“Love ye, one another!!!”

-by Rev Gabriel of St Mary Magdalen, OCD, Divine Intimacy, Baronius Press, (c) 1964

Presence of God – Give me, O Lord, prompt, attentive charity for the needs of others, a charity which, for the love of You, knows how to make itself all things to all men.

MEDITATION

Everyone has some burden, more or less heavy, to bear: physical or moral weakness, the press of duties and responsibilities, fatigue or other troubles which weigh on his shoulders. Everyone feels the need of a friendly hand to help him carry this weight. This hand should be held out to him in fraternal charity, which for the love of God, knows how to be all things to all men. “Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so you shall fulfill the law of Christ” St. Paul exhorts us (Galatians 6:2). A Christian knows that he is not isolated, but is a member of a unique body, the Mystical Body of Christ. “So we being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another” (Romans 12:5). This knowledge of his solidarity with the brethren makes a Christian live, not enclosed in the tiny circle of his own interests, but with his heart open to the needs and interests of others. The mystery of our incorporation in Christ is more than an individual fact; by its very nature, it is a social fact. Incorporation in Christ by grace and charity connotes reciprocal incorporation among brethren, like the branches of a vine, which, sprung from the same stock, are so closely united one to another that they live, grow and develop together. Love for Christ is the vital expression of our union with Him; the closer this union becomes, the more our love increases; so too, fraternal charity is the vital expression of our reciprocal union with the brethren in Christ, to such a point that if this charity were not living and operative, we would have to say that our union in Christ and with Christ was very weak or even absolutely null.

If charity and grace unite us to Christ in such intimate and vital relations, it is evident that we must live this union, first with Him Who is our Head, and then with our brethren, who like us have also been engrafted into Christ. Hence there will be a supernatural affection which will bind us to one another and make us one heart and one soul, ready to labor and suffer for one another, to help and sustain one another. “Rejoice with them that rejoice; weep with them that weep” (Romans 12:15). Thus the Apostle teaches us to share the joys and sorrows, the cares and anxieties of others as if they were our own. They are, in fact, our own, because they are the joys, sorrows, cares, and anxieties of that one Mystical Body of Christ to which we belong and which, therefore, is ours.

COLLOQUY

“O Lord, teach me to love my neighbor with all my heart, not merely as myself, but more than myself, thus obeying Your commandment: ‘Love one another, as I have loved you.’

“Just as You, O Lord, have always preferred us to Yourself, and do so still, making Yourself our Food in the Blessed Sacrament, so You wish us to have such great love for one another that we always prefer our neighbor to ourselves; and as You have done all that You could for us, so You want us to do all we can for one another. Grant, then, O Lord, that, without giving You any offense, my love for my neighbor may be so firm, cordial, and strong, that I will never refuse to do or endure anything for his sake. Teach me to love him with my deeds, obtaining for him all the good I can, both for his soul and for his body, to pray for him, and to serve him lovingly whenever I have the opportunity. If my love were to consist only in pleasant words, it would amount to very little, and I would not be really loving my neighbor as You have loved us. To attain the perfection of love, it is not enough for me to work for my neighbor; I must also do what he wants in the way that pleases him, without showing any displeasure. By doing this, I shall acquire greater merit, because I shall be practicing the highest degree of self-renunciation” (St. Francis de Sales).”

Love,
Matthew

Mormon becomes Catholic

-by Kendra Clark

“My conversion from Mormonism (Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, or LDS) to Catholicism was a bittersweet experience. I am convinced, though, that the events unfolded beautifully according to God’s will. From beginning to end, the story comes full circle. This story takes me home, to a home where I belong.

I was raised in Southern California, in a loving family that did not particularly stress the importance of religion. My mother converted to Mormonism when I was a small child, and I occasionally attended church with my mother.

At the age of 17, I was accepted to Brigham Young University. It was at BYU that I became truly converted ​to Mormonism — or so I thought. In hindsight, I believe I was attracted more to the conservative nature of the LDS church. I appreciated the fact that families could be “together forever,” in eternal marriage, and found the LDS Plan of Salvation attractive. It was a sugar-coated story with a happy ending, and at the tender age of 21, it all was very enticing.

Upon graduating from BYU in 1989, I was married in the Salt Lake Temple and immediately started my family. We lived in Utah for the majority of our marriage and was highly influenced by the LDS culture there. I seemed to fit the ideal Mormon profile: married in the Temple, four beautiful children, attended the Temple regularly, extremely active in my ward and so on.

Later on, I went to medical school at the University of Utah, and while there, logistically distanced myself somewhat from the church. Engrossed in my studies, training, and raising a family, I had to disengage from my usual activities and church responsibilities. When I graduated from U. of Utah in 2007, I returned to the Mormon church on a regular basis. It was at this time that I was able to see Mormonism from a different perspective. As I returned and began to listen to the teachings, something shifted inside of me. I was no longer seduced or convinced by the LDS doctrine, but rather craved the essentials of Christ, His teachings and His word. The journey began with barely perceived but spiritually significant promptings by the Holy Spirit. Looking back, God knew what I needed and supplied it. The draw to stay in the LDS church is supplied by the pressures of family, friends, community, and culture. The promptings that led to my testimony of the fallibility of the LDS church needed to be small but steady, so as not to threaten my conscience that I was being led away by the Adversary.

The Holy Spirit led me, spoke to me and guided me as I craved the essentials of Christ and Christ alone. For the first time, I became aware of the discrepancies in the Book of Mormon, Joseph Smith, man-made ideologies, etc. The LDS teachings and lessons are filled with peripheral teachings that are labeled as modern day revelations, when in fact they are orchestrated by man and are not biblical. Some of the main tenets that led to my disillusionment with the Mormon religion were:

1. Mormons believe that there are many gods (polytheism), and through our obedience to the Gospel, we can become gods. Lorenzo Snow summarized this teaching by stating, “As man now is, God once was. As God now is, man may be.”
2. Mormons believe that God was once a man, and God and man are the same species. The belief is that we can create our own planets and become gods.
3. Mormons believe that God is made of flesh and bones.
4. Mormons believe that Jesus Christ was not always divine and that Jesus was once an “intelligence” like us, not always the Son of God.
5. Mormons believe that Jesus Christ is our elder brother, even the brother of Lucifer.
6. Mormons believe the Godhead consists of three distinct beings.

This is a small sampling of the discrepancies that I found disturbing after investigating the Bible and its teachings. There are numerous other issues, such as plural marriage in heaven, baptism of the dead, Mormon exclusivity in the Celestial Kingdom, the discrepancies of The Book of Abraham, and the many wives of the early pioneers.

This realization was painful and disconcerting. Church attendance produced conflict in my heart and soul for many months as I researched and scrutinized the various teachings.

I experienced sadness, disappointment, and confusion as I realized the changes I needed to make in my life. I then spent a year and a half living a double life. I would get ready for church with the family, take two Bibles, drop off my children at the LDS church, pretending I was going in as well. Then I would change Bibles, get in the car and drive to the closest local Christian church, where I would worship and praise the Lord, simply and sincerely. I would then rush back to the Mormon church, sit in the pews with my family and live the Mormon dream — with tears in my eyes.

