Father James Wallace

Grandparents' Day Mass

Adapted from the homily.

Paul Revere was a Son of Liberty, a militia officer, a silversmith, and, rarely mentioned, a grandfather. As most grandparents do, Revere passed several qualities onto his grandson, Joseph Warren Revere. Joseph was likewise an American patriot. He served first in the Navy during the Mexican-American War before switching to the Union Army in the Civil War, where he fought in many battles. Paul's bravery served his grandson well.

Grandparents have a tremendous influence on their grandchildren. They are Christ-like figures because of this effect. A grandparent's faith or virtue will inspire a child to the same. Even a trade or hobby can be picked up by a grandchild. Grandparents also assure us that we are loved and liked–again, another divine act. We could even call ourselves grandchildren of God because of this reality.

Paul Revere had courage. It obviously was bold and daring to ride through the night warning colonists that the British army was advancing. This courage was imbued in his grandson. Though not quite the same, Joseph had his own version of a midnight ride. While on furlough during the war in October of 1862, Joseph walked into a Catholic Church to pray. He was struck by the church and particularly by the priest with whom he spoke in that church. Shortly thereafter, Joseph was baptized and received into the Catholic Church–a courageous act. He finished the war as a brigadier general and remained a practicing Catholic until his death in 1880.

As mentioned above, Paul was a silversmith, and thus an artisan of sorts. Well, this craftsmanship was passed onto his grandson. Joseph, after his conversion, painted The Espousal of the Blessed Virgin and St. Joseph, which hung in his home parish as a gift. I'm sure Paul would have been proud.

Wedding on November 12

Adapted from the homily.

As we sit here in St. Clement's in Lincoln Park–a very circular church, mind you–it's fitting I mention our bride and groom's shared interest: the Daytona 500.

NASCAR seems to be simply a group of rednecks driving in a circle all day. Likewise, marriage, from an outside view, seems boring. But from what I'm told, NASCAR is anything but dull. There is an incredible energy from the racing cars in a stadium holding hundreds of thousands of spectators—where, by the way, you can bring in your own beer and food. Just like the Wedding of Cana we heard about, I doubt there is ever a shortage of drink at Daytona Speedway. It's a fascinating place to "people watch" and meet new types of individuals, and the event, contrary to appearance, gets more interesting as it progresses. The final 20 laps are the most thrilling.

There's a certain energy unleashed upon a man and woman united in God's eyes in a church. This energy, or grace, will make your life, Mary and Joe, fun. Though life will seem dull at times–trips to IKEA, changing diapers, paying college tuition–it won't be because you do these things together, and with the Lord. Your marriage, and particularly when you have children, will bring you into contact with new people. There will be some blowups, but crashes in racing are the most exciting part, right? And as you grow old together, your love will deepen and be even more satisfying. So, let's put those round rings on you and drop the flag on what will be the best race of your life.

I fought the law and the law won.

Dear Parishioners,

God proposes ideas to us all the time. I don't know about you, but I'm often dubious of them. “Nah,” I say to myself, “I'm not going to stop and talk to that beggar on the street.” “Hmm, I don't know if I agree with that,” I think mentally as I read a theological book. (Note the variety of ways in which God can "speak" to us.)

“But I say to you, whoever is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment...everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matt 5: 21, 28). Here is a saying from our Lord, taken from this Sunday's Gospel, and my initial reaction is to question. Nemo cogitationis poenam patitur is a maxim I recall from my canon law classes. It means no one suffers punishment on account of his thoughts. Is not Christ's legal interpretation therefore fallacious?

That's when I hear St. Paul talk to me, speaking the same words he wrote to the Corinthians from our second reading: "We speak a wisdom to those who are mature, not a wisdom of this age, nor of the rulers of this age who are passing away. Rather, we speak God's wisdom, mysterious, hidden, which God predetermined before the ages for our glory, and which none of the rulers of this age knew" (1 Cor 2:6-10).

