Category Archives: Grace

Sacramental Grace & Marriage

-cf Sanctity and Success in Marriage, DeBlanc, Rt. Rev. Msgr. Irving A. And Schavilla, Norma L., ~pp 88 – 94, National Catholic Conference on Family Life, Washington, D.C., (c)1956

by Henry V. Sattler, C.SS.R.

Effects of Sacramental Grace

The question that now faces us is what are the proper effects of this sacramental grace? What precisely does it do? Sacramental grace, first, “makes the receiver of the sacramental grace a habitual connatural agent, so that he can place acts in keeping with the end of the sacrament at will and ex officio.”9 What does this mean? Take an example. Suppose I could talk through a dog as a ventriloquist. The action of the animal would not be changed. Suppose I could talk through that dog, using its voice. The dog would then be an instrument. Suppose I could raise the dog above its nature so that it could talk at will. The dog would then become a habitual agent of speaking, something not natural (super-natural to a dog) to it but made as though natural by my gift. Since there are many strictly human actions that might become supernatural to a dog — so there might be many different “graces” given to it. So in a similar fashion, but in an inexpressibly superior way, man is raised to perform different “divine” actions through the various sacramental graces. When a confirmed person, for example, bravely confesses Christ, or a priest consecrates at Mass, each one acts officially and as the agent of a special supernatural act. And that act flows from them “connaturally,” as the ordinary human act of speaking flows naturally from a human being. Tremendous thought, this! By sacramental grace, truly do actions flowing from divine life come from us effectively as our thinking, and loving come from our ordinary human nature!

Secondly, sacramental grace remedies in us the defects which remain in us from past sin, both original and personal (actual).10 Original sin has destroyed the integrity of the human person, has made it difficult for all the human powers to work together for good. Though original sin has been wiped out by Baptism, its effects will remain with us. This is true of our own personal sins. Even after they have been wiped out in the confessional and by Penance; indeed, even after a life of virtue, sin leaves in us marks or wounds, weaknesses, that remain….

…Thirdly, sacramental grace brings with it the right to those actual graces necessary to stimulate us to perform supernatural acts in accordance with our needs. If you remember, “actual grace is a supernatural help of God which enlightens our mind and strengthens our will to do good and to avoid evil.”12  Actual grace is a kind of needle which pushes us towards good and away from evil wherever needed to further the end of the respective Sacraments.13   This means that not only does sacramental grace officially constitute a person as supernatural action, not only does it bring remedies to the weakness incurred by sin, but it also gives to the receiver of a Sacrament a right (a right freely conferred by God) to actual pushes from God in the proper direction!

Sacramental Grace in Marriage

This lengthy theological discussion on the nature of sacramental grace is necessary if we are to draw any practical fruits from the awareness of the sacramental graces of matrimony.

“The sacrament of marriage is the imprint of God on the souls of the married couple, not merely in order to deify their life in general, but in order to deify their union . . . The sacrament of marriage is thus not merely a religious act sanctifying a human one, it is a seed sown in the soul and bearing fruit through the whole of married life, giving life to all its acts and sentiments . . . it is a predisposition to holiness placed in their souls by God on the day of their wedding.”

Man and wife are united in God: this last expression can be interpreted in a very strict sense, for the action of the sacrament being a unique divine action in the souls of each of them, and sacramental grace being a reality in their souls, one can truly state that they have something in their souls which really unites them, which constitutes a principle of unity, and that this unifying action is a divine action. The sacrament of marriage is thus in a sense a deifying of the conjugal union . . . “14

The sacramental grace of Matrimony then takes a Christian marriage out of the realm of the natural and makes the married couple connatural principles of supernatural action. In Casti Connubii Pius XI says, quoting the Council of Trent:

“. . . By raising the Matrimony of His faithful to the dignity of a true sacrament, [Christ] made it a sign and source of that peculiar internal grace by which ‘it perfects natural love, confirms an indissoluble union, and sanctifies both man and wife.'”

And in the same encyclical:

“. . . As Saint Augustine teaches, just as by Baptism and Holy Orders a man is set aside and assisted either for the duties of Christian life or for the priestly office and is never deprived of their sacramental aid, almost in the same way (although not by a sacramental character) the faithful once joined by marriage ties can never be deprived of the help and binding force of the sacrament.”

Not only does Matrimony make the married pair officially supernatural in action, but it provides them with the remedies against the wounds of personality caused by sin. The “cussedness of human nature” left by original sin, the pettiness, the angers and tensions found in marriage have an inherent remedy in sacramental grace. Even the weaknesses incurred by personal sin, the hungers created by unchastity both in and out of marriage, the infidelities to parental obligation which leave marks of desire and parental sloth are met by the repentant husband or wife with special helps to overcome them.

“Thus if they should have been unfaithful to each other or to their duties, no matter for how long, through penance they can always have recourse to this inexhaustible source of sacramental grace, to find in it the means of regaining sanctification through renewed love and appreciation of the ideal to which they are called.”15

Lastly, “the sacrament of marriage confers a strict right to all the actual graces necessary to lead a Christian conjugal life. It also confers the right to all the material and spiritual helps required for the establishment of a home.”16

Since actual grace “enlightens the mind and moves the will,” a married couple can expect God to inspire them to know what they should understand and do in a given case and to strengthen their will to carry it out. This means that in the questions asked by the couple of themselves, in the questions asked by the children, a married pair who stir up the grace of God in them can await with certainty the right answers. It means also when they feel inadequate to the task of the moment they can expect new courage to be available to them.

“By these gifts the parties are assisted not only in understanding, but in knowing intimately, in adhering to firmly, in willing effectively, and in successfully putting into practice, those things which pertain to the marriage state, giving them in fine right to the actual assistance of grace, whensoever they need it for fulfilling the duties of their state.” (Casti Connubii)

This, then is the meaning of sacramental grace in marriage. It is the special mode of Sanctifying Grace which makes the receiver a habitual connatural principle of supernatural action in Marriage — which means that the love, and love-making, and housekeeping and work and worry of marriage are all deified. Further, sacramental grace in marriage brings with it remedies for the weakness of human nature, even for those weaknesses suffered as a result of the infidelities of the married couple. Lastly, it brings a right to the stimulus of God toward knowing the right answers and acting according to them.

Cooperation with Grace

Why, then, with all the tremendous beauty and power of Matrimony’s sacramental grace, do so many Christian marriages fade so far from the ideal?

Because “fruitful reception of a sacrament does not conclude the Christian’s duty — it is still up to him to cooperate with the power the sacrament gives . . .”17

Pius XI notes very strongly: “Since men do not reap the full fruit of the sacraments . . . unless they cooperate with grace, the grace of matrimony will remain for the most part an unused talent hidden in the field unless both parties exercise these supernatural powers . . .”

Husbands and wives must carefully cooperate with sacramental grace by prayer, by frequenting the other Sacraments, by meditating on the nobility of their state, by constantly reminding themselves and each other to depend upon this supernatural reality in their lives. It is imperative, also, that they strive earnestly to preserve Sanctifying Grace within their souls, since sacramental grace is but a mode of Sanctifying Grace.

“Another thing worth impressing on the faithful is the importance of conserving or regaining the state of grace, not only for its own sake, but also in order to be assured of sacramental grace. For, according to the more probable opinion, upheld by the majority of theologians, sacramental grace is contingent upon the possession of sanctifying grace.”18

Yet, despite the need of preserving Sanctifying Grace, it should be a consoling thing to a married person to realize that, though grace may be lost when mortal sin is committed, it all returns, with all the special helps of sacramental grace, when Penance returns the Prodigal home.

Let me conclude this entire presentation with the stirring appeal of Pius XI to married people:

“Let not, then, those who are joined in matrimony neglect the grace of the sacrament which is in them; for, in applying themselves to the careful observance, however laborious, of their duties they will find the power of that grace becoming more effectual as time goes on. And if ever they should feel themselves to be overburdened by the hardships of their condition of life, let them not lose courage, but rather let them regard in some measure as addressed to them that which Saint Paul the Apostle wrote to his beloved disciple Timothy regarding the sacrament of Holy Orders when the disciple was dejected through hardship and insults: ‘I admonish thee that thou stir up the grace which is in thee by the imposition of my hands. For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of sobriety.'”