I lived this double life until my oldest son, Austen, was called to the Warsaw, Poland LDS mission. I did not, under any circumstance, want to influence him negatively before his mission, so I kept my double life between my husband and myself. Fortunately, we supported each other in this effort, and my husband eventually decided to join me in distancing himself from the LDS church. Family, friends, neighbors, and people in our ward often wondered why I was becoming less involved in the church and appeared less committed. Mormons are known for their tight-knit, know-everything-about-everybody style. People talked, questioned, wondered about us.

We sent our oldest son to Warsaw, Poland in September of 2009 for a two-year LDS mission. Six months into his mission, we received a heartfelt phone call from him stating that he was experiencing great difficulty teaching the LDS religion to the wonderful, committed, and faithful Catholic people in Poland. He shared with us that he does not believe the things he was teaching, yet in fact, he was quite impressed with the Catholic people and their faithful devotion to Christ. He wanted to return early from his mission, and we supported him fully in this desire. He returned, then, only eight months into his two-year commitment, creating questions, concerns, and judgment from friends, family, and ward members.

Shortly after my son’s return from Poland, my husband received a job promotion which transferred us to Arizona. We were able to start fresh in a new area, worshiping as we wished. Before leaving Utah, we had discussed the changes in our faith with the three younger children. They became very confused and discouraged. It was a difficult transition for them, but since then they have all accepted this decision and are faithful Christians.

The next several years were personally very challenging for me. Shortly after arriving in Arizona, my husband decided to end our 21-year marriage. Within a few months of leaving the church, I moved to a new area, experienced divorce, sent two children off to college, and my mother committed suicide.

I lost my mother, my church, my support system, my friends back home, and I felt utterly alone. But I’ve always been a woman of faith, and I continued to be faithful and committed in my relationship with Jesus Christ and to attend a Christian church regularly.

There were a few significant voids in the non-denominational Christian church I had chosen. I was not comfortable with the informal nature of worship, the rock-’n-roll style of praise, and lack of regular communion or sacrament. I missed the traditional and respectful nature of prayer, and quite honestly, the relationships and fellowship I had enjoyed in the LDS church.

My spiritual journey seemed to have stalled, and I did not know what direction the Lord wanted me to go. However, I knew that He loved me, He would not forsake me, and He wanted to bless me with a full knowledge of truth. There was a period of two years where that full knowledge was not evident to me. I continued to attend church faithfully, worship, pray, read the Bible, all the while offering my heart and soul to Lord, knowing in faith that I would someday be led to His true Church.

It wasn’t easy discerning truth from error after leaving the LDS church. LDS teaching is that, if one leaves the church, he can no longer obtain salvation in the highest Kingdom of Heaven and will forfeit his Eternal Exaltation. After much prayer for strength, clarity and peace, I could eventually see a little more clearly, and for this I was truly thankful.

Three years after this depressing time, I met (my now husband) John. John is a cradle Catholic; however, he was not actively practicing his religion. I also met two wonderful women friends who were Catholic. It seemed that, everywhere I turned, I was meeting Catholics. Maybe I had my Catholic radar active, but it seemed that my closest relationships were with Catholics. I also vaguely recalled being told that I had been baptized Catholic at six weeks of age. I interpreted these “coincidences” as signs from God to pursue the Catholic Faith and approached the opportunity prayerfully.

From that point on, I was increasingly led by the gentle guidance of the Holy Spirit to enter the Catholic Church. My beloved father, who was my rock and my strength, suddenly died in 2013. My father was raised Catholic; however, he had distanced himself from Catholicism for most of his adult life. I believe that, after my father’s death, it was his influence which led me to the Catholic Church. I initially had no intention of becoming Catholic, and in fact had always heard negative things about the Church from my father. My intent was one hundred percent fact-finding and, to be quite honest, I believed that I would eventually disprove the teachings of the Catholic Church, check off the box, and go on to the next denomination in my search for truth. After consulting God in prayer, I decided to sign up for the next RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults) session at the local parish, knowing zero about the Catholic Church but carrying a laundry list of questions, child-like curiosity and an eager attitude.

I attended RCIA classes with an outward attitude of openness, humility, and an open mind to what might be forthcoming. I clearly hungered after the authentically revealed word of God and any Catholic teaching I could get my hands on. I decided to put my heart and soul into studying and learning about the Church, its doctrine and history. For every doctrine that was taught, I understandably compared it to LDS teachings, and as much as I humbly inquired on the outside, I critiqued thoroughly, and somewhat skeptically, on the inside. I now realize that I was critiquing the doctrine in my head to prove to myself that Catholic doctrine was not correct. Yet with each doctrine taught, I prayed, researched, and prayed some more. The more I studied, researched, and prayed, the more I was drawn toward the Church rather than away from it. The more I questioned the tenets of the Catholic Church, the closer I felt oriented to my True North. This was not at all expected; however, I did not fight it. I embraced the truth as I knew it and had faith that God (and my late father) were leading me home.

I was very involved in my RCIA group. We met for two to three hours every Sunday following Mass, and it was a peaceful and wonderful experience for me.

After prayerful reflection, I decided to be confirmed in the Catholic Church. At the Easter Vigil in April 2014, I was confirmed as a member of the Catholic Faith at St. Patrick’s Parish in Scottsdale, Arizona.

During my RCIA process, I had discussed with my husband the importance of us attending church together on a regular basis as a couple. He agreed and has been very supportive and faithful in his effort and continued spiritual growth.

Before I was confirmed, I decided to file for an annulment of my previous marriage. Because I had been baptized Catholic as an infant and married in the Mormon Temple, an annulment was granted on the basis of lack of form. (The Catholic Church recognizes only those marriages solemnized under Catholic auspices for those who have been baptized Catholic.) My annulment was granted in two weeks’ time, and John and I were sacramentally married in October of 2014.

Interestingly enough, I also found out that the parish in California where I was baptized is also named St. Patrick’s. Patrick is a popular name in our family lineage. My father’s middle name is Patrick, my brother’s middle name is Patrick, my son’s middle name is Patrick, my baptism and confirmation was performed in parishes named after St. Patrick.

Following my father’s passing, I was comforted by the hope that, as a baptized Catholic, he now has the fullness of truth and is with our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. I also believe that, now that he has the fullness of truth, he has been guiding me from above in my journey to Catholicism.

As I look back on my spiritual journey, I can see how everything has come about according to God’s will. As a young girl, I can recall believing in God the Father and in Jesus Christ, my Savior. Although I was not raised in a particular religion, I was always a spiritually minded young lady, continually seeking Him and wanting a relationship with Him.

After my conversion to Catholicism, I now feel a sense of completeness such as I had never felt before. I now understand that I don’t have to be perfect to be accepted by my Savior and Redeemer. I now believe that my “worthiness” does not define His love and acceptance of me, but rather it is by His mercy and grace that we are called to be in His presence once again, both here on earth and, afterwards, in heaven.

