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Baptized in the Spirit

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Baptized in the Spirit

“It seems like a whole new life.”

By Father John Randall

I have been a priest now for 30 years. The first 15 I refer to as B.C., and the second 15 years as A.D. It’s not that I wasn’t Christian or even a happy priest the first half of my priesthood; it’s just that the difference between the two periods is so great that it seems like a whole new life.

I can pinpoint the exact moment the change began. One evening Donald Wilkerson of Brooklyn’s Teen Challenge prayed over me for a new outpouring of the Holy Spirit in my personal life and ministry. I didn’t understand what it all meant, but I knew if it were possible to have more of God I wanted it.

The next morning as I started to celebrate Mass I experienced Jesus right beside me. The Mass was brand new! That sense of God’s presence has never left me.

Six months later I was prayed over by a Catholic Pentecostal leader, Paul DeCelles. At that time I taught scripture on the college level and was a member of the Catholic Biblical Association. I had had excellent academic training.

But in that moment of prayer, by a pure gift of the Spirit, I was lifted to an entirely new level of biblical knowledge and love. I describe it as a change from the Greek concept of knowledge, which is intellectual, to the Hebrew understanding, which is experiential. God was right there reading the Bible to me. I wept for sheer joy. Again, this gift of God has never left me.


Rather quickly, other things began to happen. I thought that to love God meant mostly to serve Him. Now He became my intimate friend. I walked with Him all the time. I never tired of praising Him. I knew, with that experiential kind of knowledge, that god loved me even more that I loved Him.

He seemed to be putting everything at my disposal; His life, peace, joy, love, heart, and mind. Wherever I went, others who had yielded to the Holy Spirit were having the same experiences. We rejoiced together.

I began to devour the lives of the saints, taking dusty volumes off the shelves. Some of their experiences were the same as mine, and I wanted to learn from them.

I began to realize why God had not seemed to hear a lot of my prayers. I had been trying to sell Him to my plans, and He just would not buy them: “Lord, when are you going to move? When are you going to renew your church, this parish, this seminary?”

The power of the Holy Spirit was so evident as I joined with other Christians in the Father’s love, in praise and in prayer. We were like the first Christians, coming together “to listen to the apostle’s teaching, to fellowship, to break bread, and to pray” (Acts 2:42).

A new power to evangelize – actually an irresistible drive to share the love of God and his word – came over me. I felt impelled to speak, to write, and to sing of the great treasure available to us.

I could summarize it all by saying that I was not working for God anymore. He was working in and through me. I was definitely the junior partner. I could sleep nights now without worrying and wake up to new adventures with God. I knew what St. Francis meant when he sang of being the king’s herald and servant.

As a theologian I was able to identify with Heribert Muhlen, the noted German theologian of the Holy Spirit, after he was baptized in the Holy Spirit. I recall his testimony at the international leader’s conference in Rome in 1975. “We German theologians,” he said, “if facing two doors, one of which said ‘Discussion about Heaven’ and the other marked ‘Heaven” would go in the door marked ‘Discussion about Heaven,’”. That is what I had been doing too!

Muhlen went on to say that after being prayed over he had made a very long journey – for him the longest in the world – the journey from his head to his heart. I can still hear him crying out at the Rome conference before 10,000 people: “Jesus ist der Herr!” (Jesus is Lord).


Is this experience for everyone? Is being baptized in the Holy Spirit for all?

I am absolutely convinced it is. In fact, I think it is a kind of watershed, or better, a bridge that once crossed makes all the difference in the world. It’s the B.C. /A.D. change I spoke of above. It’s getting out of the driver’s seat” in order to experience the Lord in charge, taking us on an exciting ride to a whole new world.

If people do not receive this power of the Holy Spirit they will not be effective apostles, they will not perform signs and wonders, and they will not experience the fruit of the Holy Spirit in their lives. They will not experience what Jesus promised his followers: “You will do the things I do and even greater because I go to the Father” (John 14:12).

I distinctly remember a conversation I had with Fr. George Kosicki of Bethany House of Intercession concerning several days of renewals and retreats we had given. We had both tried to be diplomatic about introducing the charismatic renewal, especially to priests. Progress would be painstakingly made, and at the end our fellow priests would be genuinely grateful, telling us we had answered their questions and that they were satisfied. They could see now, they said, that there was theological justification for this movement.