St. Paul tells us to trust in God's wisdom, which goes deeper than our own. If my inclination is to question Christ's legal interpretation, what I hear Paul telling me to do is to be humble and realize Jesus knows what he is talking about. He came to fulfill the law.

Thanksgiving Day 2016

Adapted from the homily.

When General George Washington asked the Abenaki Native American tribe to support the colonists in the American Revolutionary War, they agreed on one condition: Washington send them a Catholic priest to live with and minister to them. Washington happily obliged. The tribe in Maine received their priest and the Americans received their allies.

The Abenaki had a history with Catholicism. It began in 1689 with Fr. Sebastian Rale. This priest had labored for two years among the Illinois Indians and would go on to spend 35 years ministering to his New England flock, providing them medicine, giving them the sacraments, composing a dictionary for them in the native tongue, and teaching them about Jesus. This brave Catholic priest even fought alongside his indians. In fact, that is how his ministry came to an end. In a British and Mohawk raid on the Abenaki village Rale was shot. The story has it that he crawled to a cross in the center of the village to draw attention away from his Abenaki flock so they could escape. The pastor was tomahawked, dying literally at the foot of the cross.

The Abenaki Indians had experienced the goodness of Catholicism's priests and so they wanted another one with them 52 years later. Washington likewise experienced the goodness of Catholicism, which is why, after the victory at Yorktown, he had the Continental Congress gather at Old St. Mary's Catholic Church in Philadelphia to sing the Te Deum, a hymn of praise to God. Interestingly, the British called the Congress "papists" and declared the American victory a “triumph of popery.” The United States of America owes a lot to Catholicism. And that's why Thanksgiving is a very natural holy day for American Catholics.

29th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Adapted from the homily.

In 1966 a young Catholic pilot was shot down over Than Haon, North Vietnam. For almost eight years Jeremiah Denton was tortured, spending much of his time in solitary confinement in a cell the size of a refrigerator. He survived though. He was released and would go on to serve as commander of the Armed Forces Staff College and then as a US Senator for Alabama, the first Catholic elected to office in that state. Denton attributed his perseverance to two things. First, he said continuously, “Sacred Heart of Jesus, I give myself to you.” Second, he prayed the rosary. The Blessed Mother gave this POW the strength to persevere.

This is more of a motivational homily I offer you today, as the readings are all about perseverance. Moses persevered in keeping his arms raised during the battle with the Amelekites. St. Paul tells St. Timothy to persevere in preaching the Good News and maintaining the truth. And the widow from the Gospel persevered in exhorting the dishonest judge to render her a just decision. Moses, Timothy, and the widow all had good reasons to quit, but they didn't. They were rewarded for their perseverance.

It's tempting for us to to give up. We could quit on our country because of our presidential candidates, on our city because of the violence and economy, on the Cubs because they haven't won in 108 years. Please don't quit, especially on the Church. Because we will be victorious–Christ assures us of that.

If you feel tempted to give up, turn to the Blessed Mother. Mary will infuse in you the grace to persevere, as she did Commander Denton. Say a Hail Mary. Then when the victory comes you'll be around to celebrate.

24th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Adapted from the homily.

Almost at this very time fifteen years ago Jesus Christ became incarnate. He was in New York City, alive in a 24 year old man named Welles Crowther. Welles, a graduate of Boston College, was an equity trader on the 104th floor of the South Tower of the World Trade Center. When the first plane hit that morning, Welles, like the Good Shepherd in our Gospel, carried a woman on his shoulders and made his way down to the Sky Lobby on the 78th floor. He there encountered a group of injured survivors to whom he gave firm and clear directions: “Everyone who can stand, stand now. If you can help others, do so.” He then led people down several flights to safety. What did Welles do then? He went back. He returned up to the floor and led several more groups to safety. He tied a red bandana–one he always carried–around his face for protection from the smoke and flames, earning him the moniker, "the man in the red bandana." He was on yet another rescue trip when the tower collapsed at 9:59am. Welles' body was found six months later in the rubble, alongside several firefighters. One of the survivors afterwards said this of Welles: “People can live 100 years and not have the compassion, the wherewithal to do what he did.”