As a Catholic, I am more tolerant of myself and others, knowing that we are all in this thing called “life” together, and I no longer have an exclusive claim on heaven because of my religion. As followers of Christ, our claim rests in the fact that we have a Savior Who sacrificed His life for us so we can inherit the fullness of salvation.

What I love about being Catholic is the fact that I have saints and angels accompanying me throughout life. What I love about being Catholic is that I have Mother Mary by my side, praying with me, and I am most thankful for her presence in my life. What I love about being Catholic is that we have a worldwide community of believers who strive to be more like our Savior, more charitable and more loving, and when we combine the over one billion Catholics across the world, this is a powerful force for greatness. What I love about being Catholic Church is the sacred gift of Communion. The fact that we can honor our Lord by partaking of His Body and Blood is a blessing beyond measure. What I love about being Catholic is the power of its rich history and tradition. What I love about being Catholic is the fact that we worship an almighty God, who sent His beloved Son Jesus Christ as the beacon of perfection and truth. Because of this eternal gift, we can once again appear confidently in His presence.

I was alone in my conversion to Catholicism; however, I am never really alone. My children have chosen other faith systems; however, I am at peace knowing that Catholicism is my True North, and perhaps someday, in His infinite wisdom and understanding, they too will receive those same barely perceptible but deeply significant promptings to “come home.”
I have “come home” to the truth offered to me from God. I feel at peace with my decision and want to share it with the world. I am committed to serving others — particularly those leaving the LDS church — in their journey toward spiritual growth.”

Love,
Matthew

Christian failure

“St. Francis Xavier, SJ died on a small island six miles off the coast of China, his ultimate destination in sight. Not having reached his goal, Xavier felt himself something of a failure. Here is Walter Burghardt, in his book Saints and Sanctity, reflecting on times of failure even after we have worked hard:

“This is dreadfully difficult for a human being to accept— even for a Xavier. Just because I am trying to do God’s work with every ounce of my being is no guarantee that my plans will prosper. There is no guarantee that an effective Christian apostle will not be cut down in his prime. . . . There is no guarantee that because you have given yourself to a Christian marriage, your oneness will be lasting . . . that because you love God deeply, you will not lose your job, your home, your family, your health. . . . There is no guarantee that because you believe, you will not doubt; because you hope, you will not despond; because you love, your love will not grow cold. There is no guarantee that a Xavier will reach China. In this sense there is a Christian frustration, a Christian failure. . . . You do your Christian task as God gives you to see it; the rest, the increase, is in His hands. God still uses what the world calls foolish to shame the wise, still uses what the world calls weak to shame its strength, still uses what the world calls low and insignificant and unreal to nullify its realities. . . . In this sense, there is no Christian frustration and no Christian failure.

-Martin, James, SJ. The Jesuit Guide to (Almost) Everything: A Spirituality for Real Life (Kindle Locations 6236-6247). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/07/07/opinion/pope-francis-catholic-church-sexual-abuse.html

-Rm 6:23

Love,
Matthew

Mary?

“A few months before I was received into the Catholic Church, my family experienced a crisis. I was in high school when my mother told me she had been diagnosed with a large tumor in her abdomen. She didn’t know how much longer she had to live, and my dad wasn’t in the best position to take care of me and my siblings.

I felt like the weight of the world was on my shoulders, so I told my mom, “I need to just go to Church to process all of this.” She had the left the Church a long time before, but understood it was important to me, so she nodded in approval. I gave her a hug, told her I loved her, and started walking to the church.

As I knelt in that dark, empty church, my hands were clasped tight and my eyes watched the candles by the altar flicker. I just kept asking God for everything to be okay. Then I saw a statue of Mary. I took a deep breath and prayed:

“Hail Mary Full of grace the Lord is with you, blessed are you among woman and blessed is the fruit of your womb Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death.”

Devotion to Mary was the last hurdle I faced coming into the Catholic Church. At first, I feared that Catholics went overboard when it came to Mary and turned her into a rival goddess who took away glory from Christ. But the more I read Scripture the more I saw that Mary didn’t take people away from Christ, she led people to him.

Mater Dei:  The Mother of God

The most important title the Church gives to Mary is also the one that explains why Mary matters so much to Catholics—theotokos. This Greek word means “God-bearer,” but it is usually translated into English as “the Mother of God.” Mary is praised above all of God’s other creatures because she has the most intimate relationship with God. She gave birth to God, nursed God, taught him about life, followed him throughout his ministry, and was at the foot of the cross when Jesus, the God-man, died.

At this point some people might say, “Mary didn’t give birth to God, she gave birth to Jesus.” Yes, but is Jesus God? Calling Mary the Mother of God doesn’t mean that she created the Trinity or that Mary existed before God existed. Being a mother means conceiving and giving birth to a person. God is a Trinity of three divine persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. One of those persons, the Son, became man and had a mother (Gal. 4:4). It logically follows that this woman, or Mary, is the Mother of God.

Mothers don’t give birth to “natures” or “humanity,” they give birth to persons. The person Mary gave birth to was the divine second person of the Trinity, God the Son, Whom she and Joseph named Jesus. Even Protestants understand that Mary should be praised in this way. Timothy George says, “Evangelicals can and should join the church catholic in celebrating the Virgin Mary as the mother of God, the God-bearer.” Martin Luther eloquently said, “Men have crowded all her glory into a single word, calling her the Mother of God.”

Immaculate Conception and Bodily Assumption

The Immaculate Conception does not refer to Jesus’ miraculous virginal conception in Mary’s womb.

Instead, the term means that Mary herself was conceived without the stain of original sin.

The normal means to be freed from original sin is through baptism, but God is free to give His grace to whomever He chooses. He knew from all eternity that Mary would say yes to being the mother of His Son, so when she was conceived, God gave Mary an abundant gift of grace. In Luke 1:28, the angel Gabriel says to Mary “Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with you!” The Greek word that is translated “full of grace” refers to having grace as an enduring, complete quality of a person.

But doesn’t the Bible say all people have sinned (Rom 3:10)? If that’s true, then how could Mary have been immaculately conceived?

First, that passage refers to the truth that both Jews and non-Jews are sinners and need Christ. In Romans 9:11, Paul says that before Isaac and Esau were born they had done neither good nor bad. Millions of human beings die in infancy, long before they reach the age of moral accountability, and thus have never committed a personal sin.

But aren’t all humans born with original sin? No, because Jesus was human and he was born without original sin. If we say that Jesus is the exception because He is God, or the new Adam Whose obedience undid the crime of the first Adam, then we have room for another exception: Mary, the Mother of God and the “new Eve,” whose obedience to God undid the curse brought about by the old Eve. In the second century, St. Irenaeus said, “The knot of Eve’s disobedience was loosed by the obedience of Mary. What the virgin Eve had bound in unbelief, the Virgin Mary loosed through faith”

Finally, God demonstrated His surpassing love for His mother by taking her body and soul into heaven at the end of her earthly life. In the Old Testament, God assumed, or took, the prophet Elijah’s body and soul into heaven before he died (2 Kings 2:11). The Church teaches that Mary was also assumed into heaven, and Revelation 12:1 describes a woman in heaven clothed with the sun who gives birth to the Messiah. She appears right after a vision of the Ark of the Covenant, which carried God’s word written on stone tablets. It would be fitting if this woman were Mary, for she is the Ark of the New Covenant, who carried within her body the word of God made flesh, Jesus Christ.

