Year of Faith Catechism Study: CCC 1996-2005, 2021-2024 – Grace

clock June 8, 2013 01:02 by author John |

Today’s Catechism sections discuss grace. Supporting material comes from the “Summa Theologica”.

II. Grace

1996 Our justification comes from the grace of God. 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.46

1997 Grace is a participation in the life of God. It introduces us into the intimacy of Trinitarian life: by Baptism the Christian participates in the grace of Christ, the Head of his Body. As an "adopted son" he can henceforth call God "Father," in union with the only Son. He receives the life of the Spirit who breathes charity into him and who forms the Church.

1998 This vocation to eternal life is supernatural. It depends entirely on God's gratuitous initiative, for he alone can reveal and give himself. It surpasses the power of human intellect and will, as that of every other creature.47

1999 The grace of Christ is the gratuitous gift that God makes to us of his own life, infused by the Holy Spirit into our soul to heal it of sin and to sanctify it. It is the sanctifying or deifying grace received in Baptism. It is in us the source of the work of sanctification:48

Therefore if any one is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has passed away, behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself.49

2000 Sanctifying grace is an habitual gift, a stable and supernatural disposition that perfects the soul itself to enable it to live with God, to act by his love. Habitual grace, the permanent disposition to live and act in keeping with God's call, is distinguished from actual graces which refer to God's interventions, whether at the beginning of conversion or in the course of the work of sanctification.

2001 The preparation of man for the reception of grace is already a work of grace. This latter is needed to arouse and sustain our collaboration in justification through faith, and in sanctification through charity. God brings to completion in us what he has begun, "since he who completes his work by cooperating with our will began by working so that we might will it:"50

Indeed we also work, but we are only collaborating with God who works, for his mercy has gone before us. It has gone before us so that we may be healed, and follows us so that once healed, we may be given life; it goes before us so that we may be called, and follows us so that we may be glorified; it goes before us so that we may live devoutly, and follows us so that we may always live with God: for without him we can do nothing.51

2002 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. The promises of "eternal life" respond, beyond all hope, to this desire:

If at the end of your very good works . . ., you rested on the seventh day, it was to foretell by the voice of your book that at the end of our works, which are indeed "very good" since you have given them to us, we shall also rest in you on the sabbath of eternal life.52

2003 Grace is first and foremost the gift of the Spirit who justifies and sanctifies us. But grace also includes the gifts that the Spirit grants us to associate us with his work, to enable us to collaborate in the salvation of others and in the growth of the Body of Christ, the Church. There are sacramental graces, gifts proper to the different sacraments. There are furthermore special graces, also called charisms after the Greek term used by St. Paul and meaning "favor," "gratuitous gift," "benefit."53 Whatever their character - sometimes it is extraordinary, such as the gift of miracles or of tongues - charisms are oriented toward sanctifying grace and are intended for the common good of the Church. They are at the service of charity which builds up the Church.54

2004 Among the special graces ought to be mentioned the graces of state that accompany the exercise of the responsibilities of the Christian life and of the ministries within the Church:

Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; if service, in our serving; he who teaches, in his teaching; he who exhorts, in his exhortation; he who contributes, in liberality; he who gives aid, with zeal; he who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness.55

2005 Since it belongs to the supernatural order, grace escapes our experience and cannot be known except by faith. We cannot therefore rely on our feelings or our works to conclude that we are justified and saved.56 However, according to the Lord's words "Thus you will know them by their fruits"57 - reflection on God's blessings in our life and in the lives of the saints offers us a guarantee that grace is at work in us and spurs us on to an ever greater faith and an attitude of trustful poverty.

A pleasing illustration of this attitude is found in the reply of St. Joan of Arc to a question posed as a trap by her ecclesiastical judges: "Asked if she knew that she was in God's grace, she replied: 'If I am not, may it please God to put me in it; if I am, may it please God to keep me there.'"58

IN BRIEF

2021 Grace is the help God gives us to respond to our vocation of becoming his adopted sons. It introduces us into the intimacy of the Trinitarian life.

2022 The divine initiative in the work of grace precedes, prepares, and elicits the free response of man. Grace responds to the deepest yearnings of human freedom, calls freedom to cooperate with it, and perfects freedom.

2023 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.

2024 Sanctifying grace makes us "pleasing to God." Charisms, special graces of the Holy Spirit, are oriented to sanctifying grace and are intended for the common good of the Church. God also acts through many actual graces, to be distinguished from habitual grace which is permanent in us.

In the “Summa Theologica” (Prima Secundæ Partis, 109, 5), St. Thomas Aquinas discusses whether it is possible for man to merit eternal life without grace.

Article 5. Whether man can merit everlasting life without grace?

Objection 1. It would seem that man can merit everlasting life without grace. For Our Lord says (Matthew 19:17): "If thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments"; from which it would seem that to enter into everlasting life rests with man's will. But what rests with our will, we can do of ourselves. Hence it seems that man can merit everlasting life of himself.

Objection 2. Further, eternal life is the wage of reward bestowed by God on men, according to Matthew 5:12: "Your reward is very great in heaven." But wage or reward is meted by God to everyone according to his works, according to Psalm 61:12: "Thou wilt render to every man according to his works." Hence, since man is master of his works, it seems that it is within his power to reach everlasting life.