Love,
Matthew

Notes

9 Everett, op. cit. p. 118. John of Saint Thomas, Cursus Theologicus, IX, d. 24, a. 2, n. 13.

10 Saint Thomas, Comm. in Sent. IV, d. 7, q. 2, a. 2, q. 2, ad. 2., XXVII de Veritate, a. 5, ad. 12., Summa Theol. III, q 62, a 2, ad. 2.

12 Baltimore Catechism No. 3, q. 113.

13 Shea, op. cit. pp. 119, ff.

14 Jacques Leclercq, Marriage A Great Sacrament, (Dublin; Clonmore & Reynolds, 1951), pp. 29-30.

15 M. M. Philipon, The Sacraments in the Christian Life, (Westminster; Newman Press, 1955), p. 220.

16 Ibid.

17 Shea, op. cit., p. 125.

18 Shea, op. cit., p. 126.

Interdict, actual grace, sanctifying grace & pandemic

The Church as sacrament

I know it is difficult for others to understand how the well catechized Catholic sees and understands the Church.  The Church, herself, is a sacrament.  Not a club.  Not an association.  Not something convenient, social, or popular to belong to, rather, the Church is an absolute necessity and vehicle for salvation.  Extra ecclesiam nulla salus.

“Basing itself on Scripture and Tradition, the Council teaches that the Church, a pilgrim now on earth, is necessary for salvation: the one Christ is the mediator and the way of salvation; He is present to us in His body which is the Church. He Himself explicitly asserted the necessity of faith and baptism, and thereby affirmed at the same time the necessity of the Church which men enter through baptism as through a door. Hence they could not be saved who, knowing that the Catholic Church was founded as necessary by God through Christ, would refuse either to enter it or to remain in it.” (CCC 846)

Both CCC 847 and Gaudium Et Spes 22, regarding salvation outside the Church, say, basically, “may”, “ought”. They do not say “will”, “shall”, 51% chance, or any other equivocation from the original formula of Extra ecclesiam nulla salus. And while Mt 18:18, and God gives His authority to His Church, His continuing presence on earth, God does not give away His power to save whomsoever He shall choose, whensoever He may choose.  He is God.  His Church recognizes this.

Actual & Sanctifying Grace

While belonging to the Church is a “necessary” vehicle, Mt 7:21. Therefore, all before baptism bear the deficiency of original sin, baptism is regenerative in grace. It is grace, sanctifying grace, to be in “the state of grace”, conscious of no mortal sin unrepented and absolved of, that makes us acceptable to God, to be in, to remain in the presence of God after death.  God in His infinitely brilliant, beyond comprehension brilliance, where no sin cannot be unconsumed, does not tolerate less than His own grace in His presence.  My mother would call her children, I assume my sister, too, but there was never much question about her, but definitely her sons and regularly ask, “(Name) are you in the state of grace?” Lovingly, like a mother who says, “If my children lose their faith, I have failed as a mother” would do.  Right?  Everybody knows what that’s like.  Right?  Everybody got those calls from their mothers.  Right? 🙂

Sanctifying grace stays in the soul. It’s what makes the soul holy; it gives the soul supernatural life. More properly, it is supernatural life.

Actual grace, by contrast, is a supernatural push or encouragement. It’s transient. It doesn’t live in the soul, but acts on the soul from the outside, so to speak. It’s a supernatural kick in the pants. It gets the will and intellect moving so we can seek out and keep sanctifying grace. You can obtain supernatural life by yielding to actual graces you receive. God keeps giving you these divine pushes, and all you have to do is go along.

Sanctifying grace implies a real transformation of the soul. Recall that most of the Protestant Reformers denied that a real transformation takes place. They said God doesn’t actually wipe away our sins. Instead, our souls remain corrupted, full of sin. God merely throws a cloak over them and treats them as if they were spotless, knowing all the while that they’re not.

But that isn’t the Catholic view. We believe souls really are cleansed by an infusion of the supernatural life. Of course, we’re still subject to temptations to sin; we still suffer the effects of Adam’s Fall in that sense (what theologians call “concupiscence”); but God has removed the sins we have, much like a mother might wash the dirt off of a child who has a tendency to get dirty again. Our wills are given the new powers of hope and charity, things absent at the merely natural level.

He sends you an actual grace, say, in the form of a nagging voice that whispers, “You need to repent! Go to confession!” You do, your sins are forgiven, you’re reconciled to God, and you have supernatural life again (John 20:21–23). Or you say to yourself, “Maybe tomorrow,” and that particular supernatural impulse, that actual grace, passes you by. But another is always on the way, God is never abandoning us to our own stupidity (1 Tim. 2:4).

Once you have supernatural life, once sanctifying grace is in your soul, you can increase it by every supernaturally good action you do: receiving Communion, saying prayers, performing corporal or spiritual works of mercy. Is it worth increasing sanctifying grace once you have it; isn’t the minimum enough? Yes and no. It’s enough to get you into heaven, but it may not be enough to sustain itself. The minimum isn’t good enough because it’s easy to lose the minimum, due to our original sin.  Our defect, not God’s.  Our defect in preternatural justification, holiness, and grace lost in original sin.

We must continually seek God’s grace, continually respond to the actual graces God is working within us, inclining us to turn to Him and do good; even as original sin causes tempts us to turn away and do evil. This is what Paul discusses when he instructs us: “Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for God is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure. Do all things without grumbling or questioning, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain” (Phil. 2:12–16).

Sacraments as primary vehicles of grace

BALTIMORE CATECHISM #3
LESSON 13 – ON THE SACRAMENTS IN GENERAL

Q. 574. What is a Sacrament?

A. A Sacrament is an outward sign instituted by Christ to give grace.

In Catholicism, the seven sacraments are the primary vehicles of grace. To be deprived of them is a serious matter to Catholics for the above stated reasons. If, like in Japan, where for 200 years hidden Catholic communities maintained the faith from the seventeenth century when Catholicism was made illegal in Japan, and clergy expelled, until the nineteenth century when hidden Catholic communities who had kept the faith in Nagasaki and Imamura without clergy were rediscovered by returning missionaries, Catholics would believe God would supply the necessary graces for salvation in the absence of the sacraments.

However, as a means of censure, prohibition of the sacraments could mean the endangerment of one’s soul. Interdict today, it has a long history and technicalities, has the effect of forbidding the person or community, often referred to as “personal” or, in the case of a community, “local”, interdict from celebrating or receiving any of the sacraments, including the Eucharist, or to celebrate the sacramentals. One who is under interdict is also forbidden to take any ministerial part (e.g., as a reader if a layperson or as a deacon or priest if a clergyman) in the celebration of the Eucharist or of any other ceremony of public worship.

However, in the case of a ferendae sententiae interdict, as opposed to latae sententiae, or automatically, similar to excommunication, ferendae sententiae interdict is one incurred only when imposed by a legitimate superior or declared as the sentence of an ecclesiastical court, those affected are not to be admitted to Holy Communion (see canon 915), and if they violate the prohibition against taking a ministerial part in celebrating the Eucharist or some other ceremony of public worship, they are to be expelled or the sacred rite suspended, unless there is a grave reason to the contrary. In the same circumstances, local ordinaries (bishops) and parish priests lose their right to assist validly at marriages.

Automatic (latae sententiae) interdict is incurred by anyone using physical violence against a bishop, as also by a person who, not being an ordained priest, attempts to celebrate Mass, or who, though unable to give valid sacramental absolution, attempts to do so, or hears a sacramental confession. Automatic interdict is also incurred by anyone falsely accusing a priest of soliciting sexual favors in connection with confession or attempting to marry while having a perpetual vow of chastity.

An interdict is also the censure that canon law says should be imposed on someone who, because of some act of ecclesiastical authority or ministry publicly incites to hatred against the Holy See or the Ordinary (Bishop), or who promotes or takes up office in an association that plots against the Church, or who commits the crime of simony.