Welles Crowther went after those people who were lost and hurt. He returned to the pain and suffering, just as Christ did. That was Jesus Christ with the red bandana around his face. No, we don't believe in reincarnation as Catholics. People don't reincarnate as trees or other people. But Christ does. Christ was reincarnate in Welles fifteen years ago, making ground zero not hell, but heaven on earth.

Weekday School Mass

Adapted from the homily.

My parents went away for a few days when I was in 8th grade–around this time of year, as a matter of fact–and they gave each of my siblings and I tasks to complete. My job was to water the flower bed on the side of our house twice a day. My father specifically instructed me to use the hose. I didn't feel like lugging the hose around, so I instead set up a sprinkler. I thought I was so smart. Well, when it came time for my parents to return, and my brother and two sisters and I went around cleaning the house, we went into the basement only to find it flooded! That's right, I had completely forgotten about the sprinkler and left it running day and night. The destroyed flower bed was the least of my worries.

Yes, St. Paul in our reading today does admit watering isn't the ultimate factor in the success of a flower: “Therefore, neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who causes the growth” (1 Cor 3:9). But water is important nonetheless, and overwatering can prevent growth. Boys and girls, you are flowers and God is pouring grace out on you every moment of the day to grow. We can prevent that growth by "overwatering"; that is, by getting in the way of God. We do this when we don't listen to our teachers, when we bully other students, when we don't pray. Teachers, you likewise can overwater by stifling creativity, letting your mood affect your classroom, and also by not praying. So, let God’s water come into you and your neighbor, and I think we’ll notice St. Juliana at the end of the school year to be a beautiful garden.

And the award goes to...

Dear Parishioners,

When Christ says bluntly, “You are the salt of the earth...you are the light of the world” (Matt 5:13-16), we have a fairly uplifting message. We are, he tells us, fundamentally good. We have something good to share. Jesus wants us to share that goodness.

Remember this Gospel when you're having a bad day. Remember our Lord's message when you feel like dirt. Because you're not dirt. You're a good person. Let your light shine.

God willing, goodwill

Dear Parishioners,

The Beatitudes are the subject of our Gospel today, and instead of focusing on all of the Beatitudes, allow me to hone in on just one: Blessed are the clean of heart, for they will see God. Before I discuss cleanliness, or purity, of heart, a brief thought on the word ‘blessed.’ To be blessed means that the state of life is good. A blessed person has a good life. Goodness, however, is independent of feeling. We may feel happy. We may also feel sad. But if we are blessed, whether we are happy or sad, anxious or bored, we are good. Jesus tells us that these counterintuitive characteristics or qualities will make us good people.

Purity of heart we think of, I'm sure, as being chaste. There is more to it, though. I would like to quote at length from Father Jacques Philippe's book, Searching for and Maintaining Peace: A Small Treatise on Peace of Heart, in which he discusses this beatitude:

St. Paul the Equestrian

Dear Parishioners,

This upcoming Wednesday, January 25th is a very interesting feast day in our Church. We celebrate ‘The Conversion of Saint Paul the Apostle.’ I'm sure you're all familiar with the story of how Saul fell off his horse on the road to Damascus. If not, read Acts 9:1-22. It's interesting that a feast day is centered around a saint's conversion. Typically a feast day is about the saint's entire life, and is celebrated on the supposed date of the individual's death or birth. Paul does have another feast day—June 29th—but this particular event in Paul's life was so monumental the Church believed it necessary to give it a separate feast. Paul's conversion was a miracle and, arguably, the most important miracle in history. Without Paul Catholicism does not spread to Europe and broaden. It remains a progressive sect of Judaism confined to Palestine. Much of our set of beliefs, not to mention much of our Bible, does not exist without the man formerly known as Saul.