“All Generations Will Call Me Blessed”

As I knelt in that darkened church and prayed the Hail Mary over and over again, I more clearly saw that Catholics weren’t turning Mary into a God. The reason Mary is “full of grace,” “blessed,” “Holy,” and the “Mother of God” is because her son is Jesus Christ. (It’s amazing that, for the rest of time, God the Son will not only have a human face and body, but will bear a physical resemblance to a human woman who lived around 2,000 years ago.) The only thing Catholics were “guilty of” was recognizing the awesome role Mary played in the history of humanity. In Luke 1:48, Mary herself says “all generations will call me blessed; for the Almighty has done great things for me and holy is His name.”

Speaking of awesome mothers, a few weeks after my mom told me about her diagnosis she was released from the hospital. I was nervous until she gave me the news: the tumor was benign. It ended up being the size of a basketball, but it was benign. I prayed to God, “Thank you for letting me have my mom for a little longer,” and to His mother I prayed, “Please lead me and my whole family closer to your son, Jesus Christ.””

Love,
Matthew

Soli Deo gloria


-by Br Isaiah Beiter, OP

“Goodness is praised as beauty,” wrote a man long honored by the Church, East and West, though nobody is exactly sure who he is.

“Salvation and glory and power belong to our God,” wrote the apostle John.

“Soli Deo gloria”—“Glory to God alone,” cried the Reformers. And they were right, or sort of. In their desire to exalt the glory of God above all else, they were right. In their yearning to defend God’s glory from all dilution or fracture, they were right. But they were not right to forbid God from sharing His glory with His creation. Of course, I do not mean to say that this is exactly what they intended to do. But in understanding this last of the five Solae we should ask a broader question: “what is glory, and where do we find it?”

*

Let’s build the image from the ground up. When someone is good, then that person is worthy of praise. For him or her to receive praise, however, someone has to know this goodness and recognize it as good. For instance, before I praise the bravery of a soldier and the patience of a mother, I have to see them in action or at least hear about them. And if these people are especially good, beyond common experience, then probably a great many people will hear about them, and probably a great many people will see how good they are, and hopefully these people will say so. Imagine a news story about a local hero or praising a great teacher, for instance.

That loudness that belongs especially to good things, the splendor and renown that belongs to something praiseworthy, is called glory. The greater the good, the louder it is, and the louder it is, the more praiseworthy. The greater the good, the more glorious it is. This is how the Church has thought about glory. This is how the Scriptures speak, though with the nuances and poetry appropriate to each place.

So there are different kinds of glory just as there are different kinds of good. This is what the Reformers forgot in their zeal. In wanting to single out God for worship, we should never forget God’s love in sharing his goodness. God is infinite in His goodness. Creatures have a limited share. God is infinite in His glory. Creatures have a limited share in that, too. The Holy Trinity is glorified by worship and adoration, and long before the Protestant Reformation, the Church gave this worship the name latria. God can never be given too much glory. The highest of created persons, Mary and all the other saints, are glorified with a lesser honor, which the Church has named dulia. And traditionally, some saints are seen to be higher than others. Mary, the Mother of God, is the very highest. After her come the apostles, who were sent forth by Christ as the seeds of the Church.

These saints are honored, or given glory, because of a good that they have, the great good of grace, which is a share in God Himself! And lesser, simply human goods, like a great leader, can be glorious in their own small ways. All these goods, however small, are shares in God’s goodness. And all these goods, from the bottom to the top, are given by God. Jesus says to the Father, “The glory which Thou hast given me I have given to them” (John 17:22). Paul encourages us to seek this glory, speaking of God’s judgment: “to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, He will give eternal life” (Rom 2:6-7). So what is the vision of the world that we are left with?

*

The world is filled with the glory of God! This is because He chose to fill the world with His goodness. All of it is traced back to God, the source and the giver, as the finite is compared to the infinite. Glory belongs to God alone, but He chooses to share it with us. To declare that only God has glory, or to understand those three Latin words (Soli Deo gloria) in this way, is to make God more separate from His creatures than God Himself wishes to be.

How beautiful is the sun, how splendorous, how good! It is too bright even to look upon. But it does not keep its light to itself. The sun shares its light with the moon. It is imitated by every twinkle of the stars. And the sun gives life to all below it. From the bottom to the top, the heavens and the earth shine with the light of the sun: truly, though not equally.  [Ed.  How much more the Divine?]

“There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars; for star differs from star in glory,” wrote the apostle Paul (1 Cor 15:41).”

Praise Him!!!  Give Him GLORY!!!!!  Clap your hands!!!  Shout for joy!!!!  Let the seas and all within it thunder praise!!!

Love,
Matthew

Sola Fide & false idols


-by Br Ephrem Reese, OP

“When people speak of “faith alone,” it’s often taken for granted that faith is opposed to works. But the Council of Trent has dealt with this false dichotomy:

“Faith, unless hope and charity be added to it, neither unites man perfectly with Christ nor makes him a living member of His body. For which reason it is most truly said that faith without works is dead and of no profit, and in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth anything nor uncircumcision, but faith that worketh by charity. (From the Decree concerning Justification, chapter VII).”

So that opposition, faith versus works, is false. “Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar? Do you see that faith was working together with his works, and by works faith was made perfect?” (James 2:21-22).

How about a new conception of sola fide? Think, instead, this way: faith is opposed to idolatry. If we want to speak about “faith alone,” I suggest that we look to Abraham, the “father of faith.” While not directly addressing the “traditional” dispute about faith versus works, I think this may in fact reveal a deeper understanding in Scripture and the tradition.

Abraham’s father Terah, says a Jewish commentary on Genesis, made idols for a living. Sometimes he had to leave the boy Abraham in charge of the shop. Abraham would embarrass old men who came in to buy idols: “You are fifty years old and worship a one-day-old statue!”

Even better, though: when a woman came in to make an offering to the idols, Abraham took a club and smashed all of the idols but the biggest one, then put the club in its hands. He told Terah that they were fighting over who would eat the offering, and that the biggest one destroyed the rest. The real point, the rabbinic telling implies, is that Terah would have to admit that the idols were stupid and powerless, if he wanted to blame the iconoclasm on Abraham.

Idolatry is not just a Jewish concern—in the New Testament, “idol” and related words occur at least 33 times. Although this continues the Old Testament tradition, some new aspects appear. For example, idolatry is not just foolish and immoral, it also conceals demonic powers. This helps to explain some of the sexual immorality that was very clearly connected with, even institutionalized in, traditional cults.

Faithlessness in the invisible God leads directly to worship of what is more available, what is right in front of us, even if it’s a powerless piece of wood. Falling for the one who is there, rather than the One we truly love—you can see why the Bible compares idolatry to adultery (see Wisdom 14:12).