Objection 3. Further, everlasting life is the last end of human life. Now every natural thing by its natural endowments can attain its end. Much more, therefore, may man attain to life everlasting by his natural endowments, without grace.

On the contrary, The Apostle says (Romans 6:23): "The grace of God is life everlasting." And as a gloss says, this is said "that we may understand that God, of His own mercy, leads us to everlasting life."

I answer that, Acts conducing to an end must be proportioned to the end. But no act exceeds the proportion of its active principle; and hence we see in natural things, that nothing can by its operation bring about an effect which exceeds its active force, but only such as is proportionate to its power. Now everlasting life is an end exceeding the proportion of human nature, as is clear from what we have said above (Question 5, Article 5). Hence man, by his natural endowments, cannot produce meritorious works proportionate to everlasting life; and for this a higher force is needed, viz. the force of grace. And thus without 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 in his third Reply to the Pelagians [Hypognosticon iii, among the spurious works of St. Augustine].

Reply to Objection 1. Man, by his will, does works meritorious of everlasting life; but as Augustine says, in the same book, for this it is necessary that the will of man should be prepared with grace by God.

Reply to Objection 2. As the gloss upon Romans 6:23, "The grace of God is life everlasting," says, "It is certain that everlasting life is meter to good works; but the works to which it is meted, belong to God's grace." And it has been said (4), that to fulfil the commandments of the Law, in their due way, whereby their fulfilment may be meritorious, requires grace.

Reply to Objection 3. This objection has to do with the natural end of man. Now human nature, since it is nobler, can be raised by the help of grace to a higher end, which lower natures can nowise reach; even as a man who can recover his health by the help of medicines is better disposed to health than one who can nowise recover it, as the Philosopher observes (De Coelo ii, 12).

Footnotes

46 Cf. ⇒ Jn 1:12-18; ⇒ 17:3; ⇒ Rom 8:14-17; ⇒ 2 Pet 1:3-4.
47 Cf. ⇒ 1 Cor 2:7-9.
48 Cf. ⇒ Jn 4:14; ⇒ 7:38-39.
49 ⇒ 2 Cor 5:17-18.
50 St. Augustine, De gratia et libero arbitrio, 17: PL 44, 901.
51 St. Augustine, De natura et gratia, 31: PL 44, 264.
52 St. Augustine, Conf. 13, 36, 51: PL 32, 868; cf. ⇒ Gen 1:31.
53 Cf. LG 12.
54 Cf. ⇒ 1 Cor 12.
55 ⇒ Rom 12:6-8.
56 Cf. Council of Trent (1547): DS 1533-1534.
57 ⇒ Mt 7:20.
58 Acts of the trial of St. Joan of Arc.



How to Help the Poor Souls in Purgatory

clock December 14, 2012 20:53 by author John |
Holy Mass for Souls in Purgatory
The Holy Mass is a powerful way to aid the Poor Souls in Purgatory.

This is the fourth article in a series on the Catholic understanding of Purgatory

Part 1: Introduction to the Catholic Understanding of Purgatory
Part 2: What is Purgatory Like? The Catholic Understanding of the Pains of Purification
Part 3: How to Avoid Purgatory: 8 Specific Ways to Reduce or Eliminate your Time in Purgatory
Part 4: How to Help the Poor Souls in Purgatory
Part 5: Indulgences - Definition and Meaning: The God's Mercy Dispensed Through the Catholic Church

Who are the Souls in Purgatory?

The souls in Purgatory are known as the Church Suffering. They are called “Poor” souls because they are separated from the Beatific Vision due to unsatisfied debt due to the sins they committed while they were on Earth. While their sins may have been forgiven in the Sacrament of Confession, they may not have made proper penance for them, and so any temporal punishment due for those sins must be endured in Purgatory. 

The souls in Purgatory are also known as the “Holy Souls” for two main reasons. First, they are no longer able to sin. Secondly, they are assured of their salvation, though they must be purified before they can stand in the presence of God for eternity.

The Church Calls Us to Help the Souls in Purgatory

The teaching of the Church is clear throughout the ages about our duty to help the souls in Purgatory. They are our departed brothers and sisters in Christ. They lived virtuous lives and ultimately chose to love God. They deserve our support in reaching the reward of Heaven. The Catechism of the Catholic Church makes clear our responsibility for the poor souls and the efficacy of our prayers for them:

1032 This teaching is also based on the practice of prayer for the dead, already mentioned in Sacred Scripture: "Therefore Judas Maccabeus] made atonement for the dead, that they might be delivered from their sin."607 From the beginning the Church has honored the memory of the dead and offered prayers in suffrage for them, above all the Eucharistic sacrifice, so that, thus purified, they may attain the beatific vision of God.608 The Church also commends almsgiving, indulgences, and works of penance undertaken on behalf of the dead:

Let us help and commemorate them. If Job's sons were purified by their father's sacrifice, why would we doubt that our offerings for the dead bring them some consolation? Let us not hesitate to help those who have died and to offer our prayers for them.609

How Can We Pray for the Souls in Purgatory?

