Fr. James' Letters

October 23, 2022

Dear Parishioners,

When you go to Confession, after you’ve said your sins and the priest has given you a penance, and perhaps some counsel, he will ask you to say the Act of Contrition. Ah, the dreaded moment!

As I tell the students in school, this moment in the sacrament isn’t meant to be a test of your memory, on par with the multiplication tables or the US Constitution Test. This moment is simply for you to officially acknowledge outwardly that you’re sorry. That’s it.

And so, there are many forms and varieties of the “Act of Contrition.” I’ve heard just about everything, and it’s all okay, as long as there’s some version of “I’m sorry” in there.

One of the “Acts of Contrition” I hear that cuts me to the heart (in a beautiful way) every time I hear it, is the one we have in our Gospel today: “O God, be merciful to me a sinner” (Luke 13:18). It’s short and sweet and scriptural. It’s just beautiful.

Not that the longer Act of Contrition (“O my God, I am heartily sorry for having offended you…”) isn’t beautiful, but sometimes with the long prayers, since we have them memorized and strain to recite from memory, especially “under pressure,” we lose track of what we’re actually saying. But not with this shorter one from the tax collector. Precisely because it is so short, we mean what we say, and the few words convey our true and numerous sentiments.

What those sentiments are saying, effectively, is… “God, you are the love of my life. I will do anything for you. But I am weak and I have done something that doesn’t reflect that love and how my heart really feels towards you. I am deeply sorry for this. I wish I wouldn’t do this again, but I know I probably will. And when I do it again, I will come back humbly to you to reaffirm my love for you and ask your forgiveness. Jesus, that is how good and generous you are, and one of the reasons why you are so lovable.” Notice the focus is on God. The Pharisee is focused on himself: “O God, I thank you that I am not like the rest of humanity…” We should be sorry not because we messed up, but because God is so good and deserving of more.

Next time you’re in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, you might try praying this short formula. If you prefer your other formula, that’s perfectly fine too. Perhaps then you can pray this tax collector’s prayer either before you enter or after you leave the confessional. You’ll make Jesus very happy.

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Thank you to the Knights of Columbus for last Saturday leading the annual Rosary in the Park outside of city hall in Park Ridge, and especially on a cold morning (see picture above). Also a special thanks to those who volunteered last weekend for the Stuff the Truck, as well as those of you who contributed to the cause. Finally, thank you to all who organized, led, and participated in last Saturday’s Candlelight Rosary in church.

And just a reminder that the SPC at SPC event that was supposed to be this Saturday, October 22nd has been relegated to a rosary in the upper church following the 4:30pm Mass. Handicap parking and the handicap entrance on the west side of the church will be available for the Saturday evening Mass. A special thanks to those of you who RSVP’d and volunteered to help in some fashion with the planned event. Hopefully we can do something in the spring or summer!

It’s been a blessing to see our Masses filling up on the weekends. At the end of the month I plan to give you the numbers of our October census – how many people attend Mass on average on the weekends. I’m grateful to you all for worshiping and particularly to the ushers for the great work they do in helping everyone find a seat. I recognize it’s a challenge to arrive and be settled for the start of Mass, so in the spirit of generosity and hospitality, it would be tremendously helpful if those who arrive early for Mass could 1) sit in the front right section of the church as much as possible (give St. Joseph some love!) and/or 2) move into the middle of a section of a pew rather than the end of the pew unless there is a particular need to sit at the end. It’s great to have a full congregation and great to praise God with you all.

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