We believe in, even testify to, a God we do not see. It is necessary to turn away from what we see all around us (ahem, screens). “You turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God”—this is the basic description of conversion of which St. Paul reminds the Thessalonians (1 Thess 1:9). When Paul went to Athens, the great scientific seedbed of geometry, philosophy, and democracy, “he was distressed to see that the city was full of idols” (Acts 17:16). His speech to the Athenians puts him squarely in the prophetic tradition of Israel: God made everything, and left His traces; He wants you to seek Him; do not be distracted by the shiny things that people put before you. Finally, there will be a judgment for those who live not by faith in what is unseen but by settling for what is “made by human design and skill” (cf. 17:24-31).

The great literary critic Northrop Frye noticed that the Jewish and Christian idea of revelation as something heard but not seen has a destructive dynamic. It crushes the tyranny of the visible. “The Word not only causes all images of gods to shrivel into nothingness, but continues to operate in society as an iconoclastic force…demolishing everything to which man is tempted to offer false homage.” Abraham knew about that. As Jesus says mysteriously, Abraham saw His(Jesus’) day, and rejoiced (Jn 8:56).

We don’t see many actual idols now. But if we look around, it’s not hard to see that people are sunk, bowed down, brought to their knees, in worship of what is seen. Abraham, dutiful son, was considerate enough to discreetly destroy the local idols. Faith cast out of him any fear of the powers of this world. For his faith, God made a promise to Abraham, freeing him “to worship Him without fear all the days of his life” (Luke 1:73-75).”

Love, faith, & hope,
Matthew

Sola Scriptura


-by Br Peter Gautsch, OP

“There’s a friar I’ve known for some time now who prays frequently for the unity of the Church, a matter which is clearly very close to his heart. I’ve often been moved by this. After all, St. Augustine says in his Rule that we are to be “of one heart and one mind, in God.” He was speaking about peaceableness among religious, but it’s also true in the broader realm of faith: our many hearts and minds, in all their happy diversity, should be as one in God, one in faith.

Which brings us to sola Scriptura.

What is it? In its strictest form, it’s the Protestant doctrine that Scripture is the only source and norm of Christian faith: “Scripture alone” has authority in matters of faith. In another form, both less fideistic and less true to its name, it’s the doctrine that Scripture is the final source and norm of Christian faith: there are other valid authorities, sure, but Scripture, and nothing else, tests and judges them.

But sola Scriptura has many problems, to put it mildly. One of them is that at least one of its inescapable consequences is directly opposed to what Scripture—and in this case, Jesus himself—exhorts: “that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may be perfectly one” (Jn 17:22–23).

This prayer of our Lord, of course, has little to do with revelation itself and still less with where authority in matters of faith comes from. But it’s important to consider, because ultimately the doctrine of sola Scriptura necessarily excludes this unity that our Lord prayed for. This is because Scripture often doesn’t tell us how it ought to be interpreted, and, human nature being what it is, different people tend to arrive at incompatible interpretations which can’t all be true. The first form of sola Scriptura I mentioned above doesn’t appear to have anything like an adequate answer for this problem of multiple, personal interpretations. And the second form says that when there’s a conflict, we can consult other authorities, so long as Scripture has the final word. But even this only goes so far: some persons may accept the guidance of certain authorities, but other persons may reject them “on scriptural grounds.” So the problem persists, and sola Scriptura offers no real solution.

Now Sacred Scripture is the word of God in written form—on this all Christians agree. But as Catholics, we have a yet broader notion of revelation: in addition to revealing himself in the inspired books of Scripture, God also revealed Himself in his word of truth entrusted to the apostles and handed on by them to their successors throughout history, even to the present day—this is what we call Tradition (which is itself described in Scripture: e.g., Mt 28:18–20, Mk 3:13–19, Mk 16:15, Acts 2:42, Acts 10:34–43, 1 Cor 15:1–11, 2 Thess 2:15, 2 Tim 2:1–2, 2 Pt 1:19–21). Hence we always read Sacred Scripture in light of Tradition, and we read Tradition in light of Scripture. Scripture and Tradition, together, are the supreme rule of the Church’s faith—not just Scripture alone, in isolation—because they’re two modes of the one sacred deposit of the word of God that has been entrusted to the Church. Not only that, but Scripture and Tradition both show us that Christ, in instituting the apostles as the foundation stones of the Church (Eph 2:19–20, Rev 21:14) and giving them authority to teach in His name, instituted an authoritative interpreter of divine revelation. This is what we call the Magisterium, the living teaching office of the Church.

So what about that problem of interpretation? How do we deal with incompatible individual interpretations of Scripture? If it’s true that “God desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Tim 2:4), then sola Scriptura can’t be true, because it doesn’t give us the tools to arrive—together, in unity—at that knowledge of the truth. Simply put, the Catholic Church’s more robust doctrine of divine revelation is the only way. Sometimes the full meaning of a passage of Sacred Scripture just isn’t apparent to us. Thankfully, God reveals Himself also in Tradition and has given the Magisterium authority to authentically interpret divine revelation, whether in written form (Scripture) or handed on verbally (Tradition). Of course, the idea here isn’t that we should approach the Bible like automatons, mindlessly complying with arbitrary directives from a distant, unseen authority—we should read Scripture and interpret it and hear God speaking to us through it! But we don’t have to go it alone: instead, keeping in mind the unity and coherence of the whole of Scripture and the unity and coherence of the truths of the faith, we look to Tradition (e.g., what the Fathers of the Church or the liturgy teach us about a passage of Scripture) and to the Magisterium (e.g., whether the Church has given an authoritative, authentic interpretation of a passage of Scripture), and we shape our reading accordingly. We can know what Scripture means because God Himself tells us—but He tells us not only in Scripture itself but also in Tradition and through the Magisterium. Each of the three needs the other two.

But sola Scriptura protests. When Tradition and the Magisterium are invited to the discussion to help our understanding, sola Scriptura stands in the door, blocking their entrance. As a result, individual interpretation carries the day. And individual interpreters, with no authoritative guide other than Scripture itself, remain at odds with one another. And unity of belief is still not realized.

Ecumenical dialogue often points out the important affirmations of faith that Catholics and Protestants share, and rightly so: we should rejoice that we believe together that Jesus Christ truly is the Lord, the incarnate Son of God; that by baptism we truly do become adopted children of God; that Sacred Scripture truly is the inspired word of God, set down in writing for the sake of our salvation; and so on. But we simply must recognize the disunity in our beliefs as well, because unless we recognize our disunity, we can’t pray for the unity that Christ Himself prayed for.

This real disunity that sadly exists between Catholics and our Protestant brothers and sisters (not to mention the disunity that exists between the various Protestant denominations) is in large part the fruit of sola Scriptura. We simply can’t be of one heart and one mind in God, truly, if we don’t believe the same things about God and His revelation of Himself to us. In revealing Himself and His plan for our salvation, “the invisible God out of the abundance of His love speaks to men as friends and lives among them, so that He may invite and take them into fellowship with Himself” (Dei Verbum 2). Christ’s prayer that we may be perfectly one shows us that He also wants us to have fellowship, unity, with one another—one heart and one mind, in God—as Scripture elsewhere instructs: “all of you, have unity of spirit, sympathy, love of the brethren, a tender heart and a humble mind” (1 Pt 3:8).”