The most efficacious way to help the souls in Purgatory is to have masses said for them. In Sacramentum Caritatis, Pope Benedict XVI expressed the value of prayer, especially the Holy Mass in helping the souls in Purgatory:

The Eucharistic celebration, in which we proclaim that Christ has died and risen, and will come again, is a pledge of the future glory in which our bodies too will be glorified. Celebrating the memorial of our salvation strengthens our hope in the resurrection of the body and in the possibility of meeting once again, face to face, those who have gone before us marked with the sign of faith. In this context I wish, together with the synod fathers, to remind all the faithful of the importance of prayers for the dead, especially the offering of Mass for them, so that, once purified, they can come to the beatific vision of God. A rediscovery of the eschatological dimension inherent in the Eucharist, celebrated and adored, will help sustain us on our journey and comfort us in the hope of glory (cf Rom 5:2; Ti 2:13) (Sacramentum Caritatis 32).

In addition to masses , the Rosary, and Stations of the Cross are very powerful ways to assist the Church Suffering. These prayers all have indulgences attached to them, and as we will see, indulgences are a tool we can utilize to help the poor souls.

Fasting, Almsgiving, and Offering of Our Sacrifices for the Souls in Purgatory

Aside from prayer, there are a variety of ways in which we can assist the souls in Purgatory. Fasting, almsgiving, and the offering of our sacrifices to God in atonement for their sins are excellent ways to help them. Many of us suffer physical or emotional pains, which can be offered for the poor souls. This suffering is united with the Passion of Christ and when applied to the poor souls can cause their release and entrance into Heaven. 

Indulgences Can be Gained on Behalf of the Souls in Purgatory

A specific indulgence is given in the "Enchiridion of Indulgences", which is specifically for the souls in Purgatory. Here is the quote: 

13. Visit to a Cemetery (Coemeterii visitatio)

An indulgence, applicable only to the Souls in Purgatory, is granted to the faithful, who devoutly visit a cemetery and pray, even if only mentally, for the departed.

The indulgence is plenary each day from the 1st to the 8th of November; on other days of the year it is partial. 

In order for the indulgence to be plenary, you must meet the following conditions in addition to praying at the cemetery for the souls...

1. Sacramental confession within “about twenty days” of the actual day of the Plenary Indulgence.

2. Eucharistic Communion on the day of the Plenary Indulgence.

3. Prayer for the intentions of the Pope on the day of the Plenary Indulgence.

4. It is further required that all attachment to sin, even venial sin, be absent.

In addition to this specific indulgence, any indulgence can be offered for the good of the souls in Purgatory if we specifically make the request that the graces be applied to them.

Penance for Souls that are Not in Purgatory

Graces are never wasted. God's infinite justice assures this. If a soul is in Heaven and we pray, fast or do any other penance for them, those specific graces that would have helped the soul out of Purgatory are bestowed on other souls in need of them. The soul may also benefit from those graces in Heaven, growing yet closer to God. St. Thomas Aquinas called this "accidental glory". The souls in Heaven can grow and change (they are mutable), though they cannot depart from the Beatific Vision. 

Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange, O. P., the noted theologian, Thomistic scholar, and teacher of the future Pope John Paul II, commented on this concept in his book, "The One God":

All creatures, as regards their accidental being, are mutable by an intrinsic power. Even in the angels there is mutability as regards their choice of either good or evil. All were created good and in grace, and some freely merited their eternal happiness, whereas others sinned. In fact, the blessed are capable of receiving new accidental illuminations and of acquiring accidental glory. Finally, there is mutability in the angels by way of virtual contact, inasmuch as they can act in this place or that, and do not always act in the same place.

The State of Grace

You should be in the state of grace before helping the souls in Purgatory. The Enchiridion of Indulgences states that you must be in the state of grace in order to earn an indulgence for yourself. Theologians have expressed mixed opinions on whether you must be in the state of grace in order to earn indulgences for the souls in Purgatory.  

Whether or not our prayers are efficacious for the souls in Purgatory when we are not in the state of grace should be a secondary concern for us. Our first concern should be with gaining and maintaining the state of grace for our own good. When you are in the state of grace, you can focus your energy on others, including the souls in Purgatory.

Eternal Gratitude

The souls released from Purgatory are eternally grateful to us for assisting them in attaining eternal joy in Heaven. They are part of the Church Triumphant, those blessed souls who are nearest to God, and have a special intimate connection with Him. Their prayers are very powerful, and they will pray for us in gratitude for our care for them. The Universal Church is indeed one in Christ, praying for one another and thus helping each other when we are in most need.



How to Avoid Purgatory: 8 Specific Ways to Reduce or Eliminate Your Time in Purgatory

clock December 10, 2012 09:42 by author John |

PurgatoryThis is the third article in a series on the Catholic understanding of Purgatory.

Part 1: Introduction to the Catholic Understanding of Purgatory
Part 2: What is Purgatory Like? The Catholic Understanding of the Pains of Purification
Part 3: How to Avoid Purgatory
Part 4: How to Help the Poor Souls in Purgatory
Part 5:
Indulgences - Definition and Meaning: The God's Mercy Dispensed Through the Catholic Church

Purgatory is the state in which we make reparation for all of our sins which have not been satisfactorily atoned for during our earthly life. The punishment of purgatory is avoidable to varying extents based on how we atone for our sins in this life. Indeed, it is even possible to remove all temporal punishment for our sins before we die and immediately join our Lord in Heaven upon our death. Not only is this possible, but it should be our goal.

How is it possible to reduce or eliminate the pains of purgatory? There are several ways, which when combined, practically assure us of removing most if not all of the debt we have incurred for our sins. If we strive to achieve all of these goals, we will certainly enjoy eternal reward at the moment of our death. I have listed 8 specific ways to avoid Purgatory.

