Fr. James' Letters

September 26, 2021

Dear Parishioners,

"It is better for you to enter into life maimed than with two hands to go into Gehenna, into the unquenchable fire" (Mark 9:43).

Gehenna, as you know, is another name for Hell. It was literally a valley outside the walls of the city of Jerusalem, named after the sons of Hinnom. These men were the pagan conquerors who worshipped false idols. When they were dispelled by the Macabees, their bodies were thrown into this valley. Over time, this valley became a garbage dump. There were trash tunnels that would lead into it from Jerusalem. Fires were often burning, hence the image of Hell and fire.

Saint Ignatius of Loyola, in his Spiritual Exercises, has a meditation on Hell. The retreatant is to pray picturing Hell and himself in it. Fun.

But, really, it is kinda neat. When I prayed this meditation on my 30-Day retreat a few summers ago, I saw myself in Hell grasping to the thing that I believed I thought I needed for my salvation. The thing was not God, but something I falsely believed I needed. I could not let go of it. I clung to it fiercely, was turned inward, was unfree, and ultimately miserable. What was the thing I clung to?

Buy me a drink first! That's personal. Maybe I'll tell you individually over dinner one day if you have me over.

In my meditation I was able to see other people in Hell, and the idols to which they clung. People clinging to money, to a job title, to a house, to a body image, to alcohol, to a sport or instrument, to a belief of how the world should go, to books, to food, and on and on.

It made me realize that all these things we think we need, we actually don't. Our good health, our bank account, our golf game won't save us. They won't even truly bring us happiness. Only Christ can. "Your gold and silver have corroded," says Saint James (James 5:3).

That is why Jesus is so extreme when he tells us to cut off hands and feet and eyes. Nothing is worth getting in the way of our relationship to God. We'll be fine without hands and eyes and money and looks. 

Picture yourself in Hell. What is the object that is not God to which you cling? Can you release it from your grasp, let it plunge into Gehenna, and allow Jesus to take your open palms and lift you to Heaven?

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This weekend at the Masses a member from the Saint Paul of the Cross Respect Life Team will speak after communion about the baby bottle campaign to support the Women's Center. The Women's Center helps women in crisis pregnancies. Please take a bottle as you leave Mass. Bottles will be collected on October 16-17th. Thank you Cecilia Klein and her team for organizing this effort.

As I mentioned over the summer, we've been blessed with five seminarians assigned to our parish: Kevin Gregus, Martin Nyberg, Lee Noel, Pepe Sandoval, and John Rahimi. You've read some of their bulletin letters and probably seen them around serving at Mass and teaching CCD on Sunday mornings. 

The book club will meet this Monday, September 27th, at 7:30pm in the Morello Life Center to discuss Keys of the Kingdom. That Man is You men's spiritual group will also meet at that time in the Kinane Center. On Tuesday evening the Pastoral Council and School Board will meet.

We're getting closer to opening the perpetual adoration chapel. In the meantime, please consider coming to our Monday Evening of Prayer, which includes Eucharistic Adoration in the main church from 5:30-7:30pm.

Tuesday I will attend a School Board meeting, followed by a 1st grade parent meeting for Catechesis on Zoom.

You may have noticed the priest and deacon chair in the upper church have moved locations. Instead of being in the center behind the altar, they are now down to the side by the lectern. This is a trial run Fr. Nick, the deacons and I want to conduct. There are several reasons for this. First, we simply cannot hear anything from behind the altar! Second, we aren't the main show — our Lord is! We'd rather you be looking ahead at Jesus and our beautiful crucifix than our ugly mugs (I'm speaking for myself). Third, and this is for me personally, I love to be able to gaze upon, while I'm sitting, the tabernacle, crucifix, and beautiful statues to our Lady. Let us know what you think.

Yours in 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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Contact Information

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


8:30 am UC - weekday Mass

4:30 pm UC - vigil


7:30 am UC

9:00 am UC

10:30 am UC and HFC

12:00 pm UC