However, from my perspective that was not enough. Lives were not changed. Everything remained “in the head.” We were still in the room marked “Discussion about heaven.”

So Fr. Kosicki and I decided to take the bull by the horns. We believed that being baptized in the Holy Spirit was for everyone; abbots, bishops, lay men and women, priests, religious – everybody. We started to say that, and while we met with more resistance we also began to see lives change. We began to see priests not just talking about a new outpouring of the Holy Spirit in their lives but being willing to be prayed with for it.

God wants his people to give up control of their lives, to open themselves to the earthshaking dimension of a New Pentecost, letting the Spirit lead, guide, and empower them. It makes a profound difference. It means crossing the bridge to where lives and ministries will never be the same again – where God is truly god, where Jesus is truly Lord, and where we his people have the ability and joy to serve the great king with his very power and wisdom.

Often in today’s church ambitious campaigns of evangelism or religious instruction for youth seem to meet with little success. I believe the reason is that people involved in these ministries are not sufficiently empowered by the Holy Spirit. There is no substitute for being baptized in the Holy Spirit. You can either cross that bridge or condemn yourself and your program s to being largely ineffectual. Only what the Lord inspires, leads, and builds will stand. It is as simple as that!


Jesus said, “Ask and you shall receive, seek and you shall find, knock and it shall be opened for you….What father among you if his son asked for a fish would give him a serpent?...If you, evil as you are, know how to give your sons good things, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy spirit to those who ask him” (Luke 11:9, 11, 13).

Do you notice the correspondence between good things and the Holy Spirit? Being baptized in the Holy Spirit is God’s gift good gift to us. The way to receive it is by asking the Father in Jesus’ name to send his Spirit. He wants to do that even more than we want to receive it! It is simple, not complicated. We are the ones who complicate it.

At the first Pentecost Peter very clearly and simply told the crowd what they were to do: Repent, believe in Jesus, and receive the Holy Spirit (see Acts 2:38). There is no magic formula, only this.

Repent for your past sins. If you are presently in a sinful pattern or life style, repent and turn away from it. God’s love for you is infinite, and for those who turn to Him his provision far outweighs any pleasure we could seek for ourselves. If you are Catholic take advantage of the sacrament of reconciliation for grace and healing.

Acknowledge your need for a savior. You cannot live a good or worthwhile life apart from Jesus Christ. Tell Him you need Him to be your personal Lord and savior.

Receive the Holy Spirit. God can respond to our prayer privately if He so wishes. But usually he touches our lives through other’s prayer for us to receive new life in the Holy Spirit. He wants us to have good fellowship and support in the Christian life. Look for a strong prayer group in your parish, city, or diocese. Go to these brothers and sisters and tell them you want to have a new life in the Holy Spirit.

God will not hold back from you what He most desires to give. The great grave of a new Pentecost is upon us. Those who seek will find.

I believe that once you yield your life to be baptized in the Holy Spirit there is a bridge you cross after which you will never be the same. If it has happened to you, you know it. If not, it is waiting for you. Come, Lord Jesus!


Obituary of Father John Randall


The homily from the Funeral Mass may be found below


Posted: Tuesday, June 21, 2011 11:54 am, Rhode Island Catholic

The Reverend John F. Randall, 82, Pastor Emeritus of St. Charles Borromeo Church, Providence, died on Tuesday, June 14, 2011.

Born in Newport, Rhode Island, son of the late Robert A. and Marie (Niland) Randall, he attended St. Mary and St. Augustin Schools and De LaSalle Academy in Newport.

In preparation for the priesthood, he studied at Our Lady of Providence Seminary in Warwick and at the Grand Seminaire in St. Brieuc, France. He was ordained a priest on May 30, 1953 at the Cathedral of SS. Peter and Paul in Providence by the Most Reverend Russell J. McVinney.

