Words to Live by – from Catholic Tradition

Reminder during this month of the Holy Rosary

I know no surer way of discovering whether a person belongs to God than by finding out if he loves the Hail Mary and the Rosary.  …  When the Hail Mary is well said, that is, with attention, devotion and humility, it is, according to the saints, the enemy of Satan, putting him to flight; it is the hammer that crushes him, a source of holiness for souls, a joy to the angels and a sweet melody for the devout.  It is the Canticle of the New Testament, a delight for Mary and glory for the most Blessed Trinity.  

The Hail Mary is dew falling from heaven to make the soul fruitful.  It is a pure kiss of love we give to Mary.  It is a crimson rose, a precious pearl that we offer to her.  It is a cup of ambrosia, a divine nectar that we offer her.

Quoted from St. Louis de Montfort, True Devotion to Mary, ¶¶ 251 & 253.

Words to Live by – from Catholic Tradition

 

St. Alphonsus de Liguori, Doctor of the Church:

He who advances most in meditation makes the greatest progress in perfection.  In mental prayer the soul is filled with holy thoughts, with holy affections, desires, and holy resolutions, and with love for God.  There man sacrifices his passions, his appetites, his earthly attachments, and all the interests of self-love.

The Great Means of Salvation and of Perfection, Part II, Section 1, #II, in a section called: Mental Prayer is Indispensable in Order to Attain Perfection.

 

 

 

Words to Live by – from Catholic Tradition

 

Let us rejoice in the sufferings of our present time,

in order that Christ will reign in us!

 

St. Augustine, the Great Doctor of Grace, gives us these words of comfort, that our tribulations are worthwhile:

 

Jesus reigns in us through the adversities we suffer.

 

Catena Aurea on St. Luke’s Gospel, St. Thomas Aquinas, quoting St. Augustine, Ch.23, §4.

 

 

CC in brief — June

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.

Sanctifying Grace – the “Companion” of Charity;

Necessary for Meriting from God


What is Charity, and How does it relate to Sanctifying Grace?

Charity is friendship with God.[1] 

Without charity, a man is an enemy of God, since every man is at enmity with God through Original Sin[2] (and mortal sin), unless (and until) he becomes His friend through the friendship of charity[3], which is only acquired with Sanctifying Grace.[4] 

Sanctifying Grace is God’s Life within us[5] and makes us holy and pleasing to God.[6]

Let us summarize what we covered so far:  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.[7]

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[8] and increase together (and they leave together, in any soul that has the great tragedy of committing a mortal sin).[9]

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:

Ø  God is His Own Divine Life; Sanctifying Grace is God’s Life in us by participation.

 

Ø  God has one act, which is to love Himself.[10]  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”.[11]

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.[12]

This is not surprising, since those without Sanctifying Grace are God’s enemies.[13]  How could God’s enemies ever merit from Him while remaining His enemies and remaining in mortal sin – with their wills turned against Him?[14]

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:

Ø  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.[15]

Ø  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. [16]

 

Ø  A 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.[17]

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.[18]  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.[19]  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:

Nothing 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.[20]  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.


Conclusion

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.



[1]           Here is how St. Thomas Aquinas, greatest Doctor of the Church, explains this truth:

It is written (John 15:15): “I will not now call you servants . . . but My friends.”  Now this was said to them by reason of nothing else than charity. Therefore, charity is friendship.  …

According to the Philosopher (Ethic. viii, 2,3) not every love has the character of friendship, but that love which is together with benevolence, when, to wit, we love someone so as to wish good to him.  If, however, we do not wish good to what we love, but wish its good for ourselves, (thus we are said to love wine, or a horse, or the like), it is love not of friendship, but of a kind of concupiscence. For it would be absurd to speak of having friendship for wine or for a horse.

Yet neither does well-wishing suffice for friendship, for a certain mutual love is requisite, since friendship is between friend and friend: and this well-wishing is founded on some kind of communication.

Accordingly, since there is a communication between man and God, inasmuch as He communicates His happiness to us, some kind of friendship must needs be based on this same communication, of which it is written (1 Corinthians 1:9): “God is faithful: by Whom you are called unto the fellowship of His Son."  The love which is based on this communication, is charity: wherefore it is evident that charity is the friendship of man for God.

Summa, IIa IIae, Q.23, a.1, sed contra and respondeo (emphasis added).