Our pandemic imposed interdict


by Br Bartholomew Calvano, OP

“Many saints have lived through tumultuous times—much like our own. Look no further than the fourteenth century; it seems to bear a striking resemblance to our present state of affairs. In fact, a quick read through one saint’s writings and you would think that she was living today.

Saint Catherine of Siena was born in the middle of the fourteenth century when the black death swept through Europe. Italy was far from united at the time, for all of the city states were embroiled in near ceaseless warfare (of smaller or larger scale) with one another.

At times, the Pope was even placing cities under interdict so that there were many who could not receive the Sacraments on account of their rebellious leaders. Saint Catherine was sometimes called on to act as an intermediary in these conflicts, such as when she traveled to Avignon in order to convince the Pope to lift the interdict on Florence.

Despite these many tribulations, the Catholic Church and her members persevered through this period of upheaval and uncertainty. And how did they do it? We can look to St. Catherine as a model. Her response to all of the troubles in the world was to implore the Lord to act through his Christian servants, both lay and ordained. She prayed for their renewed fidelity to the vocation God had given them. Whenever she prayed thus, she never failed to include herself as needing the same help she was asking for others.

Saint Catherine’s humble trust in God can serve as an example for us during these uncertain times. Below is an excerpt from a prayer that she said on Passion (Palm) Sunday in 1379, a little more than a year before her death at the age of 33. Perhaps you will find her centuries-old appeal to resonate with the needs of our present day and age.

“Oh Godhead,

my Love,

I have one thing to ask of You.

When the world was lying sick

You sent Your only-begotten Son

as doctor,

and I know You did it for love.

But now I see the world lying completely dead—

so dead that my soul faints at the sight.

What way can there be now

to revive this dead one once more?

For You, God, cannot suffer,

and You are not about to come again

to redeem the world

but to judge it.

How then

shall this dead one be brought back to life?

I do not believe, oh infinite Goodness,

that You have no remedy.

Indeed, I proclaim it:

Your love is not wanting,

nor is Your power weakened,

nor is Your wisdom lessened.

So You want to,

You can,

and You know how

to send the remedy that is needed.

I beg You then,

let it please Your goodness

to show me the remedy,

and let my soul be roused to pick it up courageously.

Response: [St. Catherine pauses here to listen to the Lord’s response.]

True,

Your Son is not about to come again

except in majesty,

to judge,

as I have said.

But as I see it,

You are calling Your servants christs,

and by means of them

You want to relieve the world of death

and restore it to life.

How?

You want these servants of Yours

to walk courageously along the Word’s way,

with concern and blazing desire,

working for Your honor

and the salvation of souls,

and for this

patiently enduring pain,

torments,

disgrace,

blame—

from whatever source these may come.

For these finite sufferings,

joined with their infinite desire,

You want to refresh them—

I mean, You want to listen to their prayers

and grant their desires.

But if they were merely to suffer physically,

without this desire,

it would not be enough

either for themselves or for others—

any more than the Word’s Passion,

without the power of the Godhead,

would have satisfied

for the salvation of the human race.

Oh best of remedy-givers!

Give us then these christs,

who will live in continual watching

and tears

and prayers

for the world’s salvation.

You call them Your christs

because they are conformed with Your only-begotten Son.

Ah, eternal Father!

Grant that we may not be foolish,

blind,

or cold,

or see so darkly

that we do not even see ourselves,

but give us the gift of knowing Your will.

I have sinned, Lord.

Have mercy on me!

I thank you,

I thank you,

for You have granted my soul refreshment—

in the knowledge You have given me

of how I can come to know

the exaltedness of Your charity(love)

even while I am still in my mortal body,

and in the remedy I see You have ordained

to free the world from death.”

-“Prayer 19” in The Prayers of Catherine of Siena, trans. Suzanne Noffke (San Jose: Authors Choice Press, 2001), 212-15.

Love & hope, trust in Him ALWAYS!!!,
Matthew

What is sin? What is grace?

Q. What is personal sin?

In contrast to original sin, personal sin represents the sins that we individually commit and for which we are personally responsible.

We all have a general sense of what personal sin is—that it involves doing something wrong, something evil, something we should not do. However, theologians have studied the concept, and the Church has a refined understanding of what sin is.

Put in general terms, sin is “an abuse of the freedom that God gives to created persons so that they are capable of loving him and loving one another” (CCC 387). Stated another way, it is “an offense against reason, truth, and right conscience; it is failure in genuine love for God and neighbor caused by a perverse attachment to certain goods” (CCC 1849).

In other words, we can become so attached to various good things—like pleasure, possessions, or popularity —that we make choices that put these things over the love we should have for God and for our fellow human beings. When we do this, we sin.

All sin involves an unloving choice based on disordered desire, or concupiscence. Originally, this word referred to any intense form of human desire, but in Christian thought it has taken on a special meaning. “St. John distinguishes three kinds of covetousness or concupiscence: lust of the flesh, lust of the eyes, and pride of life” (1 John 2:16)” (CCC 2514).

This triple concupiscence subjugates man “to the pleasures of the senses, covetousness for earthly goods, and self-assertion, contrary to the dictates of reason” (CCC 377).

When we are led by disordered desire into making unloving choices, the resulting sin will be one of two types: mortal or venial.

The first type is known as mortal sin because it produces spiritual death. It destroys the virtue of charity in our hearts, charity being the supernatural love of God that unites us to Him spiritually. By being separated from God in this way, mortal sin puts us in a state of spiritual death.

“For a sin to be mortal, three conditions must together be met: Mortal sin is sin whose object is grave matter and which is also committed with full knowledge and deliberate consent” (CCC 1857).

The first of these conditions means that the sin must involve a matter that is grave in nature. “Grave matter is specified by the Ten Commandments, corresponding to the answer of Jesus to the rich young man: ‘Do not kill, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honor your father and your mother’ (Mark 10:19)” (CCC 1858).

Some sins automatically involve grave matter. This is the case anytime an innocent human being is killed and any time an act of adultery is committed.

If grave matter is present, there are still two other conditions that need to be fulfilled for a sin to be mortal. “Mortal sin requires full knowledge and complete consent. It presupposes knowledge of the sinful character of the act, of its opposition to God’s law. It also implies a consent sufficiently deliberate to be a personal choice” (CCC 1859).

Various factors can diminish or remove the knowledge and consent needed for a sin to be mortal. “Unintentional ignorance can diminish or even remove the imputability of a grave offense. . . . The promptings of feelings and passions can also diminish the voluntary and free character of the offense, as can external pressures or pathological disorders” (CCC 1860).

When a person commits a sin and one or more of the conditions needed for it to be mortal are not present, the result is a venial sin (CCC 1862). Venial sins offend and wound the virtue of charity, but they do not destroy it, which is why they are not mortal (CCC 1855). They thus do not lead to spiritual death.

When our sins are mortal, however, our souls are in jeopardy, and we are in urgent need of God’s grace.

Q. What is grace?

Looked at one way, grace is the antidote to sin. It is what God provides us to overcome both original and personal sin.

“Grace is favor, the free and undeserved help that God gives us to respond to his call to become children of God, adoptive sons, partakers of the divine nature and of eternal life” (CCC 1996).

We need grace because of the condition of spiritual poverty that we are born into as a result of original sin. In this state of separation from God, wounded human nature will not allow us to seek God and come to him. He must take the initiative by seeking us and giving us the help we need to freely choose him. Thus Jesus tells us, “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him” (John 6:44).

Fortunately, God wants all men to have this opportunity. He “desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Tim. 2:4), and so he offers all men the grace necessary to be saved (CCC 1260).

God did not have to do this. He does it freely, out of his love for all men, and we must freely choose whether or not to respond to his grace and accept his love. “God’s free initiative demands man’s free response, for God has created man in his image by conferring on him, along with freedom, the power to know him and love him. The soul only enters freely into the communion of love. God immediately touches and directly moves the heart of man. He has placed in man a longing for truth and goodness that only he can satisfy” (CCC 2002).

The particular helps that God gives us at certain moments in life—helps to come to him, to do good, or to resist sin—are known as actual graces (CCC 2000). They can take many forms. When someone preaches the gospel and we are moved to respond, that is a grace. When we see someone in need and are moved to help, that is a grace. And when our conscience warns us that something we are about to do is wrong, that also is a grace.

