Father James Wallace

Whatever happened to Shelly Pennefather

Villanova University has one of the best college basketball programs in the country.  Between the men and women's programs, 21 national championships have been won.  Many of the players have gone on to play in the NBA and WNBA.  The individual with the most points (2,408) in Villanova basketball history is Shelly Pennefather, who played from 1983-1987.  In 1987 she won the Wade Trophy, given to the best women's college basketball player.  She played professionally for a few years in Japan, as the WNBA did not yet exist, earning nearly half a million dollars in today's standard.  And then she disappeared.  "Whatever happened to Shelly Pennefather" read a recent headline. 

The Saints Are Cheering Us On

The Men's Club Golf Outing is next Saturday, August 24th. 

Golf is followed by an after-party in the parish courtyard. 

Thanks to all who organized the event!  

 

Letters from a Pastor to His People- August 18, 2019

Dear Parishioners,

Christ set the world on fire 2,000 years ago and it has been burning ever since.  The fire has been kept alive by the holy women and women who have lived the faith, in particular the saints.  And so it is the communion of saints that I want to focus on in this letter.

"Since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses," says the Letter to the Hebrews, "let us rid ourselves of every burden and sin that clings to us and persevere in running the race that lies before us while keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus" (Hebrews 12:10). 

We Are All Kings and Queens

Fr. James speaking to young adults at Theology on Tap

Letters from a Pastor to His People- August 11, 2019

Dear Parishioners,

In response to Peter's question our Lord asks, "Who, then, is the faithful and prudent steward whom the master will put in charge of his servants to distribute the food allowance at the proper time?" (Luke 12:32-48). Jesus doesn't give an answer, but continues on with his exhortation to be vigilant. 

So, who has been put in charge?  Each one of us!  We have been put in charge.  We know this because of what Jesus says at the beginning of the Gospel: "Do not be afraid any longer, little flock, for your Father is pleased to give you the Kingdom." We have been given the kingdom.  We are kings and queens. 

Everything You Do Has Purpose In God's Eyes

Fr. James just married this couple at St. Juliana Parish

Letters from a Pastor to His People- August 4, 2019

Dear Parishioners,

In most of my political science and philosophy courses from college and seminary Plato's The Republic was discussed.  The part that received the most attention was the allegory of the cave.  I won't go into detail, but the gist of the "cave" (and platonic philosophy in general) is that there are forms above.  That is, everything on this earth is but a shadow of something higher, in the supernatural or metaphysical realm.  There is a deeper or higher meaning to what we see in existence.  For Plato and Socrates, living well means living with these higher forms in mind; not narrowing our vision only to things before us.  

The Feast of Corpus Christi

Father James with a recent SJS graduate

Dear Parishioners,

We celebrate Corpus Christi today.  The Eucharist is the real body and blood of Christ our Savior, which means the Eucharist is powerful.  It has a real effect on us.  There are three things the Eucharist does, each corresponding with one of the readings. 

1) The Eucharist gives us strength to perform our duties and obligations in life.  Abram had just defeated several tribes in the Palestine region to establish his position.  Soon after, a priest named Melchizedek brings an offering of bread and wine (cf. Gen 14:18-20).  In turn, Abram gives the priest a tenth of his spoils.  The bread and wine offered by this priest Melchizedek is a foreshadowing of the Eucharist.  It not only celebrated Abram's success, it gave Abram strength to be both King and father of the Israelite people.  When we go to Mass or pray in front of the Blessed Sacrament, we are given strength to be the best spouse, parent, sibling, student, worker, priest that we are called to be.

God's Gate

The most famous tower in the Old Testament is Babel, meaning "God's gate." It was man's attempt to reach God on his own ability.  This failed.  But there is another tower that can help us reach God, and that is the Tower of David—Mary.

The tower of David is a reference to Mary's physical beauty, her strength, security, steadfastness, and inaccessible womanhood.  Vigilance and ascent are other attributes of a tower.  We need to be vigilant in the spiritual life; on the lookout for pitfalls and sins that will lead us away from God and make us fall back into ourselves and, ultimately, into Hell.  We are, instead, to ascend upwards to God.  We cannot do this on our own, but only through the assistance of the Blessed Mother.  The Tower of David rises high into the Jerusalem sky. 

dit dit dit DAH

Among Beethoven's masterful innovations to music was making the final movement of a symphony as strong, if not stronger, than the first movement.  In the prior Baroque and Classical periods, the opening of the symphony was the tour de force and each movement slowly subsided in energy and ingenuity.  Most everyone is familiar with the first movement of Beethoven's 5th, in particular the motif dit dit dit DAH.  Following the tradition, Beethoven designed the opening to captivate the listener, to draw him in.  But listen to the fourth and final movement of the Symphony no.5 in C Minor (which happens to be one of my favorite pieces in all classical music).  People did not walk out of Beethoven's music hall ready for bed.  They were exhilarated. 

