Fr. James' Letters

Making Saints

On October 10th, 2020 a young boy of fifteen was declared blessed at the Basilica of St Francis in Assisi, Italy. Born in 1991, Carlo Acutis was a normal kid who loved soccer, played on his Playstation and enjoyed good food. His love for Jesus was evident from the time he was five. It would seem that God blessed him with special graces. It was he who brought his parents to the Catholic faith that they had abandoned. His eyes were set on heaven. He said, “Our goal must be the Infinite and not the finite. The Infinite is our homeland. We are always expected in Heaven.” Once he made his First Holy Communion he made daily Mass his priority. Stricken with leukemia, he was not afraid to die. He said, “I am happy to die because I lived my life without wasting even a minute of it on anything not pleasing to God.” His short life was spent “with Jesus, for Jesus, in Jesus.” Carlo will probably go down as the first millennial saint.

Carlo reminds us that we are meant for heaven. We are called to be saints. All that we do here in our parish is meant to help us become saints – ultimately to reach heaven. The purpose of our religious education, our school and all our ministries is to help all of us to become holy. Unfortunately many people have a distorted idea of what a saint is. They think that sanctity is out of touch with real life and out of reach for common folk.  Saints are as normal as you and I. Just like Jesus who enjoyed a good meal and the company of His friends, we become saints even as we savor the blessings of God’s abundant goodness. 

The purpose of our faith education is not merely to pass on some information or even to teach a moral code, or to ensure that our Church continues to flourish by recruiting new members. The purpose of all catechesis is pure and simple: To make saints. What do I mean by that? The ultimate goal of our life is to become saints, to reach heaven. We came from God and our ultimate purpose is to return to God. Those of us familiar with the Baltimore Catechism are aware of this truth. One of the first questions in the book asks: “Why did God make you?” The answer is short and to the point: “God made me to know Him, to love Him, and to serve Him in this life, and to be happy with Him forever in heaven.” Catechesis is supposed to help our children in their effort to reach heaven. In other words, catechesis is meant to make saints.

Some years ago I was talking to a mother of several children. At one point, out of the blue she said: “My primary goal as a mother is to get my children to heaven.” It is so easy to forget that fundamental purpose of our parenting.  We are called to help our children become holy. On the day we baptized our children, we promised that we would teach them to love the God Who gave them to us. On that day our children started on a journey – to grow in the image of Christ. Parents are the first teachers of the faith. Saints are formed in the home first of all. 

What catechesis does is to reinforce and supplement what is done at home. In our religious education – whether in our CCD program or in our Catholic school - we seek to help our children form a personal relationship with the living person of Jesus Christ. Through prayer and sacraments, through doctrine and moral teaching, we assist our students in their efforts to sanctify themselves even as they live in this world. We want to show them how they can keep themselves unsullied by the temptations and seductions of our material world. 

In conclusion I would like to share with you the words Pope Francis spoke to the young people gathered in Rio, Brazil, for World Youth Day. His words resonate with what I have tried to share with you in this column:

We need saints without cassocks, without veils. We need saints with jeans and tennis shoes. We need saints that go to the movies, that listen to music, that hang out with friends.

We need saints who put God in first place, ahead of succeeding in any career. We need saints who look for time to pray every day and who know how to be in love with purity, chastity, and all good things. We need saints, saints of the 21st century with a spirituality appropriate to our new time. 

We need saints that have a commitment to helping the poor and to make the needed social change. We need saints to live in the world, to sanctify the world and to not be afraid of living in the world by their presence in it.

We need saints that drink Coca-Cola, that eat hot dogs, that surf the internet and that listen to their iPods. We need saints that love the Eucharist, that are not afraid or embarrassed to eat a pizza or drink a beer with their friends.

We need saints who love the movies, dance, sports, theater. We need saints that are open, sociable, normal, happy companions. We need saints who are in this world and who know how to enjoy the best in this world without being callous or mundane.

We need saints.

May our Catholic school and our religious education program enable our children and young people to become saints! May all of us strive to conform ourselves to the image of Christ!

Who is Fr. James?

Father James Wallace grew up in Winnetka, Illinois and attended Sts. Faith Hope and Charity grammar school, New Trier High School, and then The George Washington University in Washington DC, where he earned his undergraduate degree in Political Science in 2007. He attended seminary at The Pontifical North American College in Rome and was ordained a priest in 2012 for the Archdiocese of Chicago. In addition to being the pastor of Saint Paul of the Cross Parish, he serves as a canon lawyer for the Archdiocese, a dean in Vicariate II, and a professor of canon law and spiritual director at Mundelein Seminary. He is also one of the featured Mercy Home Sunday Mass celebrants, airing Sundays at 9:30am on WGN.

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St. Paul of the Cross

320 South Washington Street
Park Ridge, IL 60068

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Phone: (847) 825-7605

Mass Schedule

UC = Upper Church

HFC = Holy Family Chapel

Monday - Friday

6:25 am (UC)

8:30 am (UC)


8:00 am (UC) - weekday Mass

4:30 pm (UC and HFC) - vigil


7:30 am (UC)

9:00 am (UC and HFC)

10:30 am (UC and HFC)

12:00 pm (UC)