Actual graces appear at particular moments in our lives, but there is another kind of grace, which remains with us over the course of time. This is known as sanctifying grace.

“Sanctifying grace is the gratuitous gift of his life that God makes to us; it is infused by the Holy Spirit into the soul to heal it of sin and to sanctify it. Sanctifying grace makes us ‘pleasing to God’” (CCC 2023-2024).

When a person has sanctifying grace, he is said to be in a state of grace. In this state, he is united with God spiritually and said to be in God’s friendship. If he dies in the state of grace, he will go to heaven (though he may need to be purified first in purgatory).

When we come to God and are saved and justified, God gives us the theological virtues of faith, hope, and charity (CCC 1991). Of these, charity is the most important (1 Cor. 13:13). It is the virtue “by which we love God above all things for his own sake, and our neighbor as ourselves for the love of God” (CCC 1822).

Charity always accompanies sanctifying grace, and when one is eliminated, so is the other.

This is why mortal sin “results in the loss of charity and the privation of sanctifying grace, that is, of the state of grace. If it is not redeemed by repentance and God’s forgiveness, it causes exclusion from Christ’s kingdom and the eternal death of hell” (CCC 1861).

In addition to sanctifying grace, God also gives us additional gifts of grace to help us live the Christian life and be of service to others.

Our salvation is thus entirely a product of God’s grace, from the graces that lead us to turn to him, to the state of grace in which we are saved, to the graces that he gives us to live the Christian life, to help others, and to bring them to him as well.

Love, pray for me,
Matthew

Fidei Donum – saving faith is a gift of grace; stony hearts & souls

Faith is a theological virtue, which along with hope and charity, is a gift from God. But how is this so?

Theological virtues—unlike the human or cardinal virtues (justice, prudence, fortitude (courage), temperance) —are not acquired through human effort. Rather, they are “infused”; or “grafted” is another word used informally, to describe this effect in us. God uses faith like a binocular or telescope. You begin to see more with faith, you begin to understand God with faith. In God’s own time. In God’s own way, To God’s own degree for the part of His plan He has intended for you. Work with Him, people. Work with Him.

God gives everyone this potential to take that first step. In certainty the faith which is there must have you work with it. This is the gift which God gives to us. We all have this potential built inside us to know more. The problem though is we ignore this gift. We put it aside or we take other tools which will not help us. The best avenue to build up this faith is of course the Church. The Church enables us with the right tools to begin to grow in faith to take that first step into the second step. The Holy Spirit as well will help us to increase this faith.

Faith is called an infused virtue because it cannot be acquired through our efforts alone, unaided by grace. Whoever seeks the truth will find it, because God is Truth, and whoever seeks God can only do so by an effect of His grace.

God offers graces to everyone; if we cooperate, we will receive Faith. The intellect still plays a part, but it is inferior to faith, which elevates our faculty of reason, enabling us to perceive spiritual truths with greater clarity.

Many have converted to Catholicism for what appear to be intellectual reasons, but conversion is fundamentally a movement of the will towards God, Who enlightens our intellect and our hearts.

Fidei Donum, (Pope Pius XII, 4/21/1957)

“1. The gift of faith, which through the goodness of God, is accompanied by an incomparable abundance of blessings in the soul of the Christian believer, clearly requires the unceasing homage of a grateful heart to the divine Author of this gift.

2. Indeed, it is faith that allows us to draw near to the hidden mysteries of the divine life; it is faith that encourages us to hope for everlasting happiness; it is faith that strengthens and consolidates the unity of the Christian society in this transitory life, according to the Apostle: “One Lord, one faith, one Baptism.”[Eph 4:5] It is chiefly by reason of this divine gift that our grateful hearts of their own accord pour forth this testimony: “What shall I render to the Lord for all that He hath rendered unto me?”[Ps 115:12]

3. In return for so divine a gift as this, after the due submission of his mind, what can a man do that will be more acceptable to God than to carry far and wide among his fellowmen the torch of truth that Christ brought to Us? By their zeal in promoting the sacred missionary efforts of the Church, a zeal that generously feeds the fire of Christian charity, men, ever mindful of the gift of faith, may in some way make a return to Almighty God; by so doing and imparting to others according to their ability the gift of the faith that is theirs, they are visibly manifesting their gratitude to the Heavenly Father….”

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH
PART ONE
THE PROFESSION OF FAITH

SECTION ONE
“I BELIEVE” – “WE BELIEVE”

CHAPTER THREE
MAN’S RESPONSE TO GOD

ARTICLE III. THE CHARACTERISTICS OF FAITH

Faith is a grace

153 When St. Peter confessed that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God, Jesus declared to him that this revelation did not come “from flesh and blood”, but from “my Father who is in heaven”.24 Faith is a gift of God, a supernatural virtue infused by him. “Before this faith can be exercised, man must have the grace of God to move and assist him; he must have the interior helps of the Holy Spirit, who moves the heart and converts it to God, who opens the eyes of the mind and ‘makes it easy for all to accept and believe the truth.'”25

Faith is a human act

154 Believing is possible only by grace and the interior helps of the Holy Spirit. But it is no less true that believing is an authentically human act. Trusting in God and cleaving to the truths He has revealed is contrary neither to human freedom nor to human reason. Even in human relations it is not contrary to our dignity to believe what other persons tell us about themselves and their intentions, or to trust their promises (for example, when a man and a woman marry) to share a communion of life with one another. If this is so, still less is it contrary to our dignity to “yield by faith the full submission of. . . intellect and will to God who reveals”,26 and to share in an interior communion with him.

155 In faith, the human intellect and will cooperate with divine grace: “Believing is an act of the intellect assenting to the divine truth by command of the will moved by God through grace.”27

Faith and understanding

156 What moves us to believe is not the fact that revealed truths appear as true and intelligible in the light of our natural reason: we believe “because of the authority of God Himself Who reveals them, who can neither deceive nor be deceived”.28 So “that the submission of our faith might nevertheless be in accordance with reason, God willed that external proofs of his Revelation should be joined to the internal helps of the Holy Spirit.”29 Thus the miracles of Christ and the saints, prophecies, the Church’s growth and holiness, and her fruitfulness and stability “are the most certain signs of divine Revelation, adapted to the intelligence of all”; they are “motives of credibility” (motiva credibilitatis), which show that the assent of faith is “by no means a blind impulse of the mind”.30

157 Faith is certain. It is more certain than all human knowledge because it is founded on the very word of God Who cannot lie. To be sure, revealed truths can seem obscure to human reason and experience, but “the certainty that the divine light gives is greater than that which the light of natural reason gives.”31 “Ten thousand difficulties do not make one doubt.”32

158 “Faith seeks understanding”:33 it is intrinsic to faith that a believer desires to know better the One in Whom he has put his faith, and to understand better what He has revealed; a more penetrating knowledge will in turn call forth a greater faith, increasingly set afire by love. The grace of faith opens “the eyes of your hearts”34 to a lively understanding of the contents of Revelation: that is, of the totality of God’s plan and the mysteries of faith, of their connection with each other and with Christ, the center of the revealed mystery. “The same Holy Spirit constantly perfects faith by His gifts, so that Revelation may be more and more profoundly understood.”35 In the words of St. Augustine, “I believe, in order to understand; and I understand, the better to believe.”36

159 Faith and science: “Though faith is above reason, there can never be any real discrepancy between faith and reason. Since the same God Who reveals mysteries and infuses faith has bestowed the light of reason on the human mind, God cannot deny Himself, nor can truth ever contradict truth.”37 “Consequently, methodical research in all branches of knowledge, provided it is carried out in a truly scientific manner and does not override moral laws, can never conflict with the faith, because the things of the world and the things of faith derive from the same God. The humble and persevering investigator of the secrets of nature is being led, as it were, by the hand of God in spite of himself, for it is God, the conserver of all things, Who made them what they are.”38