1. Avoid Sin

The first and best way to avoid Purgatory is to avoid the thing that causes us to find ourselves there in the first place: Sin. This is an incredibly difficult proposition, and is not entirely possible, since we are imperfect creatures. We can reduce the number and severity of the sins we commit through concerted effort to live by the commandments and by asking for the assistance of Divine grace.

It is not possible to completely avoid venial sins. On the other hand, it is possible to totally eliminate mortal sin in our lives. If we die in a state of mortal sin, we will suffer eternal damnation in Hell. If we die with confessed mortal sin that we have not done sufficient penance for, we suffer the most severe punishment in purgatory. We must strive to eliminate all mortal sin in our lives.

The next most dreadful cause of Purgatorial suffering is venial sin that is committed deliberately. The only thing separating deliberate venial sins from mortal sins is the severity of the sin. Deliberate venial sins show callousness toward God’s law and the people harmed by those sins. Similarly, we must strive to eliminate lesser venial sins, because punishment will be given for them as well. While we cannot completely eliminate venial sins, we can drastically reduce their frequency in our lives by avoiding near occasions of sin and making better decisions when tempted. The graces given to us by the reception of the sacraments are very helpful in reforming our lives.

2. Do Penance

The second way to lessen our punishment in purgatory is to do penance. Penance most commonly involves fasting, prayer and almsgiving. The more healthy penance we are able to do in this life, the less punishment we will suffer in purgatory. We can make any unpleasant experience into a penance by offering our pain, discomfort, or stress to God.

Penance helps us in 2 ways. First, it repays the debt incurred by our sinfulness. It is believed that the penance we do while still alive will be easier than the penance required of us after death.  Secondly, it helps us to comprehend the severity of our sins and thereby focuses us on avoiding sin the next time we are tempted. Why not be proactive and make penance a part of our daily routine?

3. Embrace Suffering

The third means to avoid purgatorial punishment is to embrace our suffering. This does not necessarily mean we should seek it out, but we should accept the suffering that we cannot avoid and bear it without complaint. Everyone has to face many and varied sorrows and pains in life. These result from both physical pains as wells as emotional distress.

We all have our crosses to bear. These pains are God's greatest graces, which so many of us neglect to embrace and in doing so, lose many of the graces offered to us. They are an opportunity for us to share in Christ’s Passion in our own way, however small and dissimilar to the agony He endured for our salvation.

4. Receive the Eucharist Worthily and Confess Your Sins

The fourth method of reducing or eliminating our time in purgatory is by making frequent reception of the sacraments of Confession and Holy Eucharist. We should confess our sins on a regular basis, not just when we have a mortal sin on our soul. Frequently confessing our sins provides us with grace to avoid those sins in the future.

We should strive to receive the Eucharist every day at mass in order to receive the graces that it bestows upon us. These graces cleanse us of our venial sins and also dispose us to avoid evil. Attending daily mass is easier for some than others due to working schedules and the availability of the sacrament, but the more we receive the Eucharist, the more graces we receive from God to live in more perfect conformity with His Will for us.

5. Ask God Specifically to Save You from Purgatory

The fifth way to avoid purgatory is to specifically pray to God for that purpose. Asking God for the grace necessary to avoid purgatory and be happy with Him in Heaven is an especially powerful method. When asking for this grace, if we do so with faith and perseverance, we will receive it. We should therefore pray daily that God will free us from purgatory. We ask God for so many other things, why not ask Him for something as important as avoiding the fires of Purgatory?

6. Resign Yourself to Your Own Death

The sixth way to avoid purgatory is by resignation to death. Pope St. Pius X granted a plenary indulgence to those who after receiving the Holy Eucharist at the hour of death, say the following prayer: “Eternal Father, from this day forward, I accept with a joyful and resigned heart the death it will please You to send me, with all its pains and sufferings.” The usual conditions of course apply to this plenary indulgence: Confession, prayer for the intentions of the Pope, and detachment from all sin. What better way to exit this life than with a “Get out of Jail Free Card” for the punishments in Purgatory.

Beyond the obvious impact of the plenary indulgence, resignation to death is something we should be living with anyway, since we will more carefully consider our actions if the reality of our own death is always present in our consciousness.

7. Receive the Anointing of the Sick (Last Rights/Extreme Unction)

The seventh means of reducing our suffering in purgatory is to receive the anointing of the sick (also known as Last Rights or Extreme Unction). This sacrament prepares us to bypass the pains of purgatory and immediately enter Heaven. We must properly prepare for the sacrament so that we can receive it while we have full use of all of our faculties. We must understand exactly what we are receiving to obtain its full graces. This is why it is important that others know of our desire to have the Anointing of the Sick when the end of our life is in sight.

8. Gain Indulgences

The final means of avoiding Purgatory is to make use of the generous indulgences that the Catholic Church has made available to us. Indulgences are specific ways to directly reduce or remove our suffering in Purgatory. There are two types of indulgence: partial and plenary. Partial indulgences remove part of the suffering due for our sins in purgatory, while plenary indulgences remove all of our due suffering. We should strive to make use of these opportunities for grace before we face the punishment of purgatory. Indulgences will be covered in the 5th article in this series.

 

Other articles you may like:

How Often Should Catholics Go to Confession?

