By Jessica Chodaczek
In the Gospel today, we hear Jesus saying, “You are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church.”
This line never fails to give me goosebumps. Though spoken over 2000 years ago, the Church that Jesus refers to is a living, breathing, very real part of my life; it challenges me, consoles me, encourages me, and guides me.
Quite simply, I would be lost without the Church. I am very simply, grateful.
I could probably write a book on the meaning of the Catholic Church in my life, but for today I’ll keep it simple and give you a few of the highlights of how the Church has impacted my life.
If you’ve visited St. Barnabas Church in Northfield, Ohio in the past 35 years, at the noon Mass you would find my family, the Zajacs, sitting in the very last pew on the left side. From childhood, my parents taught us how to participate in the liturgy, and over the years we all participated in various liturgical ministries (and today you can often find my 4-yr-old daughter Teresa “helping” her Grandpa usher).
I learned that Mass is not something we observe, it’s something we do
We gather in prayer, break open Scripture, lift our petitions to the Lord, share in the Eucharist, and are sent forth to be Christ in the world. Liturgy keeps me centered, humbled, and inspired.
Speaking of liturgy, I adore that fact that it’s universal. When we attended Mass on vacation in North Carolina this summer, I knew that we were hearing the same Scripture readings as back home in Medina (and around the world, for that matter). I point out the statues and stained glass to my daughter, and she is learning the story of our faith from the visual clues. I find it so beautiful.
And don’t get me started on the Sacraments. These tangible encounters with God’s grace have marked every major milestone in my life, and that of my family. I smile thinking of Teresa’s baptism and how so many family and friend gathered with us to welcome her into the Church community, singing the litany of saints (and then laugh when I remember how she pooped, loudly, in the middle of it!).
I get tears remembering seeing my brother, Adam, lying prostrate on the floor of the cathedral as he dedicated his life to Christ as a priest. Our wedding Mass was the most important part of our wedding day, and I know that the grace of that Sacrament has enabled us to make it, happily, through 10 years of marriage thus far.
Not only has the Church provided me with a liturgical and Sacramental foundation, but a moral one as well. It can be really difficult to navigate through the complex moral issues in our pluralistic world, and when I’m faced with an issue I don’t understand, I always turn to the Church first. Why?
Not because I’m a blind follower
of whatever “those old men in Rome” say (ask any of my former students how angry this statement gets me) but because it’s filled with the Holy Spirit and has 2000 years of tremendous beauty and depth. It doesn’t rush to make rash decisions to “go with the times.” The Church evaluates moral issues in light of the greater picture of our faith story, and the major tenants of what we believe (for example, the sanctity of life).
Sometimes it challenges today’s cultural norms.
And I’m totally ok with that because morality is not a popularity contest –-it’s about what’s truly good and right. And when I dug deep enough to understand the “whys” behind what the Church teaches, I found so much beauty, richness and truth.
Lastly, I love the Church because it’s given us the saints, who are amazing examples of what it means to live the faith. They are real people, who lived all over the world at all different times. They weren’t perfect.
They messed up... but they found their way back, and overwhelmingly said “yes” to God and his plan for their lives.
They’re like guides to Heaven. And to imperfect me, being able to follow someone else’s lead sounds like a good plan!
If this has sounded too warm and fuzzy, too glossed over, my apologies. I am well aware of the imperfections of the Church and the people within it, trust me.
I know it’s not all Halleluiahs.
But in the midst of all the evil, suffering, and darkness, the Holy Spirit continues to work and purify so that the Church can shine it's light. There is so much beauty that the Church can bring into the world if we stay open to the Spirit. I love the quote that the Church is “a hospital for sinners, not a museum for saints.” Founded by Jesus, our One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church is the place that I happily choose to stake my claim on the journey to heaven.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jessica is a wife, mom, theology lover, and Realtor. She and her husband Chris have been married for nearly 10 years, and they have a 3-yr-old named Teresa, who continually cracks them up. Jessica works for LoFaso Real Estate, and her prior jobs included teaching Theology at Beaumont School as well as youth ministry. She is a leap year baby and proudly capitalizes on the fact that she's only "8 years old." Her house is overflowing with books, she's a little addicted to Facebook, and she is almost always found laughing.