Obituary: Monsignor James Rae, 88

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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.

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

“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,” said Mike Knox, who had worked with him as a pastoral assistant at St John’s and was a close friend to Mgr Rae over many years. “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 December 5, 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, Oscott in Warwickshire. He was ordained a priest on June 3, 1951, at St Mary’s Metropolitan Cathedral in the city.

His first posting was to St Mary’s in Stirling where he spent a decade before moving on to 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 Mgr 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 priests 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 of St Andrews and Edinburgh 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.”

“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.”

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

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