The freedom of faith

160 To be human, “man’s response to God by faith must be free, and. . . therefore nobody is to be forced to embrace the faith against his will. The act of faith is of its very nature a free act.”39 “God calls men to serve him in spirit and in truth. Consequently they are bound to him in conscience, but not coerced. . . This fact received its fullest manifestation in Christ Jesus.”40 Indeed, Christ invited people to faith and conversion, but never coerced them. “For he bore witness to the truth but refused to use force to impose it on those who spoke against it. His kingdom. . . grows by the love with which Christ, lifted up on the cross, draws men to Himself.”41

The necessity of faith

161 Believing in Jesus Christ and in the One Who sent Him for our salvation is necessary for obtaining that salvation.42 “Since “without faith it is impossible to please [God]” and to attain to the fellowship of his sons, therefore without faith no one has ever attained justification, nor will anyone obtain eternal life ‘But he who endures to the end.'”43

Perseverance in faith

162 Faith is an entirely free gift that God makes to man. We can lose this priceless gift, as St. Paul indicated to St. Timothy: “Wage the good warfare, holding faith and a good conscience. By rejecting conscience, certain persons have made shipwreck of their faith.”44 To live, grow and persevere in the faith until the end we must nourish it with the word of God; we must beg the Lord to increase our faith;45 it must be “working through charity,” abounding in hope, and rooted in the faith of the Church.46

Faith – the beginning of eternal life

163 Faith makes us taste in advance the light of the beatific vision, the goal of our journey here below. Then we shall see God “face to face”, “as he is”.47 So faith is already the beginning of eternal life:

When we contemplate the blessings of faith even now, as if gazing at a reflection in a mirror, it is as if we already possessed the wonderful things which our faith assures us we shall one day enjoy.48
164 Now, however, “we walk by faith, not by sight”;49 we perceive God as “in a mirror, dimly” and only “in part”.50 Even though enlightened by him in whom it believes, faith is often lived in darkness and can be put to the test. The world we live in often seems very far from the one promised us by faith. Our experiences of evil and suffering, injustice and death, seem to contradict the Good News; they can shake our faith and become a temptation against it.

165 It is then we must turn to the witnesses of faith: to Abraham, who “in hope. . . believed against hope”;51 to the Virgin Mary, who, in “her pilgrimage of faith”, walked into the “night of faith”52 in sharing the darkness of her Son’s suffering and death; and to so many others: “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith.”53

25 DV 5; cf. DS 377; 3010.
26 Dei Filius 3:DS 3008.
27 St. Thomas Aquinas, STh II-II,2,9; cf. Dei Filius 3:DS 3010.
28 Dei Filius 3:DS 3008.
29 Dei Filius 3:DS 3009.
30 Dei Filius 3:DS 3008-3010; Cf. Mk 16 20; Heb 2:4.
31 St. Thomas Aquinas, STh II-II,171,5,obj.3.
32 John Henry Cardinal Newman, Apologia pro vita sua (London: Longman, 1878) 239.
33 St. Anselm, Prosl. prooem.:PL 153,225A.
34 Eph 1:18.
35 DV 5.
36 St. Augustine, Sermo 43,7,9:PL 38,257-258.
37 Dei Filius 4:DS 3017.
38 GS 36 § 1.
39 DH 10; cf. CIC, can. 748 § 2.
40 DH 11.
41 DH 11; cf. Jn 18:37; 12:32.
42 Cf. 16:16; Jn 3:36; 6:40 et al.
43 Dei Filius 3:DS 3012; cf. Mt 10:22; 24:13 and Heb 11:6; Council of Trent:DS 1532.
44 1 Tim 1:18-19.
45 Cf. Mk 9:24; Lk 17:5; 22:32.
46 Gal 5:6; Rom 15:13; cf. Jas 2:14-26.
47 1 Cor 13:12; 1 Jn 3:2.
48 St. Basil, De Spiritu Sancto, 15,36:PG 32,132; cf. St. Thomas Aquinas, STh II-II,4,1.
49 2 Cor 5:7.
50 l Cor 13:12.
51 Rom 4:18.
52 LG 58; John Paul II, RMat 18.
53 Heb 12:1-2.


-by Br Damian Day, OP

“Saul stood by with a heart harder than the stones striking Stephen. Unconvinced by Stephen’s eloquent preaching, unmoved by his miracles, blind to his angelic countenance, blinder still to his burning love, the eyes of Saul’s soul, sealed shut by the weight of stone scales, saw only darkness.

How many of our co-workers, friends, neighbors, loved ones, seem similarly unseeing before the love that has flooded our hearts? Yes, “God’s love has been poured into our hearts” (Rom 5:5), which burn when we hear those words, “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you; Abide in my love” (Jn 15:9).

How much it pains our hearts to see our loved ones wandering without that one thing that can satisfy—and more than satisfy—the tortured depths of the human heart.

How can these signs and wonders, miracles, words of wisdom, acts of charity, the love of martyrs, not move all hearts? Yet, Saul stood stubborn seeing Stephen see the Son standing at God’s right hand in glory.

Is the love that fills our hearts so weak, so unattractive, so insufficient?

Love is a subtle thing, patiently plodding, plowing forward when the ground seems all stones where never a thing could grow. But persistently, consistently, love works, bursting forth unexpectedly with abundant fruit.

As the mob disbanded, retrieving their coats from Saul’s watch, leaving Stephen’s blood soaking the stones, all the deacon’s mighty words and deeds, all his eloquence, his very love, seemed insufficient.

But even as Saul scattered the Church, Stephen’s love worked behind the scenes. St. Fulgentius of Ruspe says that in “his holy and tireless love he longed to gain by prayer those whom he could not convert by admonition.”

With love never growing tired, Stephen loved those unmoved by what he loved most. Stephen’s insistent love shattered the dark, adamant stone of Saul’s heart, which the Lord converted after the likeness of his own heart. Has ever a heart changed so much?

Stephen’s blood watered the stony soil of Saul’s soul. Like the Lord he loved, Stephen became as a grain of wheat that, unless it “falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit” (Jn 12:24). That fruit we still taste whenever we receive the words of Paul’s preaching or behold them shake the soul of a St. Augustine.

May we love those dearest to us as Stephen loved Saul, yea, as Christ has loved us, loved us to the end (Jn 13:1).

Love, I believe, Lord, help my unbelief! Mk 9:24
Matthew

Triumph of Grace 2

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

Presence of God – May I be all Yours, Lord, and You all mine.

MEDITATION

“God does not give Himself wholly to us until He sees that we are giving ourselves wholly to Him” (Teresa of JesusWay of Perfection, 28). God respects man’s liberty so much that, although desiring to have him share in His divine Life, He actually communicates Himself only in the measure of our consent; when this consent is total, He does not hesitate to give Himself wholly. God responds to the perfect yes of the soul with the “true and entire yes of His grace” (cf. John of the CrossLiving Flame of Love 3,24). To the perfect gift of the will on the part of the soul corresponds the full communication of grace on the part of God; grace is granted in all its perfection, accompanied by the wealth of the infused virtues and the gifts of the Holy Spirit. Grace and love necessarily go together, and as perfect adherence to the will of God is the sign of perfect love, it follows that God gives the superabundance of grace to the soul which is completely conformed to His divine will.

St. John of the Cross explains this lofty state yet more fully: “When the will of God and the will of the soul are as one in a free consent of their own, then the soul has attained to the possession of God through grace of will, insofar as can be, by means of will and grace; and this signifies that God has corresponded to the yes of the soul with the true and entire yes of His grace” (Living Flame of Love 3, 24). The soul has given itself entirely to God, and now it receives its reward: God gives Himself to it. The soul, says the Saint, possesses God “through grace of will,” that is, by reason of the perfect communication of grace, which is God’s response to the total gift of the will. By this perfect communication, God gives Himself to the soul, allowing it to participate more and more in His supernatural Being and divine Life, and dwelling in it in a manner ever more intimate and profound.

This is the triumph of grace in the soul. That grace, which was communicated to it in germ at Baptism, and which has increased little by little in the course of the various stages of the spiritual life, reaches maturity when the soul has surrendered itself completely into the hands of God, giving Him its whole will. Not in vain has the soul died to itself; it has died in order to live in God and for God, to live by His life, by His love, by His will. “You are dead,” says St. Paul, “and your life is hid with Christ in God” (Colossians 3:3.).

