Appreciation: Monsignor James Rae

Monsignor James Rae: Former parish priest of St John the Evangelist in PortobelloMonsignor James Rae: Former parish priest of St John the Evangelist in Portobello
Monsignor James Rae: Former parish priest of St John the Evangelist in Portobello
Born: 5 December, 1926, in Edinburgh. Died: 15 October, 2015, in Edinburgh, aged 88

Affectionate tributes have been paid to Monsignor James Rae, former parish priest of St John the Evangelist in Portobello, who has died at the age of 88.

“He was much loved, a faithful man, a man of deep prayer, a great sense of humour, a good intellect, a very fine priest, a very lovable man,” said Fr Jock Dalrymple, the present parish priest of St John’s.

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Monsignor Rae died peacefully in his sleep on the evening of 15 October after receiving the Sacrament of the Sick and an Apostolic Blessing from Archbishop Cushley.

“Monsignor Rae slipped peacefully away with his favourite picture of the Sacred Heart at the foot of the bed, holding his rosary beads in his hands and listening to music he loved – I now know in a new way what ‘Rest in Peace’ means,” said Mike Knox, who had worked with him as a pastoral assistant at St John’s and was a close friend to Monsignor Rae over many years.

“Monsignor Rae has accompanied many people on the same road that he has travelled in recent months and was fully aware of what was happening to him,” added Mike, “The celebration of Mass in his room was the focal point of his day and he spent many hours praying the rosary and composing new mysteries.”

James Tait Rae was born on 5 December, 1926 and was baptised at Holy Cross Church, Edinburgh. He studied for the priesthood at St Mary’s College, Blairs in Aberdeenshire and St Mary’s College, Oscottt in Warwickshire. He was ordained a priest on 3 June, 1951 at St Mary’s Metropolitan Cathedral in Edinburgh.

His first posting was to St Mary’s in Stirling where he spent a decade before moving onto St Peter’s in Edinburgh for eight years. He then jointly served the parishes of Our Lady’s in Currie, St Joseph’s in Balerno and St Mary’s in Ratho from 1969 to 1980. It was in the September of that year that Cardinal Gordon Gray appointed Monsignor Rae as the parish priest of St John’s in Portobello. It was a post he held for 33 years until his retirement in 2013.

“Monsignor Jim Rae was one of the first priest I met when I arrived here in the Archdiocese as one of my first duties was to attend his farewell Mass at St John’s,” recalled Archbishop Leo Cushley.

“I immediately gained the impression of a man and a priest who was very much loved by his people - everybody had such tremendous respect and affection him, everybody knew he had worked hard and worked very well at their service with great dedication over many years,” said the Archbishop.

Over the years Monsignor Rae developed a deep appreciation and understanding of the spirituality of St Ignatius of Loyola, the 16th-century founder of the Society of Jesus or Jesuits. In 1996 he undertook the three-month course in Ignatian Spirituality at St Beuno’s College in Wales. He subsequently supported more than 50 parishioners in undertaking the Spiritual Exercises of St Ignatius in daily life.

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“I remember thinking to myself that I wished I had met Monsignor Rae 25 years earlier,” added the Archbishop, “because I would have loved to work with such a priest in the Archdiocese – a man of great prayer, a man of great humour, a man of great experience.”

In his final days Monsignor Rae was cared for by the Little Sisters of the Poor at St Joseph’s House in Edinburgh. “He was very appreciative of the well-wishing kindness of so many people and felt held in prayer,” said Mike Knox, “He so valued the love, care and support of the Little Sisters of the Poor and all the staff at St Joseph’s.”

Monsignor Rae’s Requiem Mass will take place at St John the Evangelist Church in Portobello at noon on Saturday, 24 October and thereafter to Mount Vernon Cemetery in Liberton for 2pm.