Love & unity,
Matthew

Solus Christus


-by Br Hyacinth Grubb, OP

“Salvation is found in Christ alone,” asserts the final Sola of the Protestant Reformation, Solus Christus. Of course, salvation is found in Christ, and the Catholic Church has unceasingly taught just that. You need to look no farther than the Council of Trent and its Decree on Justification, the Church’s response to Protestantism, which includes this succinct and forceful affirmation:

If any one saith that men are just without the justice of Christ, whereby He merited for us to be justified;… let him be anathema. (Canon X)

So what is the Protestant claim of Solus Christus? Like the other Solae, it affirms something true and important, but at the same time it denies an important truth of Catholic doctrine. It denies the efficacy of the human mediation of Christ’s grace and salvation, especially the mediation of a priest in the sacraments. “Christ is the true and only mediator between God and man,” it insists, and thus it asserts that any human claim to mediation can only be superstitious or idolatrous.

Solus Christus is not without scriptural support. Jesus Himself said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but by me” (John 14:6). St. Paul wrote that “there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus” (1 Tim 2:5). Throughout the New Testament, it is clear that salvation comes from Christ, Who became man in order to bring us to God; He is the one true mediator. The Protestant teaching of Solus Christus strongly affirms this by denying the possibility of any human action that can bring grace or salvation.

However, a more thorough exploration of Sacred Scripture reveals an image of mediation that is richer and more complex than the simple Solus Christus. For instance, preaching and giving testimony are themselves kinds of mediation by which salvation is brought to men: “For, ‘everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved.’ But how are men to call upon him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in Him of Whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without a preacher? And how can men preach unless they are sent?” (Rom 10:13-15). St. Paul describes preaching as the link connecting and mediating between the God who sends preachers and those who will call upon the name of the Lord and be saved.

Likewise, prayer is a mediation, as we stand as intercessors before God on the behalf of other men and women. “If anyone sees his brother sinning, if the sin is not deadly, he should pray to God and he will give him life” (1 Jn 5:16). And again: “The prayer of a righteous man has great power in its effects” (Jam 5:16).

Most notably, Christ Himself appointed men to be mediators of His salvation and grace in a particular and special way through the sacraments. “He took bread, and when He had given thanks He broke it and gave it to them, saying, ‘This is My body which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of Me’” (Luke 22:19). Christ gave His apostles a command and a power: to celebrate the Eucharist established at the Last Supper. On another occasion, He gave His apostles a different command and power, saying to them, “Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained” (John 20:23). And finally, he gave them the Great Commission, to go and bring all peoples to Him in the sacrament of Baptism (see Matt 28:18-20).

And even in St. Paul’s First Letter to Timothy, in which he writes that “there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus,” we find evidence of other mediation in the same chapter. St. Paul commands “that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all men” (1 Tim 2:1). So, some men are acting as intercessors and mediators in prayer for “all men.” Moreover, Paul identifies himself as “appointed a preacher and apostle,” as one who mediates the word of God in proclamation and testimony, and as one who mediates the salvation and forgiveness of God in the sacraments.

Thus it becomes evident that the interpretation of Solus Christus as denying the possibility of human mediation isn’t in accord with the whole of Scripture. Yet how are we to make sense of the claim that “there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus”? It is without doubt true that no merely human work could ever hope to reach God and thus mediate between the human and the divine. But how is it possible to resolve this apparent tension found within Sacred Scripture, which seems to simultaneously appoint men as mediators and to assert the absolute uniqueness of Christ as mediator?

What is necessary is a more robust understanding of the Body of Christ. Christians are not members of the Body in the same way that citizens are members of the body politic, which is extrinsic and legal. No, Christians are members of the Body of Christ in a much deeper and more intimate manner. Grace is a participation in the divine life; it is deeply transformative of the soul as Christians are configured to Christ. Recall the parable of the vine and the branches; it is not simply a pious metaphor. We are truly grafted onto Christ and the sap of the true vine flows through every aspect of our lives. Our life becomes His, “for you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God” (Col 3:3). And therefore the fruit that we the branches bear is, in a real sense, the fruit that Christ the vine bears.

An appreciation for the depth and intimacy of participation in the Body of Christ resolves the apparent tension within Sacred Scripture between the many examples of mediation and the truth that there is “one mediator.” When a Christian preaches the Gospel, it is Christ’s preaching, for the individual participates in Christ’s mediation of the Good News to the world. When a Christian prays, it is Christ’s prayer to the Father, for the individual participates in the mediation of grace to the world. When a priest offers the Mass or absolves in confession, he is acting in persona Christi – in the person of Christ – making present the one sacrifice and mediation of Christ our high priest.

By preaching, by prayer, by his appointed priests and sacraments, Christ acts through the members of His body, whose participation in His life has configured them to Him at the deepest levels of their being. Yes, Christ is the one true mediator. As St. John Paul II wrote, “No one, therefore, can enter into communion with God except through Christ, by the working of the Holy Spirit. Christ’s one, universal mediation, far from being an obstacle on the journey toward God, is the way established by God Himself” (Redemptoris Missio 5). At the same time, all the baptized, and in a particularly profound way priests, are members of His body, and by virtue of their participation in the divine life of Christ, they participate in His mediation as mediators themselves. Through their actions, may the whole world be brought to the truth and the life that is Jesus Christ.”

Love,
Matthew

Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary

“After presenting positive proofs for the Assumption of Mary, one always has to be ready for the biblical and historical arguments often used against it. Here is one common objection and how to answer it.

Objection: No one has ascended to heaven.

No one has ascended into heaven but he who descended from heaven, the Son of man (John 3:13).

This text is usually cited by the Christian or quasi-Christian sects that deny the natural immortality of the soul, e.g., Seventh-day Adventists, Christadelphians, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and the Iglesia Ni Cristo; however, some Fundamentalists use it, too. Here St. John was writing at a time likely long after Mary had ended her earthly life. So if he said that “no one has ascended into heaven,” the argument goes, that would include Mary.

There are at least four reasons why this text does not contradict the Assumption of Mary:

1. John was quoting words our Lord had spoken around A.D. 30. At that time Mary was still alive on earth.

2. Jesus could not have been saying that no one will ever be taken into heaven except him. If that’s the case, then what’s all this Christianity stuff about? You know, heaven and all?

3. One could also interpret John 3:13 as referring to Christ’s unique Ascension to heaven. The key here would be the word ascended. Mary did not ascend;she was assumed. Jesus ascended by his own divine power as he prophesied he would be in John 2:19–21: “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up . . . he spoke of the temple of his body.” Mary was powerless to raise herself; she had to be assumed into heaven.In a similar way, all of the elect will be assumed into heaven, so to speak,at the time of the resurrection of the body, as opposed to Christ, who alone ascended into heaven.