COLLOQUY

“O Lord of heaven and earth! Is it possible, while we are still in this mortal life, for us to enjoy You with such special friendship?… Oh! the joys which You bestow on souls who give themselves entirely to You! What endearments, what sweet words are these, one word of which would suffice to unite us to You. May You be blessed, O Lord, for so far as You are concerned we shall lose nothing. By how many paths, in how many manners, through how many means do You reveal Your love to us! By trials, by bitter death, by tortures, by affronts suffered daily, by Your forgiveness. And not by these alone, but by words that pierce the soul that loves You.

“So, my Lord, I ask You for nothing else in this life but that You should ‘kiss me with the kiss of Your mouth’; and let this be in such a way, Lord of my life, that, even if I should desire to withdraw from this friendship and union, my will may be so completely subject to Yours that I shall be unable to leave You. May nothing ever hinder me, O my God and my glory, from being able to say: ‘Better and more delectable than any other good is Your friendship and Your love.’

“For the love of the Lord, my soul, wake out of this sleep and remember that God does not keep you waiting until the next life before rewarding you for your love of Him. Your recompense begins in this life.

“O my Lord, my Mercy and my Good! What more do I want in this life than to be so near You that there is no division between You and me? And since Your love allows it, I will repeat without ceasing: ‘My Beloved to me and I to my Beloved’” (cf. Teresa of Jesus Conceptions of the Love of God, 3-4).

Love,
Matthew

Triumph of Grace

-from http://vultuschristi.org/index.php/2017/08/saint-dominic-and-the-triumph/

“…Saint Dominic would spend whole nights weeping and groaning in prayer before the altar. Over and over again he would say, “What will become of sinners? What will become of sinners?” Saint Dominic’s great passion was to reconcile sinners by preaching the mercy of God.

The Power of Preaching

Dominic understood that the power of preaching comes from ceaseless prayer. His prayer had three characteristics:
-humble adoration,
-heartfelt pity for sinners,
-and exultation in the Divine Mercy.

Saint Dominic prayed constantly; he prayed at home and on the road, in church and in his cell. For Saint Dominic there was no place or time foreign to prayer. He loved to pray at night. He engaged his whole body in prayer by standing with outstretched arms, by bowing, prostrating, genuflecting, and kissing the sacred page. If you are not familiar with the extraordinary little booklet entitled The Nine Ways of Prayer of Saint Dominic, today would be a good day to find it and read it.

The Psalter of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Saint Dominic had a tenth way of prayer too: the Psalter of the Blessed Virgin Mary that today we call the rosary. The use of beads was widespread and the repetition of the Hail Mary were both widespread before the time of Saint Dominic. The Hail Mary prayed 150 times in reference to the 150 psalms was practiced in Carthusian and Cistercian cloisters before the time of Saint Dominic.

Irrigated by Grace

Saint Dominic understood that preaching alone was not enough. Preaching has to be irrigated by grace, and grace is obtained by prayer. Inspired by the Mother of God, Saint Dominic interspersed his sermons with the Psalter of the Blessed Virgin Mary. He exhorted his hearers to continue praying the Psalter of 150 Aves as a way of prolonging the benefits of holy preaching. The rosary allows the seed of the Word sown by holy preaching to germinate in the soul and bear fruit.

Simple Means

Divine Wisdom has so ordered things that the simplest material means — humble and adapted to our weakness — produce the greatest spiritual effects. Father Raphael Simon, the saintly Trappist psychiatrist, said that, “five decades of the rosary or even three Hail Marys daily may mean the difference between eternal life and death.” The effect of the rosary is entirely disproportionate to its simplicity. The fruits of the rosary are well known: among them are detachment from sin and from the occasions of sin, peace of heart, humility, chastity, and joy. The rosary, and all authentic prayer, is always realistic — that is to say, honest about human weakness and sin — and, at the same, full of hope — that is to say, open to the glorious plan of God’s mercy.

The Supplication of the Rosary

If Saint Dominic preached the rosary and prayed it, it was because he knew it to be a prayer capable of winning every grace. The rosary is a prayer of repetition. It is a prayer of confidence. It helps one to persevere in supplication, bead by bead, and decade by decade. Our Lord finds the rosary irresistible because His own Mother “subsidizes” it. She stands behind it. The rosary is the voice of the poor, the needy, the downtrodden, and the weak. Persevere in praying the rosary and one day you will hear Our Lord say to you what He said to the woman of the Gospel: “Great is thy faith! Be it done for thee as thou wilt” (Mt 15:28). Saint Dominic shows us that, with the rosary in hand, we will experience the triumph of grace.”

-by Br Dominic Verner, OP

“While he thus labored to make his own soul pleasing to God, the fire of divine love was daily more and more enkindled in his breast, and he was consumed with an ardent zeal for the salvation of infidels and sinners. To move the divine mercy to regard them with pity, he spent often whole nights in the church at prayer, watering the steps of the altar with abundance of tears, in which he was heard to sigh and groan before the Father of mercy, in the earnestness and deep affliction of his heart; never ceasing to beg with the greatest ardor, the grace to gain some of those unhappy souls to Christ.” – From the Chronicle of the Origin of this Order, compiled by Bl. Jordan of Saxony

The tears of our Holy Father Dominic never fail to move and challenge me. There is something haunting and mysterious at the thought of a man weeping in the solitude and silence of a sleepless night on the altar steps. Entering a church at night to find someone in such a state of fervent and distressing prayer is a moving and troubling experience. The state of crisis shatters the thin veil of our quotidian expectations to reveal the startling reality that we are still poor, banished children of Eve, living in the status viatoris, awaiting the glorious coming of Our Lord and the eternal beatitude of Heaven. The encounter with the soul in crisis reminds us of the reality of the cross that we are called to bear with Christ and with one another. Seeing another bearing such a burden awakens our Christian sympathy and draws us out of our private concerns to beseech the Lord of all consolation for his mercy and compassion.

But what is the crisis that confronted Saint Dominic as he wept in fervent petition at the altar steps? Our holy father was not suffering from the betrayal of a spouse, the loss of a job, or the death of a loved one. His tears were not shed over a personal crisis, but rather the crisis of the “infidels and sinners” who reject the obedience of faith and do not enjoy the salvation offered by Christ. When we encounter the tears of our father Dominic, we are confronted with the reality that those who are closed to faith are lacking the possibility of true and lasting friendship with God, a friendship which requires filial trust and a loyal heart. Saint Dominic was brought to tears at the thought of a soul rejecting such a gift. In Dominic we see the beauty of a soul transfigured by faith, hope, and love in a state of fervent petition; more, we see a participation in the redemptive mission of Jesus Christ.

These three features of Saint Dominic’s tears in some way characterize the mission of the Friar Preacher. To preach for the salvation of souls, the soul of the preacher must be elevated by grace through the infused virtues of faith, hope, and love. The preacher must be sympathetically aware of the true deprivation suffered by the poor souls who lack saving faith. And the preacher must see his preaching for the salvation of souls as a participation in the saving action of Christ Our Lord. May the same fire of divine love that burned within Saint Dominic be enkindled within us, that we may never cease “to beg with the greatest ardor, the grace to gain some of those unhappy souls to Christ.”

Love, rely on His grace alone, pray for me, please, please, please,
Matthew

Protestant & Catholic: different definitions of grace


-cf Dr. Bryan Cross, PhD, was raised in the Pentecostal tradition, then became Reformed shortly after completing his bachelor’s degree in cellular and molecular biology at the University of Michigan. He then received an M.Div. from Covenant Theological Seminary. In 2003 he and his wife and two daughters became Anglican. On October 8, 2006, he and his family were received into full communion with the Catholic Church. He has previously taught at Saint Louis University, Lindenwood University, and Kenrick-Glennon Seminary. He is presently an assistant professor of philosophy at Mount Mercy University. His personal blog is “Principium Unitatis.”

