Fr. James' Letters

August 21, 2022

Dear Parishioners,

As much as I like to pray, I’m really bad at saying grace before meals. I do it when I’m out with people, be it in your homes or at a restaurant, but I’m terrible at it when I’m by myself. (Public Confession #25 for Fr. James here.) I make my food, quickly consume it, and move on to the next thing. I guess I’m thinking subconsciously this activity isn’t spiritual and just a means to an end (nourishment). It’s not until after I’ve inhaled the food that I realized I forgot to pray and that I probably should have stopped to ask God to bless the endeavor.

I pray almost before everything else I do. Before I turn off the light on my nightstand, I cross myself and say a prayer that I sleep well. Before a long car ride, a prayer. Before exercise, before a meeting, before Mass, before hearing Confessions, before answering an email… prayer, prayer, prayer. I’ve even formed the habit of praying on the first tee box before I golf. Doesn’t help my game, but it does make the whole experience better. I want to bring God into these activities or encounters, and I want to have an internal spirit of surrender about them. That is, I want to do God’s will and not my own. The email I send is to do God’s will; the time of exercise is God’s will; the period of sleep is for God; and so forth.

Yet with food I struggle. I struggle to spiritualize it. It’s for me, I think. This is something I need and I don’t surrender in it.

“And you will say, 'We ate and drank in your company and you taught in our streets.' Then he will say to you, 'I do not know where you are from. Depart from me, all you evildoers!'” (Luke 13:26-27).

This is from our Lord’s parable for today. He’s giving it after three “food” parables: the barren fig tree, the mustard seed, and the yeast in the dough. Eating must have been on our Lord’s heart.

Omitting grace before meals isn’t a “mortal sin.” It’s not like I’m gonna burn for that. I’ll burn for other things, but not that. Though it does hint at something deeper going on, which is why I think our Lord specifically used that image of people who thought they were friends with the Lord (“we ate and drank in your company”) but actually weren’t (“I do not know you”).

It hints at my love of God. Am I really doing this thing for God? Is God really on my heart and am I really surrendered to him? Or is this my own endeavor?

We could very well on the surface appear to be doing something for God and “loving” him, but in reality our heart is far from him. It’s actually the satisfying of our own will. That’s why he would say, “I do not know you.” We could go to Mass every Sunday of our lives, and he could still say to us, “I do not know you.” Because we didn’t do it for him.

I pray that the lack of surrender and inclusion of God in my eating isn’t the case in my other activities. If it is, I’ll ask the Lord humbly to show me and then give me the grace to make the adjustment. And I’ll pray the same for you too. In whatever activity it might be for you (eating, drinking, working, and even praying), may you do it for God and truly love him. That way is much more fulfilling.

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School starts this Tuesday, August 23rd for SPC! Welcome back students, parents, and faculty. We hope you had a restful and life-giving summer. To kick off the start of school, this Sunday, August 21st we will have a “welcome back BBQ” for families in the safe-zone.

Good luck to all of our other grade school, high school, college, and graduate students as they too start their years. And those who are leaving home for school, safe travels. We will miss you, but be assured of our prayers. Please try to find a local church or Newman Center where you can attend Mass. You’ll notice a big difference in your life.

Enjoy these wonderful summer days, everyone else!

Please be aware of scammers appearing to be me who will send you an email or text message asking to talk and then asking for gift cards or some other help. Do not respond. If you ever receive a message appearing to be from me, you can double-check by looking at the email address. The only email I would send from is what is listed on the back page of the bulletin. And I don’t send text messages (I’m actually getting rid of my iPhone… a subject for another week), so there you go!

Thank you, Kate Sheehan, for providing the beautiful artwork on this week’s bulletin cover!

Your servant 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)

12:00 pm (HFC)