Grace: Love or a Mystery

i Catholic
Assembled and written in Part by Pat Miron

“Grace: Love or a Mystery”
“Another Look at Grace”
WHY? Because it is absolutely Impossible to change; to grow in personal holiness, to return our freewill’s to God, without God’s Direct intervention; accomplished through the offer and acceptance of God’s Grace.

Definitions from Father Hardon’s Modern Catholic Dictionary

In biblical language the condescension or benevolence (Greek charis) shown by God toward the human race; it is also the unmerited gift proceeding from this benevolent disposition. Grace, therefore, is a totally gratuitous gift on which man has absolutely no claim. Where on occasion the Scriptures speak of grace as pleasing charm or thanks for favors received, this is a derived and not primary use of the term.

As the Church has come to explain the meaning of grace, it refers to something more than the gifts of nature, such as creation or the blessings of bodily health. Grace is the supernatural gift that God, of his free benevolence, bestows on rational creatures for their eternal salvation. The gifts of grace are essentially supernatural. They surpass the being, powers, and claims of created nature, namely sanctifying grace, the infused virtues, the gifts of the Holy Spirit, and actual grace. They are the indispensable means necessary to reach the beatific vision. In a secondary sense, grace also includes such blessings as the miraculous gifts of prophecy or healing, or the preternatural gifts of freedom from concupiscence.

The essence of grace, properly so called, is its gratuity, since no creature has a right to the beatific vision, and its finality or purpose is to lead one to eternal life. (Etym. Latin gratia, favor; a gift freely given.)

Temporary supernatural intervention by God to enlighten the mind or strengthen the will to perform supernatural actions that lead to heaven. Actual grace is therefore a transient divine assistance to enable man to obtain, retain, or grow in supernatural grace and the life of God.

The actual grace to which free consent is given by the will so that the grace produces its divinely intended effect. In the controversy between the Dominicans {led by Báñez (1528-1604)] and the Jesuits [led by Molina (1525-1600)] there was no agreement on what precisely causes an actual grace to become efficacious. In the Báñezian theory, the efficacy of such grace depends on the character of the grace itself; in the Molinist theory, it depends on the fact that it is given under circumstances that God foresees to be congruous with the dispositions of the person receiving the grace. In every Catholic theory, however, it is agreed that efficacious grace does not necessitate the will or destroy human freedom. (Etym. Latin efficax, powerful, effective, efficient, gratia, favor freely given.)

The free gift conferred on particular persons for the salvation of others. Technically called gratia gratis data (grace freely given), it is independent of the personal moral life or behavior of its possessor. To this class belong such gifts of grace as charismata (prophecy, gift of miracles, gift of tongues), the priestly power of consecration and absolution, and the hierarchial power of jurisdiction.

Constant supernatural quality of the soul which sanctifies a person inherently and makes him or her just and pleasing to God. Also called sanctifying grace or justifying grace

The grace by which a person is restored to God’s friendship, either for the first time, as in baptism, or after baptism, as in the sacrament of penance.

The grace conferred by the valid and fruitful reception of the sacraments. It may be one or more of several kinds: 1. sanctifying grace is communicated in baptism, penance and in anointing of the sick when needed; 2. sanctifying grace is always increased when a sacrament is received in the state of grace; 3. actual grace is given by all the sacraments, either actually at the time of reception or also by title as a person needs divine help; 4. the sacramental character is indelibly imprinted on the soul in baptism, confirmation, and the priesthood; and 5. a distinctive sacramental grace is imparted by each of the seven sacraments, corresponding to their respective purpose in the supernatural life of the soul.

Divine grace in its function of healing (sanare, heal) the ravages of sin, original and personal, in human nature. The healing process affects both the mind and the will. Grace heals the will by giving strength to desire and accept the known will of God, and joy in its performance

The supernatural state of being infused by God, which permanently inheres in the soul. It is a vital principle of the supernatural life, as the rational soul is the vital principle of a human being’s natural life. It is not a substance but a real quality that becomes part of the soul substance. Although commonly associated with the possession of the virtue of charity, sanctifuing grace is yet distinct from this virtue. Charity, rather, belongs to the will, whereas sanctifying grace belongs to the whole soul, mind, will, and affections. It is called sanctifying grace because it makes holy those who possess the gift by giving them a participation in the divine life. It is zo_ (life), which Christ taught that he has in common with the Father and which those who are in the state of grace share.

