Fr. James' Letters

October 31, 2021

Dear Parishioners,

Halloween decorations outside homes intrigue me. They've certainly become more intense over the years. We've moved on from the traditional jack-o'-lantern, witch, Frankenstein, bat, spider, and black cat. Death seems to be more present now. Lots of skeletons, tombs, possessed clowns, and other things from the netherworld. Perhaps this is fitting, as Halloween, really, is the celebration of the afterlife. Halloween is the "Eve of All Saints" — November 1st being the Solemnity of All Saints.

Death, thus, should be our focus on this day(s). But we must understand death properly.

We use "death-things" for Halloween decorations because death is scary to us. Halloween decorations are meant to be scary. A clown or an Aaron Rogers scarecrow with man-bun scares me. But death shouldn't be scary. Death is actually our friend. Read these words of Saint Ambrose from the 4th Century. He said this in the funeral homily for his brother.

Death was not part of nature; it became part of nature. God did not decree death from the beginning; he prescribed it as a remedy. Human life, because of sin, began to experience the burden of wretchedness in unremitting labor and unbearable sorrow. There had to be a limit to its evils; death had to restore what life had forfeited. Without the assistance of grace, immortality is more of a burden than a blessing… Death is, then, no cause for mourning, for it is the cause of mankind's salvation.

What Ambrose is saying is that life is actually scary. Death puts an end to our life and allows us to at last see God "face-to-face."

Heaven is all about God. It will be like swimming in an infinite ocean of God's love. It will be exhilarating; never boring and never exhausting. Heaven will be great. Because God is great.

Jesus tells the man, in the Gospel, that he is "not far from the Kingdom of God (Heaven)" because the man understands that life is all about the love of God. "To love God with all your heart, with all your understanding, with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself" is worth more than anything else, the man says (Mark 12:33). 

The problem with earth is that things naturally pull us away from the love of God. Our hearts, because we are fallen creatures, are allured by sin and things that are not of God. Those things might give us initial pleasure, but they don't fill us and we are always left wanting for more. 

If our conception of eternal life is a never-ending earth, then, yes, death is very scary. The constant and tiresome grasp for things that don't ultimately satisfy, which is what earth is, going on forever is hell. So, we don't want to die.

But if death is an end to this earth and the ultimate possession of the one thing that will satisfy — God — then death is our friend. Death is our portal to the Lord.

A quick note: we can't and shouldn't hasten our own death. It's a door that only God is meant to open, and open at his discretion. God wants us to live on this earth so that we can best enjoy Heaven. Pope Benedict XVI wrote,

Man was created for greatness — for God himself; he was created to be filled by God. But his heart is too small for the greatness to which it is destined. It must be stretched. 'By delaying [Heaven], God strengthens our desire; through desire he enlarges our soul and by expanding it he increases its capacity for God'.

I'm excited to eat Butterfingers on Halloween. But I'm more excited to receive Jesus at Mass in the Eucharist and have my heart stretched just a little more for Heaven.

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Monday is the Solemnity of All Saints. We hope to see you at our 6:25am or 8:30am Mass that morning. Tuesday is the Feast of All Souls. We will read the names of all the deceased from the previous year at the 8:30am Mass that morning. There will be a special Catechesis Mass at 4:30pm on Tuesday.

Next Friday and Saturday, November 5-6, both our Catechesis and SPC School students will be participating in Holy Fire, a youth event held by the Archdiocese. The students will tune in virtually to talks and then we will have a Mass here at the parish.

Happy Halloween!

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)

Saturday

8:00 am (UC) - weekday Mass

4:30 pm (UC and HFC) - vigil

Sunday

7:30 am (UC)

9:00 am (UC)

10:30 am (UC and HFC)

12:00 pm (UC)