Matthew 10 and a Kick in the Pants for the Soldiers of the New Evangelization

Top 10 Emotional Reasons People Don't Go to Confession and Why You Should Consider it Anyway



10 Things Catholics Must Do Now in the Face of the Next Great Persecution

clock November 7, 2012 14:40 by author John |

Prepare yourself. This might just be the most uncomfortable article you read today, and with the help of Divine Grace, I hope it is uncomfortable in a good way. On this day after the reelection of President Obama, the most pro-death president to govern this land, faithful Catholics are feeling defeated. On Twitter and around the Catholic blogosphere, I am witnessing despair, anger, and sadness over the results of the election, the state of our nation, and the unexpected and disappointing answer that was given to so many earnest and sincere prayers. So many masses, novenas, rosaries, and acts of sacrifice were offered for the election of a leader sympathetic if not invested in the common good. To many, it appears that those prayers have been left unanswered. They were answered, but perhaps not in the way most of us wished.

In the typical human way, people are dwelling on the problems. They are replaying the last few months in their heads. “What went wrong? How did this happen?” They are looking ahead to a future that doesn’t seem bright or welcoming. The unknown lies before us. How the President and the secular progressives will treat the faithful in the next four years is yet to be seen, but that uncertainty is part of the problem. We just don’t know what will become of us in the near future and it scares the daylights out of us.

Many of us are embodying the cliché “People spend 90% of their time worrying and 10% of their time finding solutions.” We of course need to reverse those percentages in order to solve the problems before us. I will attempt to do that as I lay out for you a roadmap to be used in reversing the avalanche of evil and ignorance that is bearing down on us and in some cases crushing us. Here are 10 steps to saving yourself, your family and your culture.

1. Identify the Problem

In the past 18 months, the elections have dominated our news coverage, conversations, and daily life. We have been inundated with statistics, talking points and negative advertising. In a sense, we have been played. We have become spectators. We have allowed the media and politicians to feed us our beliefs. Let’s face the hard reality. A man was elected yesterday who has failed in every major area of social and economic policy from an authentic Catholic perspective. He won roughly half the Catholic vote. If you are not puking right now, perhaps it is because reality hasn’t set in. Take the time now to let it sink in and grab a bucket.

Think about it. This man launched a direct attack on the Catholic Church and half of Catholics willingly and happily supported it. The Catholic citizenry of this nation is in a state of disgrace right now. Shame on those Catholics who abandoned their faith through ignorance in forming their conscience or willful disregard of it.

This is a problem, but it is not the root of the problem. The problem is not the culture. I mean it. The problem is not the culture. Sure the culture is corrupt, ignorant, intolerant of Truth and beauty, and increasingly hostile to our beliefs, but I mean it when I say that the problem is not the culture.

The problem is us, the 20% of Catholics who attend mass each week and even the 4% of Catholics who regularly attend confession. We have failed in our duties. We have not evangelized, catechized, rebuked, and prayed enough. We have let the culture dictate terms to us. We have let our fellow Catholics, Church-going or not live in ignorance and disobedience without fraternal correction. If you don’t believe me, ask yourself this: “Have I done everything I possibly could to convert the culture?” I will answer that question for you: “No”. You are a human. You are not God. You are imperfect. You have failed in some way.

2. Contemplate the Problem and React Passionately to it

Now that we have identified the problem, our focus naturally shifts toward a solution. I propose that we first spend a little time dwelling on it. A little righteous indignation is useful and warranted. Allow the sting of this election, of this cultural rebuke of our faith and our God to sink in. Remember this day. Remember how you feel. Think about the choices we were given in this election. Neither man truly represented an authentic moral ethic. The man who lost was likely the lesser of two evils, but what does it say about our culture that the best two men we could produce to lead this country represent merely 2 evils? Think about the unknown that lies before us. Does it scare you? It scares me and that is alright with me.

God has given us passions. They are a gift to us that when used appropriately are powerful tools which motivate and energize us. If God didn’t intend for you to experience the emotions, He wouldn’t have given them to you. He also gave you a will and an intellect. In the perfect order of things, the passions are subordinate to the will and the intellect. That does not mean that they are useless.

We must use the will and the intellect to drive and direct the passions. Working together, the will, the intellect and the passions are the tools we use to achieve greatness. They propel us toward perfection, which is God. Channel the emotions, the passions, and the pain you may feel right now. Use those passions to drive you toward changing the culture, starting with yourself.

3. Pray for Fortitude

The task ahead of us is not easy. You may be passionate about changing the culture, but once you begin to engage the culture, you will soon meet with resistance. Immediately, in fact. When someone doesn’t like your message, they will attack you. How will you respond? People admire conviction, but they lash out when your conviction compels them to reevaluate their life.

Keep that in the back of your mind. You will need courage when facing the culture, but an even more challenging obstacle lies in your immediate path.  Before you can effectively engage the culture, you must prepare yourself by identifying your own sinfulness and failures. This is the step at which most people turn back. In this step, we perhaps see how we are not so different from those in the culture that personify the moral collapse we are witnessing around us. I am not giving in to moral equivocation here; I am simply telling you that the first step toward purification of the culture is purification of your soul, which I will address in the next item.

