Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
May 10, 2010
A crusader for the Holy Spirit
Fr. John Randall says incredible things happen when people experience the spirit
WESTERN CATHOLIC REPORTER
On the eve of Pentecost 2006, Father John Randall was recuperating at home from a hip replacement. He switched to EWTN on his TV and was overjoyed as he watched Pope Benedict lead a prayer meeting in St. Peter's Square with 400,000 young people.
The next day, his joy turned to sorrow as throughout his diocese no one made any mention of the Holy Spirit. "I was crestfallen on Pentecost Day," he recalls.
The next year it was the same as Pentecost fell on the U.S. Memorial Day holiday and the following year it was drowned out by Mother's Day.
Randall made up his mind: "I vowed I would spend the rest of my life as a crusader for the Holy Spirit."
"The missing ingredient in the Church is the Holy Spirit," he told about 120 people at an April 30-May 1 conference at St. Andrew's Centre auditorium. "When the Holy Spirit has permission (to act), incredible things happen, even today. Why don't we see that?"
Randall, an 82-year-old author, pastor and Scripture scholar from Providence, R.I., said Pope Benedict sees the importance of the Holy Spirit to the life of the Church. Earlier this year, the pope said, "The most important thing in the Church today is that Catholics experience being baptized in the Holy Spirit."
Randall put the emphasis on "experience."
The Catholic Church has good theology of the Holy Spirit and people do receive the Spirit through Baptism, he said. "When God baptized you, it took. But maybe it's still in the freezer for you."
"A lot of us look like we were not baptized in the Holy Spirit, but baptized in pickle juice."
He cited the example of Herbert Muhlen, a leading Catholic theologian on the Holy Spirit. Muhlen took part in ecumenical dialogue with Pentecostals. One day, a Pentecostal leader, David DuPlessis, challenged Muhlen to pray that God would take the knowledge that was in his head and put it into his heart.
Muhlen followed that advice and the next day returned to the dialogue on fire. "Jesus Christ is Lord," he proclaimed loudly as he entered the meeting room.
Randall urged those at the conference to pray "the prayer of Herbert Muhlen" - to ask God to take the faith and knowledge in their heads and put it into their hearts.
"The Holy Spirit makes your Baptism come alive," he said. Then, like St. Paul, you can say, "It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me" (Galatians 2.20).
"It's exciting when that happens. Jesus becomes everything for you."
Teens, he said, don't want to attend Mass because they find it boring. Others claim the rosary is a dull prayer.
"When the Holy Spirit gets ahold of the Mass, it's not boring. When the Holy Spirit gets ahold of Eucharistic Adoration, it's not boring.
"Prayer is the most exciting thing in the world. Why? Because prayer is union with God."
He recalled going with a group of young charismatics to talk to a Catholic campus group about prayer. When the group arrived, they found out that they only had 30 minutes to talk before the campus group turned to what it saw as the real event of the evening - a dance.
The group went into action, speaking about the miracles and other life-giving experiences they had had in prayer. At midnight, they were still talking to the students and the dance never took place. The next day a carload of kids from the university group followed the charismatics to another town to learn more about prayer.
FROM TALKING TO LISTENING
Randall said that before he received the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, "I thought I was a praying man. But my prayer wasn't that great. My prayer was talking to God, selling him my plans."
But the Lord "was not about to buy well-conceived plans."
"My prayer changed from 90 per cent talking to God and 10 per cent listening to 90 per cent listening and 10 per cent talking."
Previously, it had seemed God would never answer his prayers. But when he emphasized listening in prayer, "It was like getting the Midas touch. Every time I followed one of his plans, it worked."
He started a small prayer group. Within a year, it had 500 members.
"It was exciting. We would meet to pray and we would pray all night." The pastor of the church where they met would kick them out, saying, "The Holy Spirit doesn't work after midnight." The group would move to a nearby house and continue praying until 2 or 3 a.m.
His bishop sent Randall and another priest to run "a dying inner city parish" where the school had just been closed. The parishioners were angry about that closure. But the two priests started a prayer group and soon the prayer group decided to re-open the school. Former teachers volunteered to teach because they felt children shouldn't have to wait until they were in mid-life to meet the Holy Spirit.
The parish blossomed and people began moving into the neighbourhood. The revival was so remarkable that it drew national media attention and Randall was asked to lead a seminar on parish renewal in Rome.
A few years later, the bishop moved Randall to another parish, one in even worse shape, that the bishop was considering closing. Crime and prostitution were rampant in the neighbourhood and many people would not attend the prayer group because they were afraid of going into the area.
But the priest had no intention of closing the parish; he saw it as a potential centre for evangelization. Eventually, they were able to start Eucharistic Adoration in the parish, which in 1996 became perpetual adoration.
Since then, the parish has had 21 vocations to the priesthood and religious life and has become one of the top financial parishes in the diocese. "Many people don't want to hear about the charismatic renewal, but money talks."
The parish is now 90 per cent Hispanic with 1,000 people attending the noon Mass, a youth group of 200 teens and a Jesus Club where young children experience the Spirit. Three-quarters of the parishioners have been baptized in the Holy Spirit and a new Life in the Spirit seminar to bring new people into the charismatic renewal begins every seven weeks.
Despite the explosion of new life in the two previously forsaken parishes, Randall is clear about one thing: "The charismatic movement is not going to change the world. The Holy Spirit is going to change the world."
FIXING THE BUILDING
Movements are like the scaffolding needed to fix the building; they're not the building itself, he said. The charismatic movement will die, "but the building will be happy, healthy and beautiful."
Randall recounts his experiences in his recent book, No Spirit, No Church.
The title comes from an incident at the Second Vatican Council. Before the council began, theologians from Western Europe wrote the draft of a document on the nature of the Church. But when bishops from the Eastern churches saw the draft, they were horrified. It made no mention of the Holy Spirit.
"The Eastern bishops stood up and said, 'No Spirit, no Church.'"
The resulting document, the Constitution on the Church, made numerous references to the Spirit, creating the opportunity for the rise of new movements in the Church because of what Randall called "this new openness to the Holy Spirit."
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