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On a tour of his room, James pointed out dozens of saints on cards and icons mounted on his walls, along with a Red Sox flag and a drawer filled with baseball caps. Icons spill over to the walls of the hallway outside of his room because James has purchased more than his room’s walls will hold.

“I’ve joked that it looks like a rectory in here,” Mrs. Higgins said, looking at the candles, icons and statues that James has collected in their house.

“When he’d get money for Christmas or his birthday — most kids would buy toys, but he would buy icons,” Mrs. Higgins said.

Before Pope Benedict XVI was elected, James greeted Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, archbishop of Washington, after Mass at the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle, and “waited with bated breath, because at that time [James] wanted to be Pope Pius XIII, and he was worried that the new pope would take his name,” Mrs. Higgins said.

James also boasts meetings with Archbishop of Washington Donald Wuerl and Red Sox third baseman Mike Lowell, who is James‘ favorite baseball player.

Mrs. Higgins said her husband and son inspire each other in the faith.

“When Stephen would bring James to Mass and teach him about the faith, Stephen’s faith would grow,” Mrs. Higgins said. “And James‘ excitement in the faith caused Stephen to read more books, and we incorporated the faith more into our lives.”

James takes his faith very seriously,” his mother said, noting that she never pulls him out of bed for Mass, but instead, he requests daily Mass — even on vacation.

James hopes to meet the pope, take a trip to Rome, and visit Santiago de Compostela in Spain, where the remains of his patron saint, St. James the Greater, lie.

But James said he also has other lofty goals.

The 8-year-old with the 550-Mass streak was tossing a white ball back and forth to his dad’s old baseball mitt when he caught the ball and paused.

He said, excitedly, “My dream is to break the streak that Cal Ripken had and to break Barry Bonds’ home run record.”