Fortitude is part resolve, a product of the will, and part grace, a product of the Holy Spirit. Direct your will to be resolute, unflinching in the face of adversity. Pray for fortitude. You will need it when facing the culture, but it is more warranted when facing your soul. Don’t just pray generally for courage. Pray for the infusion of the Holy Spirit’s most valuable gift: grace. Pray directly to the Holy Spirit, the Breath of God, which came down upon the apostles and empowered them to carry out the same mission you now face. As He enkindled in them the fire, pray that He will ignite your heart to carry out your mission.

4. Clean your soul

The first target of a sinful culture is a hypocrite. Look at the way the culture attacks the Church over the abuse crisis. Do you think abuse is limited to the Catholic Church? No. There are plenty of organizations that have experienced the same failure. The Church was attacked because of the hypocrisy of proclaiming purity while its priests lived in defiance of that call. Do not attempt to convert the culture before you have converted yourself. You cannot give that which you do not have. If you do not have grace in your soul, you cannot work as effectively for the conversion of others. A clean conscience and a spotless soul give you the freedom to proclaim the gospel to others.

Be sure that you have prayed for fortitude because this is the most difficult step in the process. You must be forthright and examine your conscience. Clean your soul. Be ruthless. Be thorough. Many times people will confess a few sins, but out of embarrassment or pride leave out sins that they allow to linger in their lives and which weigh on their consciences. This is a burden these people carry around with them day in and day out. Confess everything. Just do it. Go to another priest for confession if you are embarrassed to confess something troubling to your priest. Go to another parish. Go to another state if you want to. Just confess everything. Make a clean start.

An earnest prayer to the Holy Spirit before a difficult confession will give you the strength you need to make a good confession. Sometimes it is only by this grace that you will be able to truly be free of your sins.

5. Learn your faith

That which you do not have cannot be given. Your knowledge of the faith will be put to the test as you engage people who do not understand Jesus and His Church. Daily reading of spiritual works in necessary to grow your faith and strengthen your understanding of the many difficult requirements of being a faithful Catholic. Do not take this as a suggestion. This is an order. Actively learn the faith daily.

When I say daily, I mean it. Just as your body needs daily nourishment to function properly, so too does your mind need daily nourishment in the ways of the faith to function properly. Without refreshment of the concepts of the faith, the demands of life begin to crowd out the light of spiritual knowledge. Knowledge begets understanding and acceptance of the Truth.

Knowledge provides the foundation upon which we can make our appeal to others. The light of truth can be made known in many ways to people, but essential in any appeal, whether to reason or the emotions, is a firm understanding of the truths of the faith. If you know the faith, its transmission will come more easily.

6. Put God and your faith first

You hear this slogan often. Take it to heart. Our culture is perfectly tuned to place entertainment and work between you and God. If you have a full-time job, it likely takes at least 8 hours – one third of your day. When you factor in a commute, preparing and eating meals, taking care of children, meeting with friends and relatives, hardly any time is left over. The demands on our time do not stop there, however. We have still to satisfy the requirements of entertainment. 

The average household has the TV on in the background for more than 7 hours per day. Where, then is the time for God? How many of us, tired from working sit down after dinner and watch television for several hours, rise exhausted from our chair and go straight to bed, repeating platitudes about just not having the time for anything? We have no time for God because we do not make time for God.

We must place God first. We must make time for Him. I’m not talking about a quick prayer before bed or grace before meals. These are the bare minimum. Make abundant time for Him each day. We must not fear the impression people get when we limit the start of our day at work so that we can go to mass. Who is more important – your boss or the omnipotent and just God? Can you not make time to go to mass at 6:00 in the morning, or during your lunch, or after work each day? It isn’t convenient if you don’t make it convenient. It doesn’t have to be convenient in the first place. God should not be a convenience. He should be the first priority.

Don’t set aside time for God after work. This is the wrong approach. Set aside every other concern and pray to Him with your family. Don’t worry about time constraints, allotting God 15 or 30 minutes each day. Pray to Him and forget about everything until you are satisfied with your prayer; that you have conversed appropriately with Him. Do spiritual reading every day. Read from the Bible, the Catechism, the writings of the Saints, the Liturgy of the Hours. Give God primacy of your time.

You don’t have to give God most of your time, but you should make the time with him first and foremost. Who cares if that means you can’t make an early morning meeting. If your employer can’t respect your time, you have the option of finding another employer who will. Don’t answer calls from work while you are praying. The matter cannot be as important as your relationship with God. Don’t structure your prayer life around work or household responsibilities. Structure your responsibilities around your time for God, leaving adequate buffer so that you don’t feel rushed in your prayer.

7. Get Used to Discomfort and Make Sacrifices

Do you love God? The answer should be yes, and if it is, then you must be willing to sacrifice for Him. Love without sacrifice is shallow. Would you claim to love your spouse, your parents, or friends but refuse to help them in need? Of course not. Love demands placing the object of your love before yourself. God asks us to do difficult things in our lives. You cannot truly love God without sacrificing for Him. A virtuous life requires the pain of sacrifice.

Take sacrifice and discomfort on yourself. Perform works of mercy regularly for others. Pray whether it is convenient or not. Give alms to help the Church and those in need. Fast on a regular basis, not just when the Church mandates it. These things strengthen the will against the urges. If our urges are disproportionate to our will, we become slaves to them. Strengthen your will by making voluntary sacrifices so that when sacrifices are demanded of us, they are but an ordinary part of our life.

