Is the Catholic Church just about Rules?

Sadly, people sometimes view the Catholic Faith as “just a bunch of rules.” In founding the Church, the Lord Jesus meant to invite all people into an amazing, loving relationship with him. God wants us to be intimately united with him here on earth, and then eternally happy with him after we die. Catholicism is, therefore, meant to be a love story, not merely a set of rules. This is why Christ – the Lamb of God – calls the Church his “bride,” and why the bible culminates with a vision of the wedding feast of the Lamb in  Revelation 19:7-9:

“Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory.
For the wedding day of the Lamb has come,
his bride has made herself ready.
She was allowed to wear a bright, clean linen garment.
(The linen represents the righteous deeds of the holy ones.)
Then the angel said to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who have been called to the wedding feast of the Lamb.”

Love and True Happiness

Many people are not sure what to make of the moral teachings and rules of the Catholic Church. In reality, they are meant to be road signs that help us arrive at our final destination, which is true happiness – not only happiness in heaven, but authentic happiness here on earth, as well. We make a mistake if we get so focused on the road signs that we never really see our final destination. The Church is very clear that happiness in God is our vocation and “the goal of human existence, the ultimate end of human acts: God calls us to his own beatitude. This vocation is addressed to each individual personally, but also to the Church as a whole, the new people made up of those who have accepted the promise and live from it in faith” (Catechism of the Catholic Church 1719).

Catholics are not called to keep God’s commandments and follow the laws of the Church just for the sake of being good “rule followers.” In the end, these things are a matter of love. As Jesus said at the very first Mass (the Last Supper): “If you love me, you will keep my commandments” (Jn 14:15).

The rules and moral teachings of God and the Church are in place to help us make choices that lead to authentic happiness. While it is true that some things – sex outside of marriage, for instance – may offer temporary pleasure, the Lord wants much more for us - true happiness. And true happiness cannot come apart from God. As St. Augustine once said, addressing the Lord: "You have made us for yourself, and our heart is restless until it rests in you."

A Helpful Sports Analogy


If there were no rules in place preventing basketball players from defending however they wanted, such as tackling, we would miss out on the joy of the game and simply witness a scene of chaos.  In a similar way, God and the Church have given us rules to live by so that we may have real joy in this life and the next. The Lord very much desires that our “joy may be complete” (Jn 16:24).

For a further treatment of this topic, visit this article in Faith Saginaw magazine.