“When seeking to attain an end, one must keep that end in one’s mind and heart, and ensure that one’s understanding of it is as accurate as possible, to ensure attaining that end. That is no less true in the Christian life, which has heaven as its end. But what is heaven? Is it a garden of earthly delights? A perpetual feast? A planet of our own? A return to the Garden of Eden? Protestant and Catholic accounts of heaven agree that the saints will be in the presence of God in resurrected and glorified bodies, without any suffering, death or sin. Protestant descriptions of heaven typically depict heaven as a place in which sorrow, pain, sin and death have been removed, so that with resurrected bodies the saints eat and drink and fellowship with the incarnate Christ and all the other saints forever on a renewed earth. The Catholic teaching concerning the Beatific Vision is typically not included in Protestant accounts of heaven. That is because Protestant theology has generally not conceived of grace as a participation in the divine nature, and thus has not seen heaven as a culmination of theosis or insertion by participation into the divine life. Hence in Protestant theology the happiness enjoyed by the saints in heaven is not God’s own happiness…

…In other words, the difference between the Protestant and Catholic conceptions of grace leads to different conceptions of what heaven is and what is our essential happiness in heaven. If grace is mere favor (Protestant), and union with God is only covenantal (Protestant), then the happiness of heaven is having Christ and the saints near us forever, and being free from sin in our souls, and free from suffering and death in our bodies forever. But if grace is a participation in the divine nature (Catholic), then the essence of eternal life is union with God in the Beatific Vision (Catholic), which is not everlasting existence (Protestant), but is eternity itself, namely, the “simultaneously-whole and perfect possession of interminable life.”1

Any Protestant conception of ‘heaven’ without the Beatific Vision is something like Abraham’s bosom or the Garden of Eden, and is infinitely surpassed by the supernatural happiness of the Beatific Vision, God’s own infinite happiness. But that supernatural end requires grace as a participation in the divine nature, not merely divine favor. (Cf. Scott Clark’s claim that grace is merely divine favor.)

https://aleteia.org/2013/03/12/what-is-the-difference-between-the-catholic-and-protestant-understandings-of-grace/


-by Anna Krestyn, who is a freelance writer and Director of Religious Education at St. Lawrence the Martyr Catholic Church in Alexandria, VA. She graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in liberal arts from Thomas Aquinas College and worked as a publishing assistant at Catholic Answers in her native California before moving to northern Virginia to pursue pastoral work.

Protestants tend to think grace works extrinsically to the person

“One of the great divisions between Catholic and Protestant theology regards the understanding of how grace, the gift of God won for humanity by the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, works on the human soul. This division essentially became a disagreement between the Catholic Church and the Protestant reformers of the 16th century about man’s justification, or means of salvation – a matter that remains a source of tension even today.

The Protestant reformers of the 16th century supported the idea that grace works extrinsically on the human person; it does not penetrate and cleanse human nature from within. Martin Luther, a central figure of the Protestant Reformation, taught that after baptism, original sin remained. Grace acts as a sort of cloak which covers the corruption of human nature and makes the person acceptable to God, though underneath he remains depraved. Luther is famously credited with having said that the justified soul is a “snow-covered pile of dung.”

What follows from this understanding of grace is the Protestant teaching that a person’s actions are worth nothing toward his or her justification, since they come from a sinful source. From this has emerged the doctrine of sola fide, or justification by “faith alone”. Evangelical Protestants identify the moment of justification as the moment when the person experiences, for the first time, genuine faith – this moment is what the well-known phrase “born again,” (John 3:3) means for them. Protestants consider good works and taking after the example of Christ as a process of becoming holy, which is distinct from justification.

The Catholic teaching, on the other hand, is that grace does indeed work intrinsically, and that in Baptism the person is truly made a “new creation” (2 Cor. 5:17). “The grace of the Holy Spirit has the power to justify us, that is, to cleanse us from our sins and to communicate to us ‘the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ’ (Rom 3:22) and through Baptism,” the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches. And the Second Vatican Council re-affirmed that “[t]he followers of Christ … are justified in the Lord Jesus, because in the baptism of faith they truly become sons of God and sharers in the divine nature. In this way they are really made holy. Then too, by God’s gift, they must hold on to and complete in their lives this holiness they have received” (Lumen Gentium, #40).

So baptism fully cleanses the human person of original sin, though the tendency to sin remains and keeps us in need of ongoing grace, especially through the Sacraments. And against the notion of justification by faith alone, the Church teaches that we are saved not only through faith but also through the expression of this faith in good actions. “My brothers, what good is it to profess faith without practicing it? Such faith has no power to save one, has it?” wrote St. James (James 2:14), in the epistle which Luther significantly called a “perfect straw-epistle” compared to the writings of St. Paul, who emphasized the need for faith.

During his pontificate, Pope Benedict XVI offered a helpful re-casting of this long-standing disagreement between Catholics and Protestants about grace and justification. According to the Pontiff, “the centrality of justification without works, the primary object of Paul’s preaching, does not clash with faith that works through love; indeed, it demands that our faith itself be expressed in a life in accordance with the Spirit. Often there is seen an unfounded opposition between St. Paul’s theology and that of St James, who writes in his Letter: ‘as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so faith apart from works is dead’(2: 26). In reality, while Paul is primarily concerned to show that faith in Christ is necessary and sufficient, James accentuates the consequential relations between faith and works (cf. Jas 2: 24). Therefore, for both Paul and James, faith that is active in love testifies to the freely given gift of justification in Christ.”

Love & His grace,
Matthew

(1) Summa Theologica I. Q.10 a.1.

Law & Grace


-by A. David Anders, PhD

“The most contentious issue in the Western theological tradition has been the relationship of law and grace.  In the second century, Marcionites stressed grace so much that they completely rejected the Old Testament and what they took to be the God of “law.”  In the third and fourth centuries, the Roman priest Novatian1 Novatian2 and the British monk Pelagius emphasized law and morality to the point of eliminating grace. In the sixteenth century, nothing was more divisive than Martin Luther’s doctrine of salvation by grace through faith alone. Luther rejected the Catholic tradition with its supposed emphasis on “works.”

The roots of these conflicts are not hard to find. St. Paul took up the relationship of law and grace in his letters to the Romans and the Galatians. The apostles and elders treated the question definitively in the first Church council, described in Acts 15. In these sacred texts, we read about the struggle between Hebrew Christians who adhered to the law and Gentiles who came to Christ without the Mosaic Law.  The record of this episode in Scripture guarantees that law and grace will always be a part of the Christian’s theological lexicon.

The first Christian conflicts over law and grace took place in a context far removed from subsequent Church history. The first disciples were mostly Jews from Galilee and Judea. Hellenic Jews from the diaspora quickly joined their ranks, and early Gentile converts came from among the proselytes to Judaism. (The Gentile “God fearers” were those who accepted Jewish belief but did not submit to circumcision or practice the full range of Jewish law.) St. Paul preached mostly in synagogues to Jews and to “God fearing” Gentiles.

The overwhelmingly Jewish character of early Christianity posed a difficulty. Mosaic Law and Jewish tradition demanded the separation of Jews and Gentiles.  The Christian gospel aims emphatically at their reconciliation. The key theological question for early Christians was, “Are Jews and Gentiles reconciled by their mutual adherence to the Law of Moses or simply by their mutual faith in Christ?” Paul’s answer was categorical:

But now in Christ Jesus you who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.  For He Himself is our peace, who made both groups into one and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall, by abolishing in His flesh the enmity, which is the Law of commandments contained in ordinances. (Ephesians 2:13-15)

From context, it is plain that Paul has in mind The Law of Commandments and Ordinances that had created a barrier between Jew and Gentile. In other words, Christ destroyed the Mosaic Law in order to reconcile Jew and Gentile through faith.

In Luther’s day, the question of Gentile circumcision was no longer pressing. As such, Luther operated within a totally different theological context.  He misread St. Paul as a result. For Luther, the rejection of law meant the rejection of morality as the path to reconciliation to God. For Paul, however, it is precisely on the path of morality that the way of salvation is open to Jew and Gentile alike.  “Is God the God of Jews only,” Paul asks, “or of Gentiles too?” (Romans 3:29) It is when Gentiles “who do not possess the law, do instinctively what the law requires. . . They show that what the law requires is written on their hearts.” (Romans 2:14-15)  Thus, God will give eternal life to everyone who does good, first to the Jew but also to the Greek. (Romans 2:7-8)

Where does grace fit into the picture? For St. Paul, the Mosaic Law cannot compel true righteousness. It can prescribe and enforce external ritual and behavior, but law alone does not change the human heart. Real righteousness is a matter of love – the love of God and neighbor (Romans 13:8) – and not simply following a list of ritual prescriptions. And where does love come from? It is the gift of grace. Christ lays down His life for us. We grasp that through faith. With the help of the Holy Spirit, it elicits our loving response.