Is this not an analogy for the Catholic life?  Our baptism is the captivating opening movement.  We are drawn in.  The crescendo is initiated.  And just as that famous motif repeats throughout Beethoven's fifth symphony, the promptings of grace inaugurated at baptism resonate through our life, bringing us peace and joy.  At last, Catholics do not end their lives with a whimper, fading off into oblivion like the final movements of the earlier musical epochs.  No, we end triumphantly.  We are carried off to the ever-expanding Trinity from whence we came.  Our life lived in baptism and through the sacraments on this earth continues on into the next, now glorified.  The end of the Catholic life is even greater than the beginning, an ode to joy. 

Pin Cushion Priest

Someone once told me the large colorful robe I was wearing at Mass, called the chasuble, made me look like a giant silk pin cushion.  One of the nicest compliments I have been paid, I must admit.  It is part of our lives as priests to be tools, and dispensable ones at that. 

First, a tool.  The priest at Mass offers up sacrifice through Jesus to the Father.  When I offer those prayers, you stick your prayers and intentions to me, the pin cushion.  That sacrifice becomes more plentiful and pleasing the more pins, or prayers, you stick in me.  It is not James Wallace's sacrifice, but the parish’s sacrifice in Christ. 

Which leads me to my second characteristic: dispensability.  The Sacramentary, or the book that contains the Eucharist Prayer from which the priest recites, reads, “we pray for Pope N. and Bishop N.”  'N' is an indication to insert the current names.  As important as the pope and the cardinal are, they come and go, hence their names are not written permanently.  If the Archbishop of Chicago and the Holy Father are spare parts that can be replaced, then even more so with me!  Eventually, another pin cushion will come after me and offer your sacrifice to God Almighty.  I will go to another parish and do the same.  It is your offerings that make the sacrifice unique and pleasing to the Father, an authentic Catholic Mass at Saint Juliana Parish. 

So, please, have intentions and throw them at me when you see the pin cushion raise his hands behind the altar.  It is a great privilege to be a “pin-cushion priest.”

God is a Fan of Us

Fans, a few years back, voted as the most memorable moment in Major League Baseball history Cal Ripken Jr. on September 6, 1995 breaking Lou Gehrig's streak with his 2,131st consecutive game played.  In the age of SportsCenter where the only highlights seem to be of the mammoth home run or a winning play from Game 7, this vote is a fascinating one indeed.  Fans appreciated endurance more than entertainment.

Forgive me for the trite connection, but God is a fan of us.  If he were to vote for the most memorable moment(s) in our spiritual life, I bet it would be us going to Mass week in and week out.  Whether we were busy or feeling ready, we went.  And we may have had a great experience during Mass or we may have fallen asleep, just like Ripken had great and horrible games during the streak.  But, like the Iron Man, we returned next Sunday.  God appreciates our commitment to him more than the results.  Commitment, achieved through the will, is a reflection of love.  The beauty of the spiritual life is that love for God need not be flashy.  In fact, it can be rather dull.  Commitment to the ordinary is extraordinary.

Fans, perhaps subconsciously, acknowledged Ripken's willpower because they were awed by his genuine love for a game.  I cannot think of a better occasion to make a memorable moment, an act of profound love, than routinely attending Mass in Ordinary Time.  I hope our streak never ends.

The House of Gold

California has the fifth largest economy in the world, a prosperity that can be traced back to the gold rush of 1848.  Prior to the discovery of golf, California was a barely populated territory annexed by the United States as a result of the Mexican-American War.  Thousands would migrate to the area, towns founded, a transcontinental railroad built, and a new society established.  The influx of the metal aided the dormant American economy and many professions, beyond that of mining, profited.  The admission of California as a state, shortly thereafter, was part of the 1850 Compromise that hastened the Civil War.

All this because of gold.

Gold is the most precious, beautiful, prized, sought after, incorruptible, durable metal there is.  When Solomon built the temple to God in Jerusalem in 953 BC, it was considered the most precious edifice in the world.  We read that "there was nothing in the temple that was not covered with gold" (1 Kings 6:22).  The Jewish historian Flavius Josephus provides this inventory: twenty thousand golden tables, a hundred thousand golden vials, eighty thousand golden dishes and twenty thousand golden censers.  Only was this splendor worthy of God.

It is fitting, thus, that Mary should be called "the House of Gold." She is the most precious, highly sought after, standard-setting, durable person there is, after her son.  Her soul, like gold, is refined, pure, and incorruptible (see the connection to the Assumption).  The way Solomon's temple was filled with gold objects, so is Mary's soul filled with graces.  The way the 49ers sacrificed everything to mine for gold, saints have labored for Mary.  And the way gold led to the transformation of America, so too has Mary, the House of Gold, transformed the Church and countless souls.