[2]           As the psalmist teaches, concerning everyone being born with Original Sin: “I was conceived in iniquities; and in sins did my mother conceive me.”  Psalm, 50:7.  St. Paul teaches that, because of Original Sin, we are all “by nature children of wrath”.  Ephesians, 2:3. 

[3]           Here is how St. Thomas Aquinas teaches this truth, following and quoting St. Augustine: “whosoever has not charity is wicked, because ‘this gift alone of the Holy Ghost distinguishes the children of the kingdom from the children of perdition’”.  Summa, IIa IIae, Q.178, a.2, sed contra, quoting St. Augustine’s treatise on the Blessed Trinity, De Trinitate, bk.15, ch.18.

St. Paul teaches: “the charity of God is poured forth in our hearts, by the Holy Ghost, who is given to us.”  Romans, 5:5.

[4]           Here is how St. Thomas Aquinas teaches this truth, quoting St. Augustine:

Sanctifying Grace is given chiefly in order that man’s soul may be united to God by charity.  Wherefore Augustine says (De Trin. xv, 18): “A man is not transferred from the left side to the right, unless he receives the Holy Ghost, by Whom he is made a lover of God and of his neighbor.”

Summa, IIa IIae, Q.172, a.4, respondeo.

[5]           Here is how St. Thomas Aquinas teaches this truth:

[T]he light of grace which is a participation of the Divine Nature is something besides the infused virtues which are derived from and are ordained to this light ….

Summa, Ia IIae, Q.110, a.3, respondeo

See also, St. John of the Cross, the Mystical Doctor of the Church, where he teaches the same truth: Spiritual Canticle, Stanza 38, §4.

St. Peter refers to Sanctifying Grace as making us “partakers of the Divine Nature”.  2 Peter, 1:4.

[6]           Here is how St. Thomas Aquinas teaches this truth:

Even as when a man is said to be in another’s good graces, it is understood that there is something in him pleasing to the other; so also, when anyone is said to have God’s grace – with this difference, that what is pleasing to a man in another is presupposed to his love, but whatever is pleasing to God in a man is caused by the Divine love, as was said above.

Summa, Ia IIae, Q.110, a.1, ad 1.

A little below these words of St. Thomas, he says “we speak of grace inasmuch as it makes man pleasing to God”.

Summa, Ia IIae, Q.110, a.3, respondeo (emphasis added).

Here is how the Baltimore Catechism #3 explains this truth:

Q. 461. What is sanctifying grace?

A. Sanctifying grace is that grace which makes the soul holy and pleasing to God.

[7]               The only way God knows creatures is through knowing Himself and knowing us as His works.  Summa, Ia, Q.14, a.7, respondeo; Ia, Q.16, a.7, respondeo.  The reason why God loves us creatures is because we are His works and He loves His works and the good He put into us.  Summa, Ia, Q.14, a.5; Ia, Q.20, a.2.

[8]           Here is how St. Thomas Aquinas teaches this truth:

Sanctifying Grace is given chiefly in order that man’s soul may be united to God by charity.

Summa, IIa IIae, Q.172, a.4, respondeo.

[9]           Mortal sin deprives a man of sanctifying grace.  Summa, Ia IIae, Q.109, a.7, respondeo.  Mortal sin deprives a man of charity.  Summa, Ia IIae, Q.88, a.1, respondeo.

[10]         This same one act of loving Himself is also an act of knowing Himself.  It is hard for us to understand this, but God is wholly simple and has only one act, which is to know and to love Himself.  Summa, Ia, Q.3; Ia, Q.16, a.5, ad 1.

[11]         https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/merit (definition of the transitive verb, “merit”).

 

[12]         Here is how St. Thomas Aquinas teaches this truth, referring to Sanctifying Grace using its other name, i.e., “habitual grace”, since Sanctifying Grace remains in (inhabits) those in the state of grace:

The preparation of the human will for good is twofold: the first, whereby it is prepared to operate rightly and to enjoy God; and this preparation of the will cannot take place without the habitual gift of grace, which is the principle of meritorious works ….

Summa, Ia IIae, Q.109, a.6, respondeo (emphasis added).