Actual grace considered apart from the supernatural effect for which it was bestowed. It may therefore mean the grace that does not meet with adequate co-operation on the part of the human recipient, and then it is merely sufficient grace. It is enough to enable a person to perform a salutary act, but who freely declines to co-operate. Or it may simply mean the grace that gives one the power to accomplish a salutary action, as distinct from an efficacious grace, which secures that the salutary act is accomplished.

So Friends, just what is the ROLE of Grace in the Process of One’s Personal Salvation?

When I began this document; it was MY intent to write the answer to the above question; however The holy Spirit had different Plans, and led me to share this with you. Enjoy! I certainly did.

HOW ARE WE SAVED? Christopher V. Mirus [EWTN Library]

How are we saved? The best way to know is to look at the teaching of the Church, which Christ instituted to safeguard the doctrine that He gave to the apostles, and which was completed through the revelation of the Holy Spirit to the apostles after Jesus’ ascension. We cannot pick and choose what we believe about faith and salvation. The Church clearly teaches that we are justified by the free gift of God’s grace. If we do not resist this first grace when it is given, we are immediately justified. Along with this grace we are given the three theological virtues. Faith in the Pauline sense encompasses all three of these virtues. Faith in the more specific sense is the first theological virtue. This means belief in what God has revealed. Thus the first theme of Christ’s teaching when he began his public life (Mark 1:15) was, “Repent and believe the good news.” The Greek word for repent is “metanoeo.” It carries the root meaning “to change one’s mind.” This can only refer to the acceptance (i.e. non-rejection) of the saving grace offered by God, whereby the mind is turned away from sin, to God. Notice that it comes before belief, or faith. So first we turn to God by accepting grace, and immediately after that we believe the “good news of the kingdom of God.” This good news encompasses all the teachings of Christ. By the close connection of repentance and belief which Jesus makes, we see that to refuse to believe these teachings is to reject grace.

However, it is also easy to see that a mere intellectual belief in the teachings of Jesus does not sufficiently express the meaning of His words in Mark 1:15. When Jesus tells us to “believe the good news of the kingdom of God,” something more is implied. To believe the good news means to believe that salvation has indeed arrived for men—that through Jesus we are rescued from sin and death and made adopted children of God. Christ promised His followers that they would not die forever, but that He would raise them up on the last day. Belief that He spoke truly, i.e., trust in His promises, is also called Hope. This, then, is the second of the theological virtues, the second aspect of the belief in the good news.

But there is still something missing. The good news of the kingdom, as preached by Jesus, also includes the moral law, summed up in the law of charity. If we truly believe the good news, we must have charity, or love: the third theological virtue. Thus Jesus says in Mt 22:37ff: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. . . . You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two [commandments] the whole law and the prophets depend.” Later, He explains again what this love means (Jn 14:21): “He who keeps my commandments, and observes them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father . . . .” In other words, belief (faith in the narrow sense) is not enough. Hope is not enough. In order to receive the Father’s favor, we must love, and this includes keeping the commandments. As James says (Ja 2:26), “For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead.”

“In sum: How are we saved? Not by faith alone, but by grace alone, as I believe Fr. Most has said. This grace it is that makes us participate in the very nature of God himself, so that we become his adopted children. In other words, this adoption, and it alone, is what justifies. But to avoid being disinherited, as it were, we must act as sons, and so God give to all those in the state of grace the capacities for supernatural acts of faith (again in the restricted sense), hope, and charity. Unless we practice these virtues, we shall lose that sanctifying grace, that divine adoption; we shall no longer be justified. If I refuse to believe what my Father has told me about himself and his plan for me, I certainly cannot participate in that plan. Thus without the gift of Faith, i.e. belief (insofar as I am informed and capable of believing), I cannot be adopted. If I later reject the faith, I shall be disinherited. Also, if I refuse to trust in the promises that my Father has made to me, then too I show myself to be truly unworthy of them. Thus if I refuse or reject the gift of Hope, I cannot be a son of God. Finally, if I do not act in a way proper to a child of God, if I do not will in conformity to and in response to the divine will of my Father, I cannot retain my adoption. That is, if I reject the gift of Charity, which as we have seen involves the keeping of the moral law, I cannot be saved.

