Fr. James' Letters

October 16, 2022

Dear Parishioners,

When I left Saint Juliana I was given from a parishioner one of the more unique gifts I have ever received: a signed Mickey Mantle baseball. Thank you, Tom and Debbie. Debbie, about a year earlier, had given me a baseball signed by the 1971 Chicago Cubs (and I think Tom, her husband, wanted to “one-up” her… just kidding). Both are pictured below. They also gave me the book, Mickey Mantle: America’s Prodigal Son. It is a provocative title, and a claim for which many Americans could compete.

The baseball reminded me of an idea I created several years ago: The Five-Tool Priest and the Five-Tool Catholic. Some of you have heard me talk about this before. I based it off of what is known in baseball as the “Five-Tool Player.” A “five-tooler” is a player who 1) hits for power, 2) hits for average, 3) is an excellent fielder, 4) has a strong arm, and 5) is fast. Mickey Mantle was an example of a “Five-Tool Player.” Ernie Banks, whose signature you can see on the ball on the left, was another.

The Five-Tool Priest is one who is 1) a great pray-er, 2) a great preacher, 3) smart theologically, 4) “street-smart” or smart administratively, and 5) social and not weird. The Five-Tool Catholic is one who 1) is a great pray-er, 2) is holy and morally sound, 3) knows their faith, 4) is generous, and 5) is not weird.

Just to be clear, these are “the Catholic five tools” according to Father James Wallace. This isn’t canon law or doctrine. You might think another tool should be listed or that they should be rearranged. You might think the whole concept is wrong or conceited.

I don’t have the space here to explain each tool. The first tool, which is common to both the priest and layman, is the most important. We need to be people who pray. What is a “great” pray-er? That’s debatable. Is it simply doing the prayer faithfully each day, whatever that “prayer” may be (Mass, holy hour of adoration, rosary, list of intentions, novena, etc.)? Is it having great insights or consolations when we pray? Something else?

Using our readings, I think to be a “great pray-er” is to be one who has prayer in their consciousness constantly. God is on our heart and mind, whether we are doing those formal prayers or going about our day or at our work. Prayer isn’t something we do randomly whenever it’s convenient or something that is just another item on our daily “to-do” list, along with eating, exercise, chores. And when I say “prayer,” what I really mean is loving God. Prayer is what we’re about.

A priest can have a brilliant mind and be able to raise millions of dollars, and so forth, but if he does not really love God, he is nothing. Likewise, a parishioner can have many things going for them, but if they can’t pray, they’re mediocre and not a help to the “team” — the Body of Christ.

We may struggle with the other four tools, but everyone of us can be a great prayer.  It’s within everyone’s capacity to be a home-run hitter. Keep those arms up like Moses and your autographed ball will be next to those on the rectory shelf.

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UPDATE(!!) on the SPC at SPC event this Saturday, October 22nd. Due to complications with food service and estimating numbers, we’ve decided to cancel the BBQ portion of the evening. Our apologies to those of you who RSVP’d, but we will not be serving dinner that evening. We will simply have a rosary in the church following the 4:30pm Mass. We hope you can stay and join us for this beautiful prayer during the month of the rosary.

I want to give a special thank you to all the “unsung heroes” of the parish. This is something I should do more often, as these many folks keep this parish going behind the scenes. In no particular order, thank you to the ushers, the sacristans and deacons who set up for Masses, the altar server schedulers and trainers, the money counters, the folks who clean the altar linens, the holy water fonts, the vessels and vestments, those who donate and maintain the flowers, the bereavement ministers and wedding coordinators, the committed perpetual adoration adorers (especially those who take several slots during the week), all the ministry leaders and volunteers, and many more. I’m sure I’ve forgotten some of you, and I apologize. I’m grateful for your generous hearts. We are a great parish because of people like you. And this isn’t even to mention all of you who contribute financially to the parish. God bless you!

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 and HFC

12:00 pm UC