Here is how the Catechism of St. Pius X teaches this truth:

5 Q. Why do not those who are in mortal sin participate in these goods [shared in the Communion of Saints]?

A. Because that which unites the faithful with God, and with Jesus Christ as His living members, rendering them capable of performing meritorious works for life eternal, is the grace of God which is the supernatural life of the soul; and hence as those who are in mortal sin are without the grace of God, they are excluded from perfect communion in spiritual goods, nor can they accomplish works meritorious towards life eternal.

Catechism of St. Pius X, section, Ninth Article of the Creed, subsection, Communion of Saints (bracketed words added to the question, to show the context).

Here is how the Baltimore Catechism #3 teaches this truth:

Q. 141. Why then do we say a soul is dead while in a state of mortal sin?

A. We say a soul is dead while in a state of mortal sin, because in that state it is as helpless as a dead body, and can merit nothing for itself.

[13]         Here is how St. Thomas Aquinas teaches this truth, following and quoting St. Augustine: “whosoever has not charity is wicked, because ‘this gift alone of the Holy Ghost distinguishes the children of the kingdom from the children of perdition’”.  Summa, IIa IIae, Q.178, a.2, Sed contra, quoting St. Augustine’s treatise, De Trinitate, bk.15, ch.18.

As the psalmist teaches: “I was conceived in iniquities; and in sins did my mother conceive me.”  Psalm, 50:7.  St. Paul teaches that, because of Original Sin, we are all “by nature children of wrath”.  Ephesians, 2:3. 

[14]         Concerning three ways that all sin is an infinite offense against Almighty God and concerning a fourth way in which mortal sin is an infinite offense against God, read this article: https://catholiccandle.neocities.org/faith/the-infinite-evil-of-sin.html

[15]         We already implicitly know this truth, since we know what St. Paul teaches regarding the importance of Charity, which is the inseparable “companion” of Sanctifying Grace:

And if I should distribute all my goods to feed the poor, … and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.     

1 Corinthians, 13:3.

[16]         We already implicitly know this truth, since we know what St. Paul teaches regarding the importance of Charity, which is the inseparable “companion” of Sanctifying Grace:

If I speak with the tongues of men, and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.  …  And if I should have prophecy and should know all mysteries, and all knowledge, and if I should have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing.

1 Corinthians, 13:1-2.

[17]         We already implicitly know this truth, since we know what St. Paul teaches regarding the importance of Charity, which is the inseparable “companion” of Sanctifying Grace:

If I should deliver my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.

1 Corinthians, 13:3.

[18]         Here is one way St. Thomas Aquinas teaches this truth:

Yet because human nature is not altogether corrupted by sin, so as to be shorn of every natural good, even in the state of corrupted nature it can, by virtue of its natural endowments, work some particular good, as to build dwellings, plant vineyards, and the like ….

Summa, Ia IIae, Q. 109, a.2, respondeo.

[19]         Here is one way St. Thomas Aquinas teaches this truth:

[W]ithout grace man cannot merit everlasting life; yet he can perform works conducing to a good which is natural to man, as "to toil in the fields, to drink, to eat, or to have friends," and the like, as Augustine says.  …

Summa, Ia IIae, Q. 109, a.5, respondeo.

[20]         St. Thomas teaches that: “Man by himself can no wise rise from sin without the help of grace.”  Summa, Ia IIae, Q.109, a.7, respondeo.

St. Thomas teaches that a man in mortal sin is as unable to merit return to grace, as a dead man is unable to cause his soul to return to his body.  Here are St. Thomas’s words:

[M]an cannot be restored by himself; but he requires the light of grace to be poured upon him anew, as if the soul were infused into a dead body for its resurrection.

Summa, Ia IIae, Q.109, a.7, ad 2.

Here is how the Catechism of St. Pius X teaches this truth:

5 Q. Why do not those who are in mortal sin participate in these goods?

A. Because that which unites the faithful with God, and with Jesus Christ as His living members, rendering them capable of performing meritorious works for life eternal, is the grace of God which is the supernatural life of the soul; and hence as those who are in mortal sin are without the grace of God, they are excluded from perfect communion in spiritual goods, nor can they accomplish works meritorious towards life eternal.


Catechism of St. Pius X, section, Ninth Article of the Creed, subsection, Communion of Saints.

 

Words to Live by – from Catholic Tradition

 

It is vanity to wish for long life and to care little about a well-spent life.  It is vanity to be concerned with the present only and not to make provision for things to come.