If you look carefully at the above, you will find that the three theological virtues, faith, hope, and charity, correspond perfectly to the three aspects of Pauline faith. And this is not at all surprising, because St. Paul, as has the Catholic Church for 19 centuries after him, read the Gospels as an elucidation of that first teaching of Christ. For Paul, faith is our response to the original mandate to believe the good news of the kingdom of God, which, as we have seen, includes all three aspects which Paul explains in his epistles.

Grace comes first. Faith necessarily accompanies it. Faith shows itself under the three aspects of theological faith, hope, and charity. This is the pure teaching of Jesus Christ, the good news of the kingdom of God. This is the teaching of St. Paul, that first and greatest commentator on the Gospels. This is the sublime teaching of the Catholic Church. It is not cold and ritualistic, rather, it is the magnificent truth of God’s great love for us. If you do not hear it proclaimed from the pulpit in Catholic churches, pray for the priest. He needs it. But you will never find the fullness of truth in any other “church.” They may bring emotional satisfaction, but faith is something deeper than that. It is the response of the whole person to Jesus Christ in faith, hope, and charity.” END of Article

Be looking for PART II Grace: Love or a Mystery

PART II Grace: Love or a Mystery
Sacramental Grace by Father John A. Hardon S.J.

While all forms of GRACE are beneficial; we will place special emphasis on “SACRAMENTAL GRACE” because the flow of this GRACE; permits and recognizes individual efforts at personal piety and God permits and responds to our own efforts to become “more holy.” [BE HOLY AS I AM HOLY……Eph. 1:4]

While ALL GRACE is a “Free-Gift” From God; God’s permits our active participation through proper reception of His Sacraments, which are a constant Fountain of Grace opportunities; including the Grace; par Excellence; Catholic Holy Communion; GOD HIMSELF! PJM

Sacramental Grace by Father John A. Hardon S.J.

Sacraments: Channels of Divine Grace by John Hardon, S.J.

It is impossible to exaggerate the importance of understanding what we mean by the sacraments as channels of divine grace. We might almost say that Christianity is divided into two classes: those who believe that Christ instituted the sacraments as instruments of His grace and those who do not.

In the sixteenth century, six whole nations separated from Catholic unity because their leaders no longer believed in what we Catholics call the seven sacraments. This is also part of the crisis in the Christian world today. There are those who still believe that Christ instituted seven channels of His grace, and those who may use the word “sacrament” but no longer believe either in the sacraments as communicators of grace or the Church’s authority over the sacraments.

We may even say that the future of Christianity depends on professed Christians understanding-and I mean understanding-the necessity of the sacraments for reaching eternal life.

Our focus in this article will be on one word, “understanding.” We ask ourselves three questions:

Why did Christ institute seven sacramental channels of grace?

How are these channels of grace being undermined in some professedly Catholic circles today?

What is our consequent duty as teachers of the true faith?

Why the Sacrament. God became man in order to bring the human race to join the Holy Trinity in a heavenly eternity. Our destiny is to return to the God from whom we came to share in His own perfect happiness that He enjoys. But this same God gave us a free will that we are to use, according to His will, in order to reach the celestial home where He is waiting for us. The most fundamental condition that we are to fulfill is to be in His friendship when He calls us from time into eternity. Another name for this divine friendship is the possession of sanctifying grace.

Having destined us for heavenly beatitude, in sheer justice, He provided us with the means of attaining what we call the Beatific Vision. On these terms, the sacraments are the principal ways that we can obtain the supernatural life, without which no one can be saved. It is also through the sacraments that we grow in this life of grace, as it is also the sacraments that provide us with a means of restoring the life of God’s friendship that we may have lost through grave sin.

