Four Annoying Catholic Rules That Might Actually Be Awesome
My husband and I hosted a March Madness party this year during the first weekend of the NCAA basketball tournament. Multiple televisions, upset-filled brackets, many friends, and food and drink made for a great time.
Since it was a Friday during Lent, I made fish tacos for our guests. We later ordered pizza, and I got chicken on mine. This was my first Lent as a pregnant woman, so I was greatly enjoying my freedom to ignore the ‘fasting and abstinence from meat practice’ for Lent.
I was telling a friend about this who is not Catholic, and she made an offhand comment about all the Catholic rules. It got me thinking about why we have all the “rules” in Catholicism.
Are Catholic rules just rules for the sake of having rules, do they serve as a loose set of guidelines that don’t really need to be followed, or are they actually meaningful and relevant to our lives?
Why All Those Catholic Rules?
Quite simply, we have rules because God loves us.
God created us, and that means he knows us incredibly intimately. In fact, he knows us better than we even know ourselves. As our creator, he knows what makes us tick, what hurts us, and what will ultimately make us thrive and fill our lives with meaning and joy.
The Catholic ‘rules’ turn out to be, as Matthew Kelly says, the best way to live. Everything the Catholic Church teaches points us to a more wonderful and fulfilling life.
For example, let’s look at the commandments. They may seem like a big list of burdensome don’ts, but would you really be happier if you lived a life full of killing, stealing, lying, jealousy, and dishonor? Probably not.
Or how about virtue? Would you rather spend time with a patient person or an impatient person? A just person or an unjust person? A generous person or a scrooge? I don’t know about you, but I would take the former, every time.
If we take a moment to look at some of those annoying Catholic rules in this light, you might be surprised at how they could positively impact your life.
Lenten Fasting and Abstinence. During Lent, the Church invites us to fast on select days and refrain from eating meat on Fridays (or all year-long if you’re really good at the abstinence thing). Just one more thing to remember right? However, fasting can be incredibly powerful. It forces us to acknowledge our own weakness and rely on God. Practically, it helps us build discipline and control our appetites. You can directly correlate the level of discipline in your life with the level of happiness in your life.
Sunday Mass. It’s a mortal sin to miss Mass on Sunday. That seems extreme doesn’t it? Especially when it can be rather mundane sometimes. But how can your soul thrive if it is starving? At Mass, we are fed in so many ways. God wants us to come together in community to strengthen each other as we strive to live a Christian life. He knows we need each other. And he knows that we need him. We listen to God’s word in the Scriptures readings, and hear about his promises, his hopes and dreams for us, and the ways he wants to challenge us. And, finally, we receive the very body, blood, soul, and divinity of Jesus. God speaks to us in those moments, and he invites us to bring everything to him, all of our struggles, questions, doubts, sorrows, and joys.
Confession. Telling your sins to a priest can be awkward, or even embarrassing. Especially if we keep committing the same sins over and over again. So why do we have to go through that ritual instead of just praying silently alone? First, there is power in simply saying your sins out loud. But beyond that, the sacrament of reconciliation is meant to be a moment of healing. Sin separates us from God and hurts us in so many ways. When we confess our sins in the confessional, we receive special graces and forgiveness. Jesus gave this power to his disciples, and it is the way that he wants to forgive us, help us heal, and rebuild our relationship with him. He also works through the priest to give us practical advice and guidance.
Contraception. This is a hard one for many people, as it seems the Church is putting its nose in our private business. But God and his Church want every single aspect of our lives to be joy-filled, whole, and life-giving. The Church does not ask couples to refrain from using artificial contraception because it wants to control our lives or force us to have big families. On the contrary, the Church wants us to have beautiful, loving, happy, amazing relationships. That is not possible when we put up barriers and do not give a complete gift of self to our spouse. In addition to all the possible dangerous side effects, contraception is a barrier to the great relationship you desire. The Church knows that and doesn’t want you to suffer the inevitable hurt.
A More Excellent Life
Jesus says in the Gospels, “I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” (John 10:10b). That is what Catholicism is about. It is the tried and true path to living the joy-filled, meaningful life that God dreams for you.
Rules are employed in every aspect of life where excellence is demanded and striven for. So why is the spiritual life so different? It may be as one beloved author and philosopher said:
If you give the rules of Catholicism a chance, you will find a God who loves you intimately and wants amazing things for you.
How hard are you willing to try for an awesome life?