Catholic Candle note: We should
study the Catholic Faith our whole life. Part of this duty is to understand
more fully the truths of the Faith we already learned as children. Thus, for
example, concerning the question “Who is God?”, we know from our First
Communion Catechism that “God is the Supreme Being Who made all things.”
During our life, we should learn more about God, as best we can, little-by-little,
using the opportunities we have.
The article below is an aid to help us “peering
a little more deeply” into a few related truths of the Faith which we already
learned in our catechism as children. The article below is merely one more
step in the journey of learning our Faith better.
What is Charity, and How does it relate to Sanctifying Grace?
Charity is friendship with God.
Without charity, a man is an enemy of
God, since every man is at enmity with God through Original Sin
(and mortal sin), unless (and until) he becomes His friend through the
friendship of charity,
which is only acquired with Sanctifying Grace.
Sanctifying Grace is God’s Life within
and makes us holy and pleasing to God.
Let us summarize what we covered
God’s life is to know and love Himself, and that life is pure and perfect
bliss; He is the only worthy object of His love and knowledge.
Yet the astounding fact is this: When
we possess charity and Sanctifying Grace, we also participate in that very life
of God – His love and knowledge for Himself! We know and love God in a way similar
to the way that He Himself knows and love Himself. Note that we said “in a
way similar to how He knows and loves Himself” – but not to the same extent.
This qualification of “in a way
similar to” is very important. Perhaps an example might help: let us
suppose a very bright philosopher who knows and can prove many truths about
God, yet who lacks Sanctifying Grace. This man might be able to explain many
natural truths about God (truths knowable by the human intellect without
Revelation) which many or even most Catholics cannot prove because of a lack of
education. Yet this bright man is not able to know God in the way that the simplest
peasant can know Him when he has Sanctifying Grace.
What is the way the bright man knows
God? He can prove things about God from a distant and cold perspective, in a
dry, academic way. For example, he can prove there must be a God, because of
such-and-such human reasoning. He can prove that this God must be eternal, and
can prove many other truths. This is all good, but yet it is a “far cry” from
what Sanctifying Grace does for the soul.
Let us now contrast: What can the
peasant in the state of grace do which the bright philosopher in the state of
mortal sin cannot do? The peasant is able to know God as a loving Father – a
personal God Who cares about each of us deeply, Who was born and died for us,
Who is always looking out for us, guiding us, showering us with gifts, and Who
longs to have us with Him forever in heavenly bliss. But love requires
knowledge of the thing loved. Thus, because the peasant is able to know God in
this way, he is also able to love God in a way that bright philosopher is
simply not able to.
The “Companionship” of Sanctifying
Grace and Charity:
Sanctifying Grace and Charity always come into a soul together
and increase together (and they leave together, in any soul that has the great tragedy
of committing a mortal sin).
Thus, we can see that Sanctifying Grace
and charity are inseparable “companions” in the supernatural life. Here is how
God’s Life and His Love for Himself are reflected in our possessing Sanctifying
Grace and charity:
➢ God is His
Own Divine Life; Sanctifying Grace is God’s Life in us by participation.
has one act, which is to love Himself.
By charity, we love God in a similar way.
Without Charity and Sanctifying Grace, we cannot merit.
What is merit?
To “merit” means “to be worthy of or
entitled or liable to earn”.
Merit is a right to a reward. For
example, let us suppose a man who is in mortal sin discovers a plot to kill and
overthrow the king. The man informs the king. This deed deserves praise and
reward, because perhaps it not only saved the king himself, but also the whole
kingdom. Thus, the king – if he is a just man – might say to the man, “Well
done! You have merited a reward and my gratitude.” In that case, the man
merited a natural reward from a mere man.
Merit can be natural or supernatural.
But what if the man did the same thing,
but this time possessed Sanctifying Grace and charity? When in the state of
grace, the motive behind our actions can be that of love of God, and thus take on
a supernatural dimension. In such case, not only would the man gain natural
merit from the human king, but also supernatural merit. God, Who is Justice
itself, might well give him natural gifts (e.g., good health, success),
but also supernatural gifts (e.g., a right to a higher place in heaven,
an increase of virtue and grace).
But without Sanctifying Grace,
we cannot merit anything from God.
This is not surprising, since those
without Sanctifying Grace are God’s enemies.
How could God’s enemies ever merit from Him while remaining His enemies and remaining
in mortal sin – with their wills turned against Him?
Let us “unpack” the consequences a
little further, of the truth that without Sanctifying Grace, a person can merit
absolutely nothing from God. This means that:
➢ A man in the
state of mortal sin who builds orphanages, schools, or monasteries (which are
good works) does not merit even the slightest thing from God, by doing so.
A man in the
state of mortal sin who teaches the Catholic Faith, does not merit even the
slightest thing from God, by doing so.
man in the state of mortal sin who dedicates his life to fighting communism or
disease, or who dies trying to rescue a child in a burning building, does not
earn anything at all from God, by doing so.
This is true even if the man’s work was
an instrument to save many other souls and brought about much good in other
ways. Persons without Sanctifying Grace never merit from God by
the good works they do. On the other hand, though, those persons are able to
commit further evil. By choosing to commit more sins, they offend God further and
deserve further punishment.
This does not mean that a man in mortal
sin never does anything good and that he cannot have any natural
virtues. When the man teaches the truth or constructs a building, those are truly
natural good works and this fact is not “taken away” by the man’s
inability to merit from God for those works.
Again, a man might merit natural rewards, such as from the human king, as
explained in the above example.
Natural virtue is not a source of
supernatural merit, when a man is in mortal sin.
For example, a Satanist (or other enemy of God) could possibly have the habit
of being patient with his neighbor or be habitually generous to a crippled
child. These habits (patience and generosity) would be natural
virtues. What is impossible is for such a man to merit
supernaturally from God, by his (natural) good acts and virtues.
We ordinary Catholics, who are unaccustomed
to the ways of God, might tend to falsify the truths (above) by supposing that
there is a way “through the back door” for a man in mortal sin to merit in some
way. For example, although we know that a man in mortal sin cannot merit from
God, we might suppose that, when God sees the man’s (human) good works or
(natural) virtues, God might decide to give that man grace on that basis, i.e.,
for this reason. But our supposition (viz., that God might act this
way) would contradict the truth that a man in mortal sin never merits from
God by anything he does. In other words:
done by a person without Sanctifying Grace inclines God to give him any
blessing or good.
Remember the explanation above: to
“merit” is to be a cause of good or to earn good in some way. If a man in
mortal sin were to influence God favorably toward him in any way, through the
good works that man did, so that God gave him something which the man would not
have otherwise received, then that man has merited while in mortal sin. In
other words, that man’s good works would have been a cause of the good he
received from God. This is impossible.
Thus, God never gives any good to a man because of
that man’s good works while he is in mortal sin, because that man cannot merit
anything by his works.
However, this truth certainly does not
mean that God could never (or would never) give grace to a man in mortal sin.
Rather, the Sanctifying Grace and other good things which God gives to a man in
mortal sin are in no way merited by him. They are given as a
free, undeserved gift of God, not based on anything he did.
In a future article, we will look at
how someone can merit supernatural good in some way (called “condignly”),
when he is already in the state of Sanctifying Grace.
A man in mortal sin cannot merit
Sanctifying Grace or any other good from God, by the (human) good works he does
or by the (natural) virtues he has. Sanctifying Grace is a free gift of God, not
merited in any way by the man in mortal sin.