We see immediately that Christ instituted the sacraments to give us the grace we need to reach heaven, to grow in His grace and thus earn a greater happiness in eternity, and regain His friendship if we have lost it through our disobedience to His will. The moment we say that the sacraments are channels of divine grace, we assume that we come into this world without the grace needed to reach heaven. It is not our purpose here to explore the mysterious providence of God in allowing so many people not to receive the sacraments which Christ instituted. There is such a thing as not receiving the sacraments actually but only in desire. Nevertheless, the basic principle remains, the sacraments are the means which Christ provided for the salvation of the human family.


Immediately certain conclusions follow. Each of the seven sacraments has its own divinely intended purpose. Baptism We need first of all, to receive a share in the divine life. Christ instituted the Sacrament of Baptism in order to provide us with a share in His own divinity. When Christ told Nicodemus that he must be reborn of water and the Holy Spirit, He meant this literally. He presumed that we have a principle of natural life for the body which is the human soul. What He revealed to the wondering Nicodemus, however, was that we are also to have an above-natural principle of life for the soul. St. Augustine called it the soul of the soul. But whatever name you give the source of life for the human spirit, we dare not question that Christ provided the means of obtaining this life.

The basic means is the Sacrament of Baptism. The Savior could not have been clearer. When Nicodemus pressed Him on what all of this means, Jesus used the strongest language at His command. He said, “Unless you are reborn of water and the Holy Spirit, you shall not reach the kingdom of heaven.”

The Holy Eucharist and Penance

Once He told us that we need baptism to receive the life of grace in our souls, Christ made sure that we also know how to preserve this life to the dawn of eternity. Three chapters later, in St. John’s Gospel, the Savior told His startled listeners that they needed to receive His flesh and blood to keep spiritually alive. No less than we need food and drink to sustain our natural lives, so we need the food and drink of the Holy Eucharist to stay alive in His grace. Again, He used the strongest language possible, “Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink His blood, you shall not have life in you.” Baptism is necessary to obtain a share in the life of God. The Eucharist is equally necessary to remain spiritually alive. Christ foresaw that His followers would sin and even lose the divine life. He therefore provided the means for restoring this life in the Sacrament of Penance, which He instituted on Easter Sunday night. Holy Orders The Church which Christ founded is a visible reality. It is no mere abstraction or a poetic society of believers or the predestined. During His visible stay on earth, He was Himself the channel of the graces that He gave those who believed in His name. But Christ’s mission of communicating grace was to continue after His return to heavenly glory. That is why He made sure that the Church He founded would continue the work He had begun. That is why at the Last Supper, He instituted two sacraments, the Holy Eucharist, and the priesthood which would ensure His continued bodily presence on earth and His communication of the fruits of Calvary through the sacrifice of the Mass.

Holy Matrimony

Holy Matrimony Most of Christ’s followers would be married. As He told the startled Pharisees, those who believed in Him would be expected to remain “two in one flesh” for the rest of their lives. No more polygamy, or a writ of divorce with the right to remarry. Lifelong monogamy would be an imperative for those who called themselves Christians.

Clearly, Christ had to give His married followers the superhuman grace they would need to remain faithful to His teaching. Matrimony, therefore, had to become a sacrament if Christians were to live an impossibly human life in the married state.


Confirmation Throughout the Gospels, Jesus made no secret of the strength His followers would need to remain firm in their faith. That is why He gave them the Sacrament of Confirmation. Over the centuries, it has been called the sacrament of spiritual strengthening. In our day, it is being seen as the sacrament of martyrdom. As He told the disciples, on the day of His Ascension, we are to witness to Him, literally be His “martyrs” (from the Greek word for witnesses) even to the ends of the earth.

Anointing of the Sick

Anointing of the Sick As our bodies approach the end of their days, our souls need the help that only Christ can give to enter eternity with peaceful confidence in God’s mercy. That is why we have the Sacrament of Anointing. As only priests would know, people who are facing bodily death need extraordinary assistance from the Savior. This sacrament, we may say, completes the work that Christ began when we were baptized. Catholic Sacraments Undermined Over the centuries of the Church’s history, the sacraments have been one of the principal targets of what we now call dissenters but what more accurately are heretics who deny one or more of the cardinal mysteries of the Catholic faith.