 

The Imitation of Christ, by Thomas à Kempis, Book I, Chapter 1.

 

Words to Live by – from Catholic Tradition

The Voice of Christ:

 

Your tardiness in turning to prayer is the greatest obstacle to heavenly consolation ….

 

The Imitation of Christ, by Thomas à Kempis, Book III, Ch. 30.

 

Words to Live by – from Catholic Tradition

A prayer to recite when receiving your daily Cross (in the Catacombs)

Oh Lord, do with me and mine as Thou pleasest.  I ask and desire only three things:  Thy love, final perseverance, and the grace always to do Thy holy Will.  And if to love Thee thus, I must endure persecution and suffering, I am perfectly satisfied.

Taken from a pre-Vatican II program for making a holy hour

Catholic Candle note: If a person sincerely wants to receive Holy Communion but is truly unable to, Our Lord will see to it that he still receives the beneficial fruit of the Sacrament.  Below, Our Lord assures us of our reward from a Spiritual Communion, when we cannot receive Sacramental Communion.

 

 

Words to Live by – from Catholic Tradition

 

The Voice of Christ:

 

When he is indeed unable to come, he will always have a good will and pious intention to communicate and thus he will not lose the fruit of the Sacrament. 

 

The Imitation of Christ, by Thomas à Kempis, Book IV, ch. 10 (emphasis added).

 

 

 

 

Words to Live by – from Catholic Tradition

 

The Voice of Christ:

 

What more do I ask than that you give yourself entirely to Me?  I care not for anything else you may give me, for I seek not your gift but you.  Just as it would not be enough for you to have everything if you did not have Me, so whatever you give cannot please Me if you do not give yourself.

 

The Imitation of Christ, by Thomas à Kempis, Book IV, ch. 8 (emphasis added).

Words to Live by – from Catholic Tradition

 

Here is how St. Thomas Aquinas, greatest Doctor of the Catholic Church, depicts the fight between good and evil at the end of the world, quoting the Father of the Church, Theophylactus:

 

In the persecution by the Anti-Christ, let no one seek to protect his own life, for he will lose it.  But he who exposes himself to danger and death will save his soul, never submitting himself to the tyrant, out of love for his life.

 

Catena Aurea on St. Luke’s Gospel, Ch.17, §9.

 

Let us face the tyranny of our times with this same firm resolution!

Words to Live by – from Catholic Tradition

Let us Trust in God and not yield to Anxiety

The Disciple:

Lord, I willingly commit all things to You, for my anxiety can profit me little.  But I would that I were not so concerned about the future, and instead offered myself without hesitation to Your good pleasure.

The Imitation of Christ, by Thomas à Kempis, Book III, Chapter 39.

Words to Live by – from Catholic Tradition

If we tried to stand as brave men in battle, the help of the Lord from heaven would surely sustain us.  For He Who gives us the opportunity of fighting for victory, is ready to help those who carry on and trust in His grace.

The Imitation of Christ, by Thomas à Kempis, Book I, Ch. 2.

Words to Live by – from Catholic Tradition

The Holy Rosary, indicating our future salvation or damnation

St. Louis Marie Grignion de Montfort writes:

Here is what our Blessed Lady revealed to Blessed Alan de la Roche as recorded in his book, The Dignity of the Rosary: “Know, my son, and make it known to all, that lukewarmness or negligence in saying the Hail Mary, or a distaste for it, is a probable and proximate sign of eternal damnation, for by this prayer the whole world was restored.”  …

On the other hand, we know from experience that those who show positive signs of being among the elect, appreciate and love the Hail Mary and are always glad to say it. The closer they are to God, the more they love this prayer, as our Blessed Lady went on to tell Blessed Alan.

I do not know how this should be, but it is perfectly true; and I know no surer way of discovering whether a person belongs to God than by finding out if he loves the Hail Mary and the Rosary.

Quoted from True Devotion to Mary, by St. Louis Marie Grignion de Montfort, ¶¶ 250-251.

 

Words to Live by – from Catholic Tradition

The Voice of Christ:

Do not consider yourself forsaken if I send some temporary hardship, or withdraw the consolation you desire.  For this is the way to the kingdom of heaven.

The Imitation of Christ, by Thomas à Kempis, Book III, Chapter 30.