long line going into Father’s wake, I met people whom I had not seen for years. So many of us grew up in the 70s, 80s, and 90s, and several things bonded us all together: our Catholic faith, our attendance at Father’s prayer meetings on Thursday night at St. Charles, listening to Father’s Spirit and the Word radio program, Bethany Nights on Saturday evenings with Father and Musician Jon Polce, and of course many Pro Life gatherings at St. Charles. Through it all there was Father, instructing us, guiding us, and praying for and with us. So many of those people whom I loved return to St. Charles and it was a reunion, a celebration, and a solemn moment of respect for the priest who had shaped so many of us in our faith. We had all come home and Father gathered us once again.
As I listened to Deacon Jose recall his thoughts about Father on Friday evening, I was struck by his focus on Father’s constant praying. And, when I listened to Father Robert Randall recall his thoughts on his brother, I was struck by Father’s Catholic upbringing, the Randall family’s praying, especially the family rosary, and also what Father Robert said about his brother’s opinion on Pentecost: “My brother thought we prepared well as Catholics for Christmas and Easter, but we were neglectful in preparing for Pentecost. My brother prayed all night before his last Pentecost and then did an all day teaching at St. Philip’s with the People of God’s Love.” As I listened to Father Robert, I could hear Father Jake’s voice and also the voice of our Blessed Lord. Like Jesus, Father was a great preacher. How lucky we all were to have listened to him.
I also want to recall three personal incidents about Father that shall never leave me. I was in an automobile accident one Thanksgiving. A drunk driver hit me on Route 195 and it was a miracle I was not killed. One month after the accident, I developed vertigo, and for the next two years I could not go anywhere without being dizzy and losing my balance. I was at my wits end one day and went to Mass at St. Charles. Father knew something was not right. I asked him to pray over me. The next day the vertigo was gone and my two-year trial of dizziness was over. Father’s prayers were always powerful and produced many healings. During our Pro-Life gatherings, we had many friends who were defending unborn babies all over the USA. These courageous and faith-filled people were often detained and many were put in prisons. I received phone calls from Father on our friends who needed help. Several were detained in Connecticut and Father called me and asked me to help one in particular, Tom. I picked up Tom and Father said something to me I shall never forget: “Don’t worry about a thing Bobby. I sent the Holy Spirit to guide you, give you the words you need to handle any situation, and to protect you from any further persecution.” Just as Father predicted, the Holy Spirit guided our every step. And the final situation was when my Mom died a few years ago. I had mentioned to Father she was failing and he knew she needed prayers and so did I. The Friday before she died I asked the Lord for guidance to help and protect her and Father came walking in and for the next three hours he prayed over Mom. She knew he was there and she was given great peace and many graces from Father’s visit. Before Father left he said to Mom: “You are in good hands Mary and you have nothing to worry about. He is with you.” Father turned to me and said: “She is now ready and the Lord will decide everything.” Mom died the following Tuesday and I had peace because of Father’s counsel, prayers, and assurance.
There are hundreds of stories about Father that many can recall. Just to see so many bishops and priests and people at his Mass made me realize that we lost a giant in our church. I think it was fitting that Jon Polce sang one of Father’s favorite songs during the funeral, “Rejoice, The Lord Is Risen!” And when Jon finished singing I could hear Jesus saying, “Well done, Jake, my good and faithful servant. Enter into the House of my Father.”
Robert Burns, of Cranston, is a professor at Bridgewater State College and was a friend of the late Father John Randall.