Fr. James' Letters

August 13, 2023

Dear Parishioners,

Last week, if you recall, was the feast of the Transfiguration. Moses and Elijah appeared alongside Jesus on Mount Tabor. Well, we read about Elijah this weekend in our first reading. Elijah experiences God in a tiny whispering sound. God is not in the strong wind, the crushing rocks, the earthquake, or fire. Contrast this to Moses experiencing God atop Mount Sinai. There, God was present in fire, smoke, cracking boulders and trumpet blasts. Elijah hid his face in his cloak. Moses unveiled his face and saw God directly.

Either way – whether it was Elijah’s whispering sound or Moses’ trumpet blast, a hidden or unveiled face – both are mere shadows of the real God. Moses and Elijah see God fully at the Transfiguration. Their desire is at last fulfilled. At Mount Tabor they see the fulfillment of the prophecy, the glory of Israel. It’s Jesus Christ. Before, they needed mediation. They had to experience God through a sound or a peal of thunder or whatever. Now, they don’t need any mediation. They see God directly. They see God in Jesus.

We then hear about Jesus walking on water in our Gospel. It makes sense. He’s God. Of course he can walk on water. Yet the apostles are frightened and think it’s a ghost. They don’t realize Jesus is God. This is why, when Peter sinks, Jesus says, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” And also why, after Jesus gets in the boat, we hear the apostles “did him homage: saying, ‘Truly, you are the Son of God.’”

I think we’re used to looking for God in mediated ways. We experience God when, for instance, we pray a certain prayer or feel a certain way out in nature or whatever. This is not entirely a bad thing.

But when Jesus comes to us in his pure, unmediated self (which, I believe, he desires to do), it can be unrecognizable, if not unsettling. When we sit in silence, in a purely contemplative state, our soul surrendered to God, we can be disquieted. We doubt… Is God really here? Is God really talking to me? Am I just making this all up? We are tempted to go back to our more controlled ways of praying.

To repeat: the controlled ways of praying are not bad. Keep doing them. But try, every now and again, to be like Peter and take that leap out onto the water. Make sure the leap, though, is toward Jesus. Peter wasn’t walking on water for the sake of walking on water. He was trying to approach the Lord.

As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve recently taken up watercolor painting. It’s a spiritual exercise for me. It was certainly a leap of faith, as I’m no artist (and judging by my above painting, you can tell I’ve sunk like Peter), but it’s been a great way to experience Jesus in a new way.

What is your new way? If you’re not sure, then make Peter’s statement your prayer: “Lord, if it is your command, bid me come to you on the water.”

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All are welcome to our Family Mass this Sunday, August 13th, at 10:30am in the Holy Family Chapel. A special thanks to the coordinators and musicians.

The start of school is approaching! We welcome the teachers back this Monday, August 14th. Our prayers are with you, teachers. On Wednesday, August 16th at 5:30pm is a “New Family Pizza Night.” And next Sunday, August 20th at 4pm will be a special back-to-school Mass for all families, followed by a social in the parking lot. Enjoy the last weeks of summer.

This Tuesday, August 15th is the Solemnity of the Assumption. We all have Masses at 6:25am, 8:30am, 12pm, and 7pm.

All are invited to join the Wednesday Scripture Study this Wednesday, August 16th at 9am in the Holy Family Chapel. We will discuss the upcoming Sunday readings. Sessions are not dependent on each other, so first-time attendees are more than welcome.

Please note that on Saturday, August 19th, our regularly scheduled confessions will begin at 3:30pm (not 3pm, the usual time).

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