4. There are a couple of nuances in this text that many miss. According to St. Irenaeus in the second century John wrote his Gospel with an emphasis on demonstrating the errors of the fathers of Gnosticism and the heresiarch Cerinthusin in particular, who—among his many errors—denied the divinity of Christ. Thus, in quoting these word from Jesus he intended to demonstrate that “the Son of man descended” from heaven as the “only begotten Son,” a divine person, sharing his Father’s nature.In other words “the Son of man” is the same person who was eternally with the Father in heaven and who descended to the earth in the Incarnation.

Moreover, his point was that even while Christ walked the earth with his disciples in Galilee he was in possession of heaven, experiencing the beatific vision, as true God and true man.

His human body would not be glorified until after the Resurrection, but, according to John, Christ could already “see” the Father while on earth. Thus, while we human beings must “walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Cor. 5:7), Christ did not have “faith;” he had the “sight” of God that brings about “knowledge.” Thus, Pope Pius XII would declare:

For hardly was [Christ] conceived in the womb of the Mother of God, when he began to enjoy the Beatific Vision.

Consequently, Jesus, in his human nature, had already “ascended into” or possessed heaven—the beatific vision being the essence of what heaven is—even from his mother’s womb. Because he was and is both God and man, he could say that he had already “ascended” to heaven precisely because as God “he” had brought about this great mystery by his own power. Our Lord’s words, and therefore, it was purely spiritual, not material. “And therefore to indicate that he is said to have come down in this way, because he assumed a [human] nature, he said, the Son of man came down, i.e., insofar as he become Son of man” in the Incarnation.”

“O Immaculate Virgin, Mother of God and Mother of men, we believe with all the fervor of our faith in your triumphal Assumption, both body and soul, into heaven, where you are acclaimed as Queen by all the choirs of angels and all the legions of the saints. And we unite with them to praise and bless the Lord who has exalted you above all other pure creatures, and to offer you the tribute of our devotion and our love.

“We know that your gaze, which on earth watched over the humble and suffering humanity of Jesus, in heaven is filled with the vision of that humanity glorified, and with the vision of uncreated Wisdom; the joy of your soul in the direct contemplation of the adorable Trinity causes your heart to throb with overwhelming tenderness. We, poor sinners, weighed down by a body which hinders the flight of the soul, beg you to purify our hearts, so that while we remain here below, we may learn to love God and God alone in the beauty of His creatures.

“We trust that your merciful eyes may deign to look down upon our miseries and our sorrows, upon our struggles and our weaknesses; that your countenance may smile upon our joys and our victories; that you may hear the voice of Jesus saying to you of each one of us, as He once said to you of His beloved disciple: ‘Behold thy son.’ And we, who call upon you as our Mother, take you, like John, as the guide, strength, and consolation of our mortal life.

“And from this earth over which we tread as pilgrims, comforted by our faith in the future resurrection, we look to you, our life, our sweetness, and our hope. Draw us onward by the gentleness of your voice, so that one day, after our exile, you may show us Jesus, the Blessed Fruit of your womb, O clement, O loving, O sweet Virgin Mary” (-Venerable Pope Pius XII).

Love,
Matthew

The Fullness of Grace


-by Br John Paul Kern, OP

“Do Catholics and Protestants both believe that we are saved by God’s grace?

Yes! And today many Christians are realizing that this is an essential point of Christian unity.

In 1999, the Catholic Church and Lutheran leaders signed a Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification, proclaiming together that “all persons depend completely on the saving grace of God for their salvation” (JDDF, 19).

In 2006, Methodist leaders affirmed that this statement “corresponds to Methodist doctrine.” This summer, on the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation, leaders of the Reformed communities also accepted this common explanation of justification by grace.

What does this groundbreaking agreement between the Catholic Church and Protestant leaders mean?

After many years of harsh rhetoric and, often, misunderstandings, the Catholic Church and several large Protestant communities have been able to acknowledge together, publicly, that we both believe that Christians are saved by grace. Acknowledging such common ground is an important step toward a fuller Christian unity.

However, many Protestants remain skeptical that the Catholic Church affirms the priority of God’s grace in man’s justification, which Luther called the “first and chief article” of Christian faith (Smalcald Articles, II.1). Additionally, the Joint Declaration itself openly acknowledges and describes differences in the way that Catholics and Protestants understand how we are saved by grace.

Unfortunately, many Catholics and Protestants alike are unfamiliar with both the Catholic doctrine of justification by grace and the teachings of the Protestant Reformers. Therefore, let us explore what we share in common as well as where we differ regarding “the Gospel of the grace of God” (Acts 20:24), to better appreciate this beautiful, saving truth in its fullness.

Common Ground: The Primacy of God’s Grace in Man’s Salvation

God, Who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved)… For by grace you have been saved through faith; and this is not your own doing, it is the gift of God—not because of works, lest any man should boast. (Eph 2:4–5, 8–9)

St. Paul knew from his own conversion that salvation in Jesus Christ comes through God’s gift of grace. Therefore, he strongly emphasized this central Gospel truth throughout his writings.

Having also undergone a radical conversion by God’s grace, St. Augustine of Hippo (354–430) famously rejected the error of Pelagius, who claimed man could save himself apart from grace.

The Catholic Church later employed St. Augustine’s teachings to refute “semi-Pelagianism”—the claim that man can earn the grace of justification by his own efforts—at the Second Council of Orange (529), and she continues to honor St. Augustine as the Doctor Gratiae (Teacher of Grace).

A thousand years later, Protestant theologians in the 16th century articulated their doctrine of justification sola gratia (by grace alone), which also emphasized the priority of grace.

When the Catholic Church promulgated her official response at the Ecumenical Council of Trent (1546–1563), she strongly reaffirmed the primacy of God’s grace. Once again, she explicitly rejected Pelagianism—the claim “that man may be justified before God by his own works… without the grace of God”—and Semi-Pelagianism.

Thus, the Catholic Church in the 16th century authoritatively agreed with the Protestant Reformers regarding the priority of grace in salvation. However, she was concerned that the Protestant doctrine of sola gratia greatly reduced the scope and power of the grace of justification by emphasizing God’s forgiveness apart from the effects of grace on man.

Therefore, the Catholic Church emphasized, and continues to emphasize, that God’s grace of justification cannot be understood in its fullness apart from:

  1. the role of grace in God’s entire plan for mankind;
  2. a radical transformation, renewal, and rebirth of the human person; and
  3. God’s elevation of man to partake of the divine nature and participate in divine life.

1. Grace is a Fundamental Part of God’s Entire Plan for Humanity

For Protestant Reformers, such as Luther, the central question was justification: how can a sinful person be justified before God? This is extremely important. However, a singular emphasis on this question often leads Protestants to view grace solely through the lens of “solving the problem” of justification.

Catholics, on the other hand, understand God’s grace not only as a merciful response to man’s miserable, fallen state after sin but also as a generous gift that God freely and lovingly chose to bestow upon Adam and Eve from the moment of their creation. The Catholic faith teaches that God created man in a state of grace, which allowed him to enjoy an intimate friendship with God, knowing and loving God in a way that would not have been possible without God’s grace.