If you are not willing to make the ultimate sacrifice, which is your very life, you are not yet perfected in the training and strengthening of your will. Of course not everyone is at the point where they can offer their lives for God, but it should be a goal of ours to perfect our will so that we one day will have that courage necessary to offer it willingly. God loved you enough to be tortured and Crucified for your sins. You should be willing to endure the same for Him. Your reward will not be on this Earth, but in the joy of eternal happiness in Heaven among the angels and saints. Let us hope that it will not come to that in this country in our lifetimes. On the other hand, don’t think it could not happen both here and now. In every age and in every nation of the Church, men and women of faith have been persecuted for their love of God. Why should our age and our nation be any different? Cardinal George, who is a scholar of history, has said,

“I expect to die in bed, my successor will die in prison and his successor will die a martyr in the public square. His successor will pick up the shards of a ruined society and slowly help rebuild civilization, as the church has done so often in human history.”

8. Be Cheerful and Optimistic

Building on the resolve which results from self-denial, we can find everyday sacrifices to be ordinary, and in time, they can even be a joy to us as we realize the benefits of grace. As we grow in virtue, we can even meet extraordinary sacrifices with peace and acceptance. Our sacrifices should never be evident on our faces. We should be cheerful and optimistic to everyone we encounter, as we bring the joy of Christ to them.

This is perhaps a bit of a superficial effort at first, as it takes time to become accustomed to it. After time, true joy will spring up in us as we feed off the reactions of others to simple things like a smile or a positive response to a difficult task.  We should seek to enjoy our reward in Heaven, and by keeping this in mind: that every good deed will be rewarded, every challenge acknowledged, and every wrong righted in this life or the next; we will be disposed to bring joy to every situation.

If given the grace, even the grim foreboding of a religious persecution can be met with composure and dignity. Using the saints as our guide, we can accept the opportunity to sacrifice for God:

Perpetua and Felicitas were exposed to a mad heifer. Perpetua was tossed first and fell on her back, but raised herself and gathered her torn tunic modestly about her; then, after fastening up her hair, lest she look as if she were in mourning, she rose and went to help Felicitas, who had been badly hurt by the animal. Side by side they stood, expecting another assault, but the sated audience cried out that it was enough. They were therefore led to the gate Sanevivaria, where victims who had not been killed in the arena were dispatched by gladiators. Here Perpetua seemed to arouse herself from an ecstasy and could not believe that she had already been exposed to a mad heifer until she saw the marks of her injuries. She then called out to her brother and to the catechumen: "Stand fast in the faith, and love one another. Do not let our sufferings be a stumbling block to you." By this time the fickle populace was clamoring for the women to come back into the open. This they did willingly, and after giving each other the kiss of peace, they were killed by the gladiators. Perpetua had to guide the sword of the nervous executioner to her throat. – From the book, "Lives of the saints, with excerpts from their writings: selected and illustrated" by Joseph Vann, Thomas Bernard Plassmann

9. Be a Saint

By any realistic measure, these works are difficult and fraught with failure. We are prone to error and sin. Our motivation will at times wane. We have competing desires and responsibilities. We must acknowledge our frailties, imperfections, and mistakes. We must constantly evaluate our lives and reorient ourselves toward the right path.

Frequent confession and the daily exercises of prayer, reception of the Eucharist, examination of conscience, acts of contrition, and sacrifices will help us to stay focused on Jesus and promoting His Church. In short, we must be saints. We are all called to it and we must all respond to that call.

10. Evangelize

If we ever expect our culture to improve, if we hope to prevent the next great persecution, we must evangelize the culture. John Paul II called us all to be agents of the New Evangelization. We must take this call as a serious and personal challenge. We must not be afraid to offend people by our beliefs. Their offense is not a result of the truth we convey, but of the improper disposition they maintain toward that which is right and just. We do not have to chastise at every opportunity, but we must teach, catechize and encourage virtue and truth. On an individual level, once a person understands the truth, we can charitably correct them.

This task is not easy. It is not a simple process of spewing facts of the faith and then rebuking someone. It is an iterative process whereby we are constantly teaching, encouraging, loving, and correcting with joy and truth.

Start Today

Start this process today. Do not wait for a convenient moment. Do not wait for someone to invite you. The stakes are high. You do not know what tomorrow holds for you or your ability to practice the faith. Prayer, fasting, penance, sacrifice, and evangelization are our only hope to change the culture and bring about a nation where our beliefs and freedoms are cherished and protected. No one will do this work for you. Take it upon yourself today to change the culture starting with your own soul.

The Truth will be made known to all one way or another. Throughout history, God has allowed tribulations to bring His people back into the fold. Let us work together now so that our culture does not require such stern correction and reminding of the realities of truth and justice.



Year of Faith Catechism Study: CCC 153-160, 179 - 182 – The Characteristics of Faith

clock October 27, 2012 01:03 by author John |

Today’s Catechism topic is the characteristics of Faith. Supporting information provided by the Angelic Doctor himself – St. Thomas Aquinas.

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 co-operate 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 centre 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

IN BRIEF

179 Faith is a supernatural gift from God. In order to believe, man needs the interior helps of the Holy Spirit.

180 "Believing" is a human act, conscious and free, corresponding to the dignity of the human person.

181 "Believing" is an ecclesial act. the Church's faith precedes, engenders, supports and nourishes our faith. the Church is the mother of all believers. "No one can have God as Father who does not have the Church as Mother" (St. Cyprian, De unit. 6: PL 4, 519).

