Another good analogy

October 30, 2006 | 9 comments

I heard someone make a great point on Relevant Radio the other day. The show’s host made a comment about the Church’s rules, and the guest (can’t remember his name) pointed out that what the Church offers should be thought of more as a prescription than a set of rules.

When I heard this it was one of those “ah-hah!” moments. This has been my experience with Church teaching. Sure, I can ignore its ideas on how to live life; I can do my own thing on the grounds that I’m a free thinker who refuses to be told what to do. But the Church tells us how to live life in the same sense that our doctors tell us how to take our medicine. If you follow your doctor’s orders for the medicine he prescribed, you will experience healing and health; if you do your own thing and wildly disregard the prescription you might cause yourself great harm — maybe even death.

Based on the results I’ve seen in my life since discovering Church teaching, it is truly like a prescription for healing from a great Doctor. The more closely I follow the guidelines, the better I feel.

Also, if you see it as a prescription instead of a set of rules, it makes dissent seem a lot less glamorous.

MAKES YOU SOUND LIKE A REBEL: “The law says that I can’t jaywalk but I do anyway! I refuse to be confined by the State’s rules!”

MAKES YOU SOUND LIKE A FOOL: “My prescription tells me to take 7.5 mg of Coumadin but I take 30 mg! I refuse to be confined by my doctor’s rules!”

Just a thought. 🙂


  1. RobK

    I love the analogy! I chuckled at the juxtaposition of perscriptions and rebelion. It does make someone sound rather foolish.

    I think using an overdose is what makes it funny. It would be less funny (but more real) if someone said, “… but I don’t take it every day.”

    Does that blow the analogy? Doctors say to do a lot of things I don’t do. I rarely do too much of what they ask.

  2. Jennifer F.

    Hmm. I think that if you assume you have the Perfect Doctor, the analogy still works well. The less strictly you follow His orders, the worse off you’ll be.

  3. Eric

    Being a computer guy, I’ve always found that the ‘rules’ and ‘commandments’ remind me of a User’s Manual.

  4. Anonymous

    just as JPII said, the Church imposes nothing, but what it proposes is the truth

    God bless

  5. Anonymous

    Oh yes, you are definitely on to something here.

    This is one of the biggest things I hope to be able to communicate to my children—these “rules” are in place NOT because God doesn’t want us to have any fun or enjoy our lives but because what He “prescribes” for us really does makes us happier, better people in the end.

    I didn’t comment on your post about feeling in a funk, but I did want to remind you that you are still pretty fresh post-partum, and at least some of what you are experiencing could very well be due to hormones. I find that knowledge empowering when I am in a bad place mentally—just knowing that there is probably a root physical cause for my mental anguish helps me realize it’s time-limited. If I can blame it on hormones, I can more easily believe, “This, too, shall pass”

    I had a very hard time after many of my children’s births. Postpartum depression ain’t no picnic! But I am in a much better place now (haven’t thrown a plate in years, and when my first few kids were little, I can’t tell you how many Corelle items got smashed against my kitchen walls!! Nobody ever got hurt in the process, but it sure did help relieve some of the angst I was feeling), and looking back I can see that a lot of my misery had to do with hormones and chemical imbalances. Pregnancy/childbirth/postpartum is harder on some women than others. Now that those years are (hopefully! please God!) behind me, I can more clearly see that my misery was caused by the physical/mental hardships of many pregnancies and little ones born close together.

    Hang in there! I never believed women who told me it gets easier when those years are behind you, but now I’m going to tell you the same thing, because it’s truly my experience.

  6. Bekah

    There is a nearby parish we attend when we need a later Mass time. The last time we went the priest gave a wonderful homily in a similar vein to your analogy. He said that the rules of the Church are like a recipe, and if you want to end up with the promised end result, you need to follow the recipe. Choosing to either eliminate ingredients or substitute ones more to your liking are not guaranteed the same results. 😉

    He included a lot of wonderful examples, most of which I missed due to corralling a 4yo, 2yo, and 7mo at the time. But a mom sure appreciates a simple homily that gets to the point in a memorable way!

  7. gsk

    Just found you via the reference on the Darwin blog, Jen. What lovely reading! I’m a convert as well, though (ahem) I precede the RCIA program by several years. Hang in there with the kiddos. Once you get your analogies of rebellion straight (Very good, btw) your kids can try new twists on the concept for your enjoyment. Ah, sweet. All the best!

  8. c matt

    In one of Weigel’s books (Courage to be Catholic?) he makes another great analogy between Church teaching/rules and learning to play the piano. If you follow the “rules” of how to play the piano and master them well, you actually gain more freedom, not less, because you can now actually play the instrument. Without proper instruction and proper mastery, you simply make noise and get frustrated at the inability to play music.

  9. Anonymous

    This is a perfect analogy! Thank you for this post. This was an idea I was trying to describe recently but don’t think I said it as well as you!

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