Already in the time of Christ, many of His disciples left the Master because they would not accept His teaching on the Real Presence of the living Christ in the Blessed Sacrament. For the next fifteen centuries, one after another of the sacraments instituted by Christ was either openly denied or so reinterpreted as to leave nothing but the name. Finally in the sixteenth century, an avalanche of anti- sacramentalism broke loose in one formerly Catholic country after another. It was only logical, therefore, that the Council of Trent issued the following condemnation, “If anyone says that the sacraments of the New Law are more or less than seven, namely: Baptism, Confirmation, the Eucharist, Penance, Extreme Unction, Order, and Matrimony; or even that any of these seven is not truly and properly a sacrament, let him be anathema.”

Needless to say, the followers of Luther, Calvin, Zwingli and Crammer did not change their minds. Their underlying reason for rejecting the sacraments was the more fundamental premise of absolute predestination. Those will reach heaven who have been predetermined to be saved. The very meaning of “grace” was changed. Instead of being a free gift of God’s mercy, that we are to accept and cooperate with, grace was re-defined as the selective mercy of God which those receive who are destined to be saved. Even more basic than the theory of absolute predestination was the denial of a supernatural life. Man was never elevated to a share in the divine life.

On these terms, there could be no question of receiving the supernatural life through Baptism, or restoring this life through Penance, or nourishing this life through the Holy Eucharist. Even when the word “sacrament” might be used, a large part of world Christianity, outside of Roman Catholicism, no longer believes either that Christ instituted the sacraments or that we need them for our salvation.

However, a new phenomenon has entered Christian history in our day. A growing number of still professed Catholic writers are re- interpreting the Church’s teaching on the sacraments with a license and a devastating consequence that has no counterpart in the last half millennium. I will never forget the conference I attended of the Midwestern Theological Society. The keynote speaker was [Father] Richard McBrien. Through one hour of learned discourse, he gave the audience one reason after another why the Catholic priesthood was not a sacrament instituted by Our Lord at the Last Supper. It was a later second century innovation. A logical consequence of this position is to question whether Christ had instituted any of the sacraments. One of the most prestigious universities on the east coast is currently teaching a course which identifies the supernatural with mythology. In fact, more than one dictionary describes the supernatural as the unreal or the fanciful. We cannot overstate the widespread elimination of faith in the sacraments as channels of divine grace in some still nominally Catholic circles.

The widespread desecration of the Holy Eucharist as the sacrament of Christ’s physical presence now on earth through the Sacrament of the Eucharist; the massive departure from the priesthood of so many men who had received the Sacrament of Orders; the nationwide, in our country, and the worldwide internationally drop in confession; [Now polled to be at or lower than 10% of all self-professed catholics…PJM ] the closing of over one hundred parishes in just two dioceses in a few years; the epidemic of annulments of persons who putatively received the Sacrament of Matrimony: all of these are symptomatic of a plague of sacramental error that threatens to undermine the Catholic Church in one so- called developed country after another. [And the reason for this is: Both a denial of offered Grace; and a lessening of Grace being offered to those choosing “self “over God; sin over sacrifice! … PJM]

We are now reading books and magazines, and hearing of classes and lectures that threaten the very essence of our sacramental faith. As we read these publications and listen to these talks, one thing becomes dear. There is a massive loss of faith not only in the sacraments but in the supernatural life which the sacraments are to confer and strengthen in our lives. We are being told that the sacraments were not instituted by Christ but invented by Christians over a period of several centuries. What we call the sacraments, it is said, goes back to the ancient religions of pre- Christian times. The rituals that we call sacraments today are simply a continuation of what all the religions celebrated long before Christianity was born. Every sacrament of Catholic Christianity is being traced to its pre-Christian history.

“Washing with water, breaking and sharing of bread, the pouring and drinking of wine, anointing with oil, laying on of hands to bless and ordain, calling down divine power, pronouncing words of forgiveness, all of these are as ancient as religious history and were practiced long before the word sacrament was even used in religious discourse.” [So it is now claimed by many.. PJM]

On these grounds, it would be not only mistaken but deceptive to associate and, much less, identify the sacraments with the ritual of the Catholic Church. To speak of the Church founded by Christ as the universal sacrament of salvation is at best a misnomer and at worst a blasphemy. Christ had no claim, we are told, on our human destiny. Nor does the Church He is said to have founded have any monopoly on the goodness of God. Those who deny the divine origin of the Christian sacraments appeal to such geniuses as [Father] Karl Rahner. Building on his premises, they claim it is impossible to say that God’s grace depends on the Church which Christ founded. The Church, people are told, has no rules or regulations, no imperatives, no prohibitions.

