Fr. James' Letters

December 24, 2023

Dear Parishioners,

At our St. Nick’s party several weeks ago I was delighted not just by the large crowd and festive gathering, but by the local high schoolers providing music. There was a band as well as a little group of carolers. They were great. Thank you for this, students. Their music got me thinking about one of the lesser-sung Christmas carols, “I Saw Three Ships.”

As an aside, I love how we have in our lexicon a word devoted solely for people who sing Christmas songs. We don’t use the word caroler for anything else. People singing Taylor Swift songs or the Chicago Bears fight song are not caroling. And the true definition of a caroler is one who goes from house to house singing Christmas songs. Carol is rooted in the old English ‘karolle’ which was a round dance. Think of how evangelical that is… going around singing and dancing, spreading the good news of Christ’s existence. Again, we don’t go singing or dancing outside of peoples’ homes announcing there’s a sale at Target or a new show on Netflix. Let’s not let caroling fall out of practice.

Back to the story… what are the “three ships” that sailed into Bethlehem on Christmas day? It’s a bit of a head scratcher, since Bethlehem was landlocked. Some think it’s a reference to the three kings, as camels were called “ships of the desert.” Others think it’s a reference to the relics of the magi and parts of the creche being carried to Europe. (By the way, Sting actually has a great version of this carol.)

There might not be an exact rationale behind the carol, but I do believe the image of a ship is very fitting for Christmas. You’ll see a ship in one of the frieze carvings on the front of our church. Christ is sailing on the ship. The ship is both the Church and his mother Mary. Joseph is the captain of the ship. That ship, which has been out to sea for the last four weeks, comes to port on Christmas Day. The port is our heart. Our Lord brings us a new taste of his grace, of his love this day.

Before the modern era, the sight of a ship (think of those large wooden ships with massive white sails) was something terrific. It excited and brought great joy to the people on land. Supplies were coming, as were delicacies from afar. I guess it would be the equivalent today of an Amazon truck pulling up to your house.

Christ brings to you the greatest gift you could ever imagine. Don’t be afraid to sing and dance and tell others about it. Merry Christmas.

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We are happy to give each of you a little Christmas present, a free book, “Beautiful Eucharist.” Thank you to the Knights of Columbus for sponsoring this effort. Feel free to take a book or two and hand out to people you know. We hope this will help your own understanding and devotion to the Eucharist and perhaps help bring others to Mass.

Please see inside the bulletin for our Christmas Eve/Christmas Day Mass schedule. Just a reminder, the Mass at 9am on Sunday, December 24th “counts” for the 4th Sunday of Advent. Please also note there will be only one Mass on Tuesday, December 26th at 8:30am and no daily confessions that morning.

Next Sunday, December 31st is the Feast of the Holy Family. There will be a 5pm Mass that Sunday afternoon, but that Mass is a vigil Mass that “counts” for the Solemnity of Mary, the Mother of God on January 1st. Monday is a holy day of obligation and we will have two Masses that morning: 7:30am and 9am. There will be only one Mass on Tuesday, January 2nd at 8:30am and no daily confessions that morning.

There will be no Wednesday morning Scripture Seminar this Wednesday, December 27th or for the next several weeks. We will resume on Wednesday, January 24th.

Once again, on behalf of the entire staff, we wish you and your loved ones a very merry Christmas and a happy New Year. God bless you for your faith and all you do for our parish.

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