Shakespeare has a beautiful line: “How can I hold thee but by thy granting?” True love cannot be compelled by law. It can only be elicited by the free gift of oneself. This is the real meaning of the opposition between law and grace. The gospel does not do away with the objective demands of morality. Nor does it rule out morality as the mode of our union with God. (Jesus says that if we love Him and keep His commands, then He will come and dwell with us. — John 14:23) What the gospel promises instead is the gift of love. Through Christ, the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts. (Romans 5:5) By faith, therefore, and not by ritual prescription, we receive the grace necessary to live the law of love.”

Love,
Matthew

Doubt, despair, hopelessness,… & Truth.

The ultimate thing the devil wants is our ultimate despair. Resist him. Eph 6:10-18.

“What is truth?” -Jn 18:38


-by Br Raymond La Grange, OP

“In the twentieth century, many thinkers became disillusioned with traditional morality. It seemed to be a cold and impersonal list of rules. For something supposedly based on a transcendent God, it was surprisingly powerless to resist changing social conventions. Many took it as a given that received moral norms are nothing more than commonly held ideas about decency, often buoyed by fluffy thoughts about what God supposedly wants. In Sigrid Undset’s 1932 novel Ida Elisabeth, the main character of the same name considers the religion of her mother-in-law, Borghild:

“But all she had been able to get out of it was that Borghild Braatö’s god dwelt in Borghild Braatö’s heart and broadly speaking was of Borghild Braatö’s opinion on all questions, spoke to her through her conscience and gave his approval whenever she made a decision.”

In the face of such a vacuous morality, what is one to do? I will present the contrasting approaches of two Nobel Laureates. The mathematician and philosopher Bertrand Russell attempted to engineer moral norms to make them more manageable, while the author Sigrid Undset sought to return to a deeper traditional Catholic morality.

Russell’s approach has become characteristic of progressive movements. Since moral norms only express what is socially acceptable, a rational society may modify its expectations. In his 1936 essay Our Sexual Ethics, he argued that while adultery certainly has its downsides, it is just not realistic for most people to avoid it. In centuries past, spouses were seldom separated for long periods. Small villages, where everyone knew everyone else, would discourage indiscretions, while the fear of hellfire would keep the passions at bay. Without those helps, we might as well decide that adultery is okay after all and work around that. At least no one will feel guilty when they inevitably commit adultery. Russell would become a champion of the sexual revolution.

Sigrid Undset took a very different approach. Raised an agnostic, as a young woman she wandered in moral confusion, falling in and out of love, before finally settling down with a man who had abandoned his first wife. This relationship produced three children, but was not to last. One can detect in her work from this period a dissatisfaction with life. Her 1911 novel Jenny explores the tension in the life of a woman whose only moral code is self-respect. She seeks love but is powerless to its fickleness. By the end, one suspects that Undset did not think there was much more to life than this tension.

During the years of her marriage, Undset began asking serious questions. She had long thought that the morality she heard from the Lutheran State Church was no more adequate to explain life than it was to oppose the legalization of divorce years before. But she realized that the human person demanded far more than any socially updated moral code could deliver. This was especially clear in the face of the joy of her own motherhood. In 1919, she wrote against attempts to fix contemporary problems encountered in marriages by the easy means of divorce and looser moral standards. Instead of giving up on the demands of marriage, she argued, the Catholic Church raised it up by making it a sacrament. In 1924, Sigrid Undset was received into the Catholic Church.

Both Russell and Undset felt that the common notions of morality in their societies were, at bottom, social conventions. Both would initially push these boundaries. Russell went on to modify moral codes to perceived convenience. Undset came to realize that neither social conventions nor the experimentation of a young artist could ever come close to explaining the human person. Russell neutered the impulse to marital fidelity so that the base impulse to adultery could go on mostly unhindered. Undset found Catholic sacramental morality to be a gift from God and the only thing that could answer her questions and raise marriage to the heights that she always knew it must reach. For Russell, morality was a list of conventions for personnel management. For Undset, it became not a list of rules nor a code of decency, but rather God’s gift and plan for human happiness. This is not a morality that is imposed, but one that is discovered contemplating the mystery of the human person.”

Love,
Matthew

Moments of Light


-before His resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ grants salvation to souls by the Harrowing of Hell. Fresco, by Fra Angelico, c. 1430s


-by Br Nicholas Hartman, OP

“Do you ever have moments when you just know—in a way you did not before—that something you do all the time or a way you think about things is a bit off or wrong? Perhaps you often say things that are not quite true. Perhaps you find yourself in an immoral friendship or harbor an animus against someone unjustifiably. Maybe you fail to do something? Perhaps you rarely give alms or tithe. Maybe you have not frequented Confession in a long time or are not fully on board with the Church’s moral teachings. It could be anything, yet now you see it. Somehow you have never, or not for a long time, questioned what you did or thought. But now it is staring you in the face. Even if it should have been obvious before, now it is as obvious as when something once obscured shines in the light.

And it is disconcerting and destabilizing. Can I really let this thinking in? Am I really lying like this all the time? Am I really the good person I think I am when I am with this friend? If you entertain these thoughts any further, you know you will feel badly about yourself. Perhaps you will not change, but this thinking will spoil what you once enjoyed. Perhaps you will change and give up something you like or endure something you dislike. Perhaps you will endure humiliation or something even worse.

Often these moments of light frighten us. We think we must check them and shoo away the light. Related to these moments is a whole chapter in John’s Gospel where Jesus heals a man born blind. It is worth reading slowly and meditatively.

Once cured, the man born blind is brought to the Pharisees who are confronted with the miracle. The cured man explains, “Never since the world began has it been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a man born blind. If this man were not from God, He could do nothing.” The miracle Jesus performs by divine power should illumine for the Pharisees the reality of His ministry’s divine origin—that ministry they have been working against. In flooding the blind man with light, Jesus also throws light onto the paths of the Pharisees, but they refuse to see and [Ed. willfully, Jn 3:19] remain in darkness about Who Jesus is and how they should receive His ministry.

We need not fear these moments of light. If we refuse them, as the Pharisees did, we shut out the light, and the darkness after is greater than before. Before healing the blind man, Jesus instructs, “We must work the works of Him Who sent me, while it is day; night comes, when no one can work.” Moments of light are critical because when it is night, when we cannot see that we need a remedy, we cannot seek one. We are powerless to choose what we do not know. When these moments of light come—even a dim glimmer of light—we must act. Yet if we refuse the light, we return to a darkness we had a hand in making. After the Pharisees panic and cast out the man born blind, they question Jesus if they too are blind. Jesus responds, “If you were blind, you would have no guilt; but now that you say, ‘We see,’ your guilt remains.” They refuse the light while claiming to see, and thus they are responsible for their blindness.

But what if we choose to see? When the light of Christ shimmers on our paths, we see our error and run to Him to banish our darkness. We could too easily think this light will destroy our happiness. But the contrary is true! We make vulnerable our hearts, dragged this way and that by sin, to One Who loves us tenderly, Who comforts and strengthens us. We bathe our minds in the light that lets us see clearly the truths about ourselves and about God. We let that light pour into our deepest parts, those hidden away even from ourselves. The light rectifies and purifies our perceptions, making them resilient to the tugging and pulling of wayward passions, especially fear and despair. We rest in Christ’s peace, stirred only by a rolling, bouncing joy rumbling from within and pouring out into our lives. A moment of light is not a threat; it is a chance! When the blind man saw physically, he also saw spiritually. Once he was cast out from the presence of the Pharisees, Jesus found him and made Himself known to him.”

Love,
Matthew