- The Washington Times - Sunday, April 13, 2008

Eight-year-old James Higgins of Southeast was wearing white-but-grass-stained baseball pants and a dusty Boston Red Sox jersey when he mapped out his future — combining an aspiration typical of a boy his age with a more unusual goal:

“Maybe I could play major league baseball and then become pope.”

His goals don’t surprise his parents. Since his first communion on Oct. 6, 2006, James has attended Mass every day.

“Since he’s so into baseball, he likes the idea that he has a streak,” his mother, Lauren Higgins, said. On Thursday, James will join his parents for another Mass, but this one will be led by Pope Benedict XVI in the Nationals Stadium.

James and his parents were among 65 parishioners at St. Peter’s Roman Catholic Church on Capitol Hill that won a lottery for tickets to attend the Mass.

The second-grader, who has attended Mass for more than 550 consecutive days since his first communion, started going to the church daily with his father, Stephen Higgins, before age 3.

Video:The future Pope James?

The pair increased their routine from only Saturdays beyond the weekly obligation to daily Mass, and now they walk about three blocks from their home to St. Peter’s each morning at 7 a.m.

“Rain, shine, snow, sleet, hail … they’re there,” said the Rev. Bill Hegedusich of St. Peter’s, noting that the family sits on the second pew of the church and often stays to pray after Mass.

Mrs. Higgins said, “On the walk, Stephen started teaching James prayers and started teaching him things about religion and the Catholic faith, and James just absorbed it all.”

Elizabeth Higgins, James‘ 6-year-old sister, was playing with a doll on the floor of the family’s living room when she heard the talk about daily Mass. “Now I go,” she said, noting that the morning Mass is now a regular activity for Mr. Higgins and both of his children. Mrs. Higgins, 44, meets the trio after Mass with breakfast in tow.

“We all go on Saturdays,” Mrs. Higgins said.

“And definitely on Sundays,” added James.

Showing his mind for papal trivia, James rattled off facts as quickly as his mouth would form the words: “The shortest pope ever was Pope Stephen I — he only had one day in office before he died. And then the longest pope — well, next to Peter — was Pope Pius IX — almost 32 years.”

James can name all popes between St. Gregory XVI of the early 1800s to today’s Benedict XVI, who “knows six languages: English, Spanish, Italian, French, German and Latin,” according to James, whose knowledge of the saints is even more extensive.

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