After the sinful Fall, God’s grace restores man to a state of friendship with God and grants the forgiveness of sin. The Catholic Church teaches that God’s prevenient (prior) grace prepares, disposes, and moves man to freely receive the grace of justification, which communicates to man the righteousness of Christ. From beginning to end, it is grace that saves.

Starting at the moment of justification, Christian life is animated by sanctifying grace, which allows Christians to grow in holiness throughout their lives. Sanctifying grace includes the theological virtues of faith, hope, and charity, the heart of the Christian life (1 Cor 13:13), and the gifts of the Holy Spirit (Isa 11:2). Christians who follow the Holy Spirit through the gifts enjoy the fruits of the Spirit (Gal 5:22–23), the highest of which are the Beatitudes (Matt 5:3–12).

Finally, the life of grace reaches its full fruition in the glory of heaven. It is not by man’s natural powers that he is capable of beholding the beatific vision of God but only by God’s gift of the light of glory, which is also a grace.

2. God’s Grace Has the Power to Actually Transform a Human Person

According to the Protestant Reformers, justification by grace is extrinsic to man. That is, justification describes man’s standing before God, in a sort of legal fashion, rather than the actual state of man himself. According to Luther, for example, man is justified when God graciously looks at Christ’s merit, which covers but does not destroy man’s sin, and imputes (credits) to us the “alien righteousness” of Christ, declaring us righteous by a judicial act though we remain sinners in reality. Thus, grace is simply the “undeserved favor” of God’s merciful judgment, which renders us “not guilty.”

In contrast, the Catholic faith teaches that while the wounds due to original sin still affect Christians, the grace of justification does not merely cover sin but destroys it, regenerates man to spiritual life (Jn 3:3; Titus 3:4-7), and restores his friendship with God.

Scripture recounts Jesus forgiving sins (Mk 2:1-12), casting out evil (Lk 11:14), healing (Mt 8:1-4), and raising people from the dead (Jn 11:40-44), all of which serve as powerful images for what God accomplishes in the human soul through the grace of justification.

God’s declarations match reality. God spoke the universe into being by saying, “let there be…” (Gen 1). Similarly, when God declares a person to be just and righteous, he simultaneously and actually makes that person just and righteous by the power of his grace, “so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Cor 5:21).

The grace of justification communicates the righteousness of Christ to man and has the power to actually transform man into the image of Christ (Rom 8:29). The Christian is reborn to a new life of grace infused by the Holy Spirit and is given a new heart (Ez 36:26–28), a new mind (1 Cor 2:16), and a new “nature” in Christ (Eph 4:22–24).

St. Paul explains, “if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has passed away, behold, the new has come” (2 Cor 5:17). Thus, Christians transformed by grace have “put off the old nature with its practices and have put on the new nature, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator” (Col 3:9–10).

Therefore, “justification… is not only the remission of sins, but also the sanctification and renewal of the inward man [2 Cor 4:16] through the voluntary reception of the grace… whereby man who was unjust becomes just [Rom 3:23-24], and who was an enemy becomes a friend [Jn 15:15], so that he may be an heir according to hope of life everlasting” (Trent, Decree on Justification, Ch. 7).

God justifies a person by an infusion of grace, which brings about a transformation of the soul from a state of sin and injustice to a state of grace, justice, and righteousness. This conversion includes a movement of the intellect toward God in faith and a movement of the will to love God and to hate sin, and it simultaneously results in the forgiveness of sin (Summa Theologica I-II, q. 113, a. 6).

Thus, in his work of justification, God’s undeserved favor actively bestows upon us the gift of grace, which has the power to actually transform us and make us righteous with the righteousness of Jesus Christ.

3. By Grace We Partake of the Divine Nature and Participate in Divine Life

The Protestant Reformers also do not emphasize what is, perhaps, the most amazing thing about grace: that God’s grace elevates Christians to share in God’s Trinitarian life of love. Luther asserted that even “the just sin in every good work” (Denzinger, 771), and “every work of the just is worthy of damnation… if it be considered as it really is” (Möhler, “Symbolik,” 22). For Calvin, even Christian acts of charity “are always defiled by impurity” (Institutes, III, 18, 5).

In contrast, St. Peter wrote, “his divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness… that through these you may escape from the corruption that is in the world because of passion, and become partakers of the divine nature” (2 Pet 1:3–4).

From the very beginning, “God… freely created man to make him share in his own blessed life” (CCC 1). That is, God created us to partake, by grace, in his own divine nature and to share in the divine life of Trinitarian love (1 Jn 4:7-16)—a life that is far above and beyond what is possible by human nature alone.

Even after original sin, God’s grace restores us from spiritual death to new life in Christ (Rom 6:4). Grace allows us to share in God’s own Trinitarian life as “adopted sons” in the Son (Gal 4:4–6) and as “children of God” (Jn 1:12–13) so that through, with, and in Jesus Christ, by the indwelling and power of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor 6:19), we may call God “Our Father” (Mt 6:9).

By grace, we are truly united to Christ as his members (1 Cor 12:12–27), and the life of the divine vine runs through us as branches (Jn 15:1–11), so that with St. Paul we may proclaim that it is now “Christ who lives in me” (Gal 2:20). As God’s children in Christ, we cooperate with God’s grace to bear the spiritual fruit of good works (Jn 15:16–17; Eph 2:10), which glorify God.

This supernatural life of grace, which begins on earth, blossoms into the life of glory in heaven. There, the gift of faith will be transformed into sight as we behold God face-to-face (1 Cor 13:12). Our hope will be fulfilled as we possess God, our eternal inheritance and reward, celebrating the wedding feast of the Lamb (Rev 19:6-9). Yet love, the core of the Christian life, will continue, perfected, in heaven as we experience the fullness of joy praising God for all eternity (1 Cor 13:8). Thus, the life of grace will be crowned and fulfilled in eternal life.

By grace, even now, we can share in God’s life of love and, in imitation of Jesus Christ, perform the works of our Father (Jn 4:34). Let us cry out “Abba! Father!” in praise of him whose merciful love offers us, by the saving work of his Son, through the Holy Spirit, this amazing gift of grace!”

Love, & always begging for His grace,
Matthew

Summa Catechetica, "Neque enim quaero intelligere ut credam, sed credo ut intelligam." – St Anselm, "Let your religion be less of a theory, and more of a love affair." -G.K. Chesterton, "I want a laity, not arrogant, not rash in speech, not disputatious, but men and women who know their religion, who enter into it, who know just where they stand, who know what they hold and what they do not, and who know their creed so well that they can give an account of it."- Bl John Henry Newman, "Encounter, not confrontation; attraction, not promotion; dialogue, not debate." -cf Pope Francis, "To convert someone, go and take them by the hand and guide them." -St Thomas Aquinas, OP. 1 saint ruins ALL the cynicism in Hell & on Earth. “When we pray we talk to God; when we read God talks to us…All spiritual growth comes from reading and reflection.” -St Isidore of Seville, “Also in some meditations today I earnestly asked our Lord to watch over my compositions that they might do me no harm through the enmity or imprudence of any man or my own; that He would have them as His own and employ or not employ them as He should see fit. And this I believe is heard.” -GM Hopkins, SJ