Fr. James' Letters

January 28, 2024

Dear Parishioners,

We hear that people were “astonished” at Jesus’ teaching when he stood up in the synagogue to preach. It wasn’t necessarily the content of Jesus’ message that struck people. It was the fact that he spoke as “one having authority and not as the scribes.”

The scribes in ancient Israel were literally those who copied the Old Testament texts. But they also took it upon themselves to interpret the laws of Israel. These interpretations effectively created new laws and new restrictions. So, the scribes did have some authority. They tied heavy burdens on peoples’ backs and people obeyed them.

The authority that Jesus is exercising here is of a different type. This isn’t about preservation of the strict letter of the law by adding clarifications. This is about understanding who exactly God is and what it means to love and serve God. This is what people wanted. They wanted to know God. They wanted to know how to love God and overcome the personal obstacles that held them back from loving God. This is what Jesus taught them in the synagogue that afternoon.

I think most people enjoy teaching. Even if you’re not a licensed teacher, you all teach in many, informal ways, and there’s something rewarding when you do that. You teach someone when you point out to them a good restaurant or a good item on the menu. You teach someone when you help them with their taxes or show them a good mechanic for their car. You teach someone when you give your opinions about sports or politics or history. Now, whether or not we were asked to teach, and whether we have people to listen, is another matter. But I’ll save that for another day. The fact is, we are a people rooted in teaching. Think of most everything you know and do. It was passed on to you by someone who taught you.

Well, the best teacher is the Holy Spirit. I’ve said this before, but my classroom is the chapel. I learn the most when I pray. And not just about the Bible, but about everything – myself, other people, world affairs, and so forth. God shows me. And he shows me in a gentle and convincing way. This is why, I think, the people were so struck by Jesus’ teaching. It was a different kind of authority than the scribes.

You are all eager to learn. Spend some time at the feet of the Teacher in prayer. Ask him questions and listen to his response. He will, then, over time, make you into a great teacher like himself.

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Today begins Catholic Schools Week, a week celebrated throughout the Archdiocese of Chicago (and the nation) to recognize the good work of our Catholic schools. Our parish school has many exciting activities planned throughout the week, including an open house this Sunday and a students-faculty volleyball game (faculty are the reigning champs). And we welcome our students who will be giving a short reflection at the end of each Mass this weekend. God bless our teachers, our students, our families, and all those who have supported SPC school over the years.

On Friday, February 2nd our school will be hosting the Celebrate the Spirit Gala. This should be a terrific evening with fellowship, fundraising for our school and even an appearance by the King (Elvis). A special thank you to the co-chairs of the event, Megan Weber, Kelly Bontempo, and Amy DiGregorio.

Our Young Adult group will be gathering this Wednesday, January 31st at 7pm at the Harp and Fiddle in Park Ridge for an informal conversation with me and Father Nick. Even if you are beyond the “young adult” category, feel free to stop by.

We are in the midst of the Annual Catholic Appeal for the Archdiocese of Chicago. As you recall, the Archdiocese raises funds to allow the Archdiocese to support struggling parish communities and schools, support ministry formation, and fund initiatives for justice, peace, and respect for life. Each parish is assessed 7% of the previous year’s offertory income, and so our goal this year is $145,569. We’ve been able to surpass our goal every year, so I ask you again to help make that possible. I’m very grateful for your generosity.

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