It is emphatically not the clergy, nor the sacramental ritual, nor the worship by the people in sacramental celebration. All of these are adjuncts or, if you wish, superfluous additions to what Christianity really is. It is the living event of God’s presence. It is people, no matter what their religious beliefs or practices may be, who constitute “The People Of God.” They have been touched by God, are loved by Him and belong to Him, regardless of what religion they profess or even no religion at all.

On these terms the “sacraments” are not channels of divine grace. Bread and wine, oil and water, sex and prayer, are themselves the expressions of authentic Christianity.

Our Responsibility Pope John Paul II introduces the by declaring, “Guarding the deposit of faith is the mission which the Lord entrusted to His Church and which she fulfills in every age.” As believing Christians, loyal to the Vicar of Christ, our first responsibility is to guard the deposit of faith in the sacraments which Christ became man to give us the grace we need to reach eternal life. This guarding of the sacramental faith carries with it a number of grave obligations. We cannot begin to guard our faith unless we understand what we believe.

In Christ’s parable of the good seed which fell on different kinds of ground, the first infertile soil was the pathway. The seed fell on the hard ground and the birds of the air came along and picked up the seed. This, we are told, is what happens to those who have been given the true Faith but fail to understand what they believe. The result is tragedy. The devil comes along and steals the Faith from the hearts of once professed believers. Ours is the most academically educated age of human history. The five million Americans on college campuses every year are only a symbol of the widespread growth in knowledge in our day. But this growth in secular knowledge will not only do no good. It will destroy the faith of once believing Catholics if they have not used their minds to grow in grasping what they believe. They must grow in understanding the meaning of their faith. They must grow in the clarity of mind in seeing the subtle distinctions hidden behind their faith. They must grow in the certitude of what they profess to believe. They must grow in knowing how to defend this faith in the face of opposition that is sweeping across the Catholic world like a demonic hurricane.

But understanding the Faith is not enough. The sacraments will become for them, what they have become for so many others, unless they put their faith into daily practice. We believe that the sacrament of the Eucharist, as sacrifice, communion and presence is nothing less than Jesus Christ alive and active on earth to provide us with the light and strength we need, especially to practice that charity by which we are recognized as His disciples. To remain faithful Catholics in today’s self-intoxicated world we must expect to practice heroic generosity and heroic patience, which are impossible without the superhuman strength that only Jesus Christ in the Holy Eucharist can give us.

We asked what is our duty as teachers of the true faith in an atmosphere that is clouded to the point of blindness on the meaning of the sacraments. We shall be as faithful teachers of the true Faith as we are courageous in explaining this faith, without compromise and without fear of the consequences. To teach the Catholic Faith on the sacraments can literally mean living a martyr’s life. In Pope John Paul II’s masterful encyclical, , we are told to understand the Faith, as it has been entrusted by Christ to His Church, and proclaim this faith with heroic courage even at the cost of martyrdom.

When Christ told us, “Without me you can do nothing,” He meant this literally. Without the grace which He gives through the sacraments which He instituted, we cannot hope to remain Christians or Catholics or, least of all, channels of His wisdom to those whom we are instructing in the one true Faith on which depends the salvation of the world.

NOTE; Father Hardon, the author of this instruction died in December of 2,000. His “Cause for POSSIBLE Sainthood,” is being under taken by the International head of the Marian Catechist Apostolate; His Eminence: Cardinal Raymond Burke, who as Bishop of La Cross Wisconsin, was asked by the aging and ill Father Hardon to assume his role in the continuation of the Apostolate. I have been associated with the Marian Catechist for MANY Years. Father was my Mentor, and my friend! I thought you find in of interest to know some of what motivates me.

May God continue to Bless, Guard, and Guide each of you,

Love and prayers,


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