On June 10, 1953, Father Randall was appointed chaplain at Mt. St. Rita Novitiate in Cumberland and teacher at St. Raphael’s Academy in Pawtucket. In September 1955, he was transferred to St. Joseph Church, Pawtucket as assistant pastor and continued to teach at St. Raphael’s Academy. In September 1958, he became teacher at Our Lady of Providence Seminary in Warwick. After a summer assignment as assistant pastor at Sacred Heart Church in East Providence, he was sent to the University of Louvain in Belgium for post graduate studies in Sacred Scripture. After his return from Louvain, Father Randall was appointed professor at Our Lady of Providence Seminary in Warwick on September 10, 1962 and later spiritual director in December 1963. Then in June 1971, he was transferred as assistant pastor to St. Patrick Church in Providence. In December 1976, he became full time staff person in a Program for Renewal in the Spirit and in September 1978, pastor of St. Charles Borromeo Church in Providence and continued his work for Renewal in the Spirit until his retirement in June 2001 as Pastor Emeritus.

In addition to his parish and teaching work, Father Randall served also as Diocesan Consultor (1966); Synodal Examiner (1967); member of the Commission on Project Clergy Renewal (1970); member of the Committee of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal in the United States; directed the Spirit and the Word program on radio and TV.

Father Randall is survived by a brother, the Reverend Robert J. Randall, and three sisters: Sr. Mary Randall, SSJ, of Providence, Mrs. Theresa Zimmerly of Elyria, Ohio, and Mrs. Joan Soares of Newport, Rhode Island; also a number of nieces and nephews.

The Solemn Transferal of his body was celebrated on June 17 at St. Charles Church in Providence presided by Bishop Louis E. Gelineau, retired bishop of Providence. A concelebrated Mass of Christian burial was offered for the repose of his soul at St. Charles Church on June 18th with Bishop Thomas J. Tobin as the main celebrant and Bishop Robert C. Evans, Bishop Ernest B. Boland, Bishop Francis X. Roque, retired auxiliary bishop of the Military Archdiocese and Daniel P. Reilly, retired bishop of Worcester, concelebrated. The homilist was Rev. Robert Randall, brother of the deceased. Burial was in St. Columba Cemetery, Middletown, RI.



Father Robert Randall’s Homily of Father John F. Randall 1-12-31-1928 to 6-15-2011


The bible readings were chosen by my Sister Mary and me to reflect Father John's three major concerns; first with the Old Testament prophets who call us to repentance and remind us of God's power and fidelity to his promises, secondly, the reading from Wednesday, the day of his death.


His concern with St. Paul's teaching on ecumenical unity, on the Body of Christ and the gifts of the Holy Spirit; thirdly his concern with Jesus' prayer for priests and all of us, a prayer for intimacy through faith and love, a prayer from John's Gospel that Father John chose as the subject of his doctoral dissertation at the University of Louvain.


We come to church today as we always do to praise God in his work of creation and salvation, or as the Psalms sing, his work of loving kindness and endless fidelity. We come in this week of Pentecost to thank Him for sending his only Son to save us and for sending the Holy Spirit to build his church. We come to the altar in the presence of "myriads of angels," in the presence of the apostles and all the saints of heaven, to offer sacrifice for the salvation of all men and women. We come now in this sad but happy hour to pray for Father John Randall, former pastor and rebuilder of this Church of St. Charles, that he be totally purified for the enjoyment of divine life with his Master and Lord, the risen and glorified Jesus Christ. Father John's hero St. Paul wrote, "The Lord is the Spirit and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being changed into his likeness, from one degree of glory to another; for this comes from the Lord who is the spirit."(II Cor3:l7-l8) May John know now the fullness of Christ's glory, face to face.


Those of us who really knew Father John have no doubt that King Jesus will give him a royal welcome. Those of us on earth can rejoice in having known a true man of God. Father McGovern summed up our feelings when he said to me Wednesday: "When I was with John I never had a single doubt that he was a man of the Spirit, pure gold." And I would add, he was not only a great priest of the Diocese of Providence but a great priest of the world. Jim Stapleton, our undertaker, told me that he had phone calls on Wednesday from Canada and seven states outside Rhode Island, all this before the announcement in the papers. Father John was God's gift to the world.


1'll order my remarks about Father John under three headings: John in the Randall family, John in his first 20 years of priesthood; John in his last 38 years.

