Fr. James' Letters

February 25, 2024

Dear Parishioners,


Have you ever had the experience where you were the outsider in a conversation? Where you were “out of your league”? I remember when I first met the pope (Benedict XVI at the time) when I was a seminarian. I was with Cardinal Francis George, who was the Archbishop of Chicago at the time. The Cardinal and the Pope were standing there talking about something in the papal palace, and I was just hanging there. Should I say something or keep silent? I wondered agonizingly to myself. Should I contribute to the conversation, should I make a joke, should I nod like I’m following along?

I ended up just keeping silent. The Holy Spirit guided me on that one. I might not be here today if I tried to make a joke (or, frankly, any comment at all).

If that was one end of the spectrum, the other end of the spectrum was recently when I happened upon a group of high school students at a sports game. “Hey, guys,” I said with a smile, “what’s going on?” Silence. “So, how about Taylor Swift?” Silence. (The students now looking at me like I have a second head.) “Okay! Well, then, I’m just gonna go stand over there now. Bye bye.”

Peter felt like he was the outsider in the Transfiguration. This is why he felt the need to say something. “Rabbi, it is good that we are here! Let us make three tents…”

The thing is, Peter wasn’t an outsider in the Transfiguration conversation. He belonged. Jesus specifically invited him, along with James and John, to Mount Tabor. He wanted the three to witness this. Yes, the three couldn’t contribute to the conversation between Jesus, Moses, and Elijah, but that didn’t mean they shouldn’t be present. Jesus wanted the three to overhear what they were saying; wanted the three to witness this glorious sight.

I often think we feel like outsiders around Catholicism. We go to a Bible study and everyone seems to know the details while we’re totally clueless. We go to Mass and are distracted while the guy sitting in front of us seems to be praying intensely and knowing exactly what he’s doing. Folks flock to the Adoration Chapel and we’re like, “um, what’s Adoration?”

You belong. Don’t ever feel like you don’t. The Lord has chosen you to be here. True, you might not know what’s going on, but that’s okay. I still don’t know what’s going on! But seriously, the invitation isn’t to flee. The invitation is to hang around and listen.

Peter panicked and said something. I guess it was better than him leaving the mountain. But he might have been better off either staying silent or, if he had to say something, asking Jesus, “why is this happening?”

Peter would go on to become the first pope. The man who was “out of his league” was now the man. So too will you be one day.


A reminder that during Lent we will have Stations of the Cross every Friday at 7pm. This week’s Stations will be hosted by the Apostolate of Women. There are also daily Lenten reflections that you can find each week in the bulletin, as well as online. And save the date for the Friday Fish Fry: Friday, March 15th.

Our Wednesday Scripture Seminar this week, February 28th, will be at 9am in the Holy Family Chapel.

Thank you to all who have contributed to the Annual Catholic Appeal for the Archdiocese of Chicago, helping us reach our goal of $145,569. Your contribution not only allows the Archdiocese to support struggling parishes and schools, but allows us to fulfill our needs and continue our mission.

Please pray for the repose of the soul of Fr. Dan Smilanic, who died this past Tuesday. Father Smilanic was a long-time resident here at Saint Paul of the Cross while serving as a canon lawyer for the Archdiocese of Chicago. Please check the parish office for details about the day and time of the funeral. May Father Smilanic rest in peace.

Finally, as I mentioned last week, you’ll by now have noticed our redesigned bulletin. This is part of our effort to rebrand our image and reach out to even more folks. We are also in the process of redesigning our website. We are looking to give the bulletin a name. Decades ago SPC’s bulletin was called “The Chimes.” If you have any suggestions, feel free to email them to me. Other ideas are “The Passionist,” “The Pew Report,” “The SPC Chronicle.”

Yours in Christ,

Father James

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