John grew up in a family formed by the Word of God. Father Anthony Sarsfield Cotter, curate of St. Mary's, taught us the family rosary long before Father Paynton and consecrated our family to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. He spent much of his life training choir and altar boys into secret societies and teaching us the skills of baseball, football and camping. His ghost stories during our overnight camping trips to Lawton's Valley were spellbinding. Then when dad moved to St. Augustin's parish in 1938, Father Cotter would store his athletic equipment in our garage in preparation for practice sessions at Richmond Field. Many a young man owed his development in faith and in sports to Father Cotter. He was GOING MY WAY long before Bing Crosby.


At St. Augustin's we had a devoted pastor Father Joe Coleman who insured we knew our religion. Though we went to his parochial school, we still had to attend bible study for public school students on Sunday afternoons. Father Coleman actively pursued us to our priestly vocations, first to John, and then to me. Besides these saintly priests there was the Sisters of Mercy whom dad and mom knew well since they provided taxi service for them. And then there were the good Sisters of St. Joseph who educated my sisters at St. Catherine's Academy, all friends of the family.

If you ask the Randall family they will tell you they see Father John no different now than they did years ago. He is the same one who tells kookie jokes and puns, the same one who throws grapes up in the air to catch them one by one in his mouth and sometimes, to entertain his nieces and nephews, teaches them at table to throw tiny tomatoes in the air to catch in their mouth and then to talk sports with them.. John never missed a family celebration or an opportunity to give help and encouragement to cousins and neighbors. As a boy I fought strongly with him on the tennis court, basketball court, football field but never on the golf course, mainly because he worked as a teen at Bailey's Beach and I at Newport Country Club. In later life we would always meet for the big games or tournaments and celebrate with dinner. I planned last Monday to have dinner with him and Sister Mary in a restaurant when we could watch the final holes of the US Open golf tournament on this Sunday, tomorrow. He was always an ardent fan of our Boston teams; he had little use for the Pittsburgh Steelers or the NY Yankees.

Throughout our family history he was a great celebrator of mom and dad. One of his joys was escorting my mother around Ireland during the summer just before he finished his seminary studies in France. Perhaps his greatest joy was hosting Pop Randall at St. Charles' Rectory for the final seven years of dad's life. And he was not at all jealous that dad had more famous visitors than he had! John's last visits to Newport were just two weeks ago, one for my sister Joan's 70th birthday, my 60th anniversary, and my sister Theresa's 50th wedding anniversary; the other visit 5 days later was for his grand niece's graduation from St. George's Academy.


2nd, his first 20 years of priesthood... In 1953 John returned home from the Grande Seminary in Brittany, France, a frail and tough young man, after 5 years in an old cold stone building without heat. But he was joyful after being tutored along with Joe Heaney and Dan Reilly by the saintly and scholarly Father Herve. He loved his early priestly ministry with the nuns at Mount St. Rita's and with the students at St. Raphael's. To this day I hear from those he tutored and from those he served at St. Joseph's in Pawtucket. Bishop McVinney recognized his spiritual qualities and soon sent him to Louvain to prepare him as Spiritual Director at his Seminary in Warwick, where I happened to be teaching. Before I knew it, Bishop McVinney named me to be the College Seminary Rector. I don't think I had any difficulty there with my brother, though I had lots of difficulty with the senior seminarians and a few of the faculty. I do remember John taking some seminarians to NY to introduce them to the world of the CROSS AND THE SWITCHBLADE. Father John was a popular spiritual director who taught more by example than by words. And during those first 20 years he was a much loved priest in the parishes where he helped out and most beloved as a director in the Cursilio Movement, a movement he used to develop leaders in our parishes throughout the diocese. That Movement survives in different forms throughout the world. I was the priest leader in one at Boca Raton, Florida for five years.


3. The next 38 years for Father John were indeed more dramatic and colorful. He had heard of the explosive coming of the Holy Spirit on some eight priests at Duchaine University in 1968. Within a couple of years, the Holy Spirit visited John to give him a whole new experiential knowledge of the Risen Christ with the ambition to renew his church. First, he left the Seminary with Father Ray Kelly to form St. Patrick’s on Smith Street in 1971, an experiment in shared community life with households modeled on the early church. He led the Prayer Group on Thursday evenings with the conviction that whatever Jesus did in his ministry 2,000 years ago Christians with faith empowered by the Holy Spirit could do today, and could do even greater things, as the Lord promised. God responded to John’s faith and his life of prayer, fasting and penance in such a way that St. Patrick’s became a City of God set on a hill. To this day Father John never wavered in his faith conviction that God in the power of the Holy Spirit would do today what He did through Jesus in his day. He told me many times that he experienced everything that Jesus experienced in his ministry of healing and the giving of life.

After a few years, in his zeal for evangelization, he began his daily radio programs of bible study, a work that continued with a group of men for 30 years. With the guidance of his friend Bishop Gelineau he began fulltime in 1976 the Program for Renewal in the Spirit and two years later Bishop Gelineau allowed him to put that program into practice as Pastor of St. Charles. I remember John telling me of the advice Billy Graham gave him to form a parish: "Do what Jesus did. Choose twelve good men, meet with them every morning from 6 to 7 and form them into evangelists. Then work and pray with them, suffer and die with them, to build the Community of Christ on Dexter Street.” That's an outline of what Father John did at St. Charles, but instead of 12 men he ended up with 100 dedicated disciples that formed the core of St. Charles parish. The first ten years were difficult years of physical and spiritual warfare, even as his Prayer Meetings grew in intensity and number. He began all his works of Marian Devotion, of Eucharistic Adoration, Life in the Spirit Seminars, evangelization programs, developing leaders for the Right to Life, the work of feeding the hungry, healing the sick with the aid of Dr. Maglio and others, preaching the Full Gospel on radio, at conferences and at liturgies, giving retreats and giving leadership to the Charismatic Movement at Steubenville and throughout the country, in ecumenical work at the Community of Jesus down at Orleans, and the work of developing vocations to the religious life. But nothing did he do without an epiclesis, the invoking of the Holy Spirit for direction and strength. He was convinced that "unless the Lord build the house, they labor in vain to build it.”

In such a way did the Church of St. Charles come to expansive life and honor, to fruitfulness. The parish has evangelized 5.000 adults in its Life in the Spirit Seminars and has had 21 young men and women enter the seminary or religious life. The present Deacon Jose and Father Garcia are products of Father John’s ministry at St. Charles. As Jesus said, “By their fruits you will know them.” John wrote that as Catholics we have the fullness of biblical revelation; we have it all. But we get very arrogant and don't put into practice what we have. "Often our Protestant and our Pentecostal brothers and sisters put us to shame by the way they use what they have." Such is Father John's challenge to us all: to use what we have in the power of the Holy Spirit.

Father John worked unsparingly for the work of Christ and his Holy Spirit. And though he suffered greatly these past four years from a fall in the parking lot of St. Charles and recently from cancer, even in retirement he worked with full time dedication. Though he never enjoyed writing, he produced in recent years four small books of unusual insights: THE BOOK OF REVELATION: What does it mean? WISDOM INSTRUCTS HER CHILDREN, The power of the Spirit and the Word; MARY, BARRIER OR BRIDGE; and NO SPIRIT, NO CHURCH, words taken from the Eastern Bishops of the Second Vatican Council as they read and rejected the Roman prepared Document on the Nature of the Church. I must say after reading these books the past few days that they contain some great theological insights and powerful reasons to change our style of ministry. His last book on the Church is now in its second edition and I'm sure will go into its third edition. If so, that will mean 10,000 copies without any public means of advertising. And if you want a copy, you must really search to find one!

Father John had lots of critical things to say, but like his hero St. Paul, he said them with meekness and gentleness, but like Paul he was not without his fiery boldness. Though he was disappointed in the church's neglect of the Holy Spirit and our diocese's exclusion of him in the work of evangelization and parish formation, the work of training catechists and deacons, he never ended with a word of anger or pessimism.

He wondered at the end of his career what his next work should be. He would quote to me the dilemma of St. Paul found in his Letter to the Phillipians: "For me to live is Christ and to die is gain. If it is to be life in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet, what I should choose I cannot tell. My desire is to depart.

Note: Father Randall's books are available on line from the Confraternity of Penitents Holy Angels Gift Shop.

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