182 We believe all "that which is contained in the word of God, written or handed down, and which the Church proposes for belief as divinely revealed" (Paul VI, CPG # 20).

Here is Aquinas’ perspective on Faith as a grace from God and the act of human assent (Summa Theologica 2,2,6):

Article 1. Whether faith is infused into man by God?

Objection 1. It would seem that faith is not infused into man by God. For Augustine says (De Trin. xiv) that "science begets faith in us, and nourishes, defends and strengthens it." Now those things which science begets in us seem to be acquired rather than infused. Therefore faith does not seem to be in us by Divine infusion.

Objection 2. Further, that to which man attains by hearing and seeing, seems to be acquired by him. Now man attains to belief, both by seeing miracles, and by hearing the teachings of faith: for it is written (John 4:53): "The father . . . knew that it was at the same hour, that Jesus said to him, Thy son liveth; and himself believed, and his whole house"; and (Romans 10:17) it is said that "faith is through hearing." Therefore man attains to faith by acquiring it.

Objection 3. Further, that which depends on a man's will can be acquired by him. But "faith depends on the believer's will," according to Augustine (De Praedest. Sanct. v). Therefore faith can be acquired by man.

On the contrary, It is written (Ephesians 2:8-9): "By grace you are saved through faith, and that not of yourselves . . . that no man may glory . . . for it is the gift of God."

I answer that, Two things are requisite for faith. First, that the things which are of faith should be proposed to man: this is necessary in order that man believe anything explicitly. The second thing requisite for faith is the assent of the believer to the things which are proposed to him. Accordingly, as regards the first of these, faith must needs be from God. Because those things which are of faith surpass human reason, hence they do not come to man's knowledge, unless God reveal them. To some, indeed, they are revealed by God immediately, as those things which were revealed to the apostles and prophets, while to some they are proposed by God in sending preachers of the faith, according to Romans 10:15: "How shall they preach, unless they be sent?"

As regards the second, viz. man's assent to the things which are of faith, we may observe a twofold cause, one of external inducement, such as seeing a miracle, or being persuaded by someone to embrace the faith: neither of which is a sufficient cause, since of those who see the same miracle, or who hear the same sermon, some believe, and some do not. Hence we must assert another internal cause, which moves man inwardly to assent to matters of faith.

The Pelagians held that this cause was nothing else than man's free-will: and consequently they said that the beginning of faith is from ourselves, inasmuch as, to wit, it is in our power to be ready to assent to things which are of faith, but that the consummation of faith is from God, Who proposes to us the things we have to believe. But this is false, for, since man, by assenting to matters of faith, is raised above his nature, this must needs accrue to him from some supernatural principle moving him inwardly; and this is God. Therefore faith, as regards the assent which is the chief act of faith, is from God moving man inwardly by grace.

Reply to Objection 1. Science begets and nourishes faith, by way of external persuasion afforded by science; but the chief and proper cause of faith is that which moves man inwardly to assent.

Reply to Objection 2. This argument again refers to the cause that proposes outwardly the things that are of faith, or persuades man to believe by words or deeds.

Reply to Objection 3. To believe does indeed depend on the will of the believer: but man's will needs to be prepared by God with grace, in order that he may be raised to things which are above his nature, as stated above (2, 3).

Here is what the Dogmatic Constitution, Dei Filius has to say about faith:

Chap. 3. Faith

Since man is wholly dependent on God as his Creator and Lord, and since created reason is completely subject to uncreated truth, we are bound by faith to give full obedience of intellect and will to God who reveals. But the Catholic Church professes that this faith, which is the beginning of human salvation, is a supernatural virtue by which we, with the aid and inspiration of the grace of God, believe that the things revealed by Him are true, not because the intrinsic truth of the revealed things has been perceived by the natural light of reason, but because of the authority of God Himself who reveals them, who can neither deceive nor be deceived. For, "faith is," as the Apostle testifies, "the substance of things to be hoped for, the evidence of things that appear not" [Heb 11:1].

However, in order that the "obedience" of our faith should be "consonant with reason" [cf. Rom 12:1], God has willed that to the internal aids of the Holy Spirit there should be joined external proofs of His revelation, namely: divine facts, especially miracles and prophecies which, because they clearly show forth the omnipotence and infinite knowledge of God, are most certain signs of a divine revelation, and are suited to the intelligence of all. Wherefore, not only Moses and the prophets, but especially Christ the Lord Himself, produced many genuine miracles and prophecies; and we read concerning the apostles: "But they going forth preached everywhere: the Lord working withal and confirming the word with signs that followed" [Mk 16:20]. And again it is written: "And we have the more firm prophetical word: whereunto you do well to attend, as to a light that shineth in a dark place" [2Pet 1:19].

Moreover, although the assent of faith is by no means a blind movement of the intellect, nevertheless, no one can "assent to the preaching of the Gospel," as he must to attain salvation, "without the illumination and inspiration of the Holy Spirit, who gives to all a sweetness in consenting to and believing in truth" (Council of Orange). Wherefore, "faith" itself in itself, even if it "worketh not by charity" [cf. Gal 5:6], is a gift of God, and its act is a work pertaining to salvation, by which man offers a free obedience to God Himself by agreeing to, and cooperating with His grace, which he could resist.

Further, by divine and Catholic faith, all those things must be believed which are contained in the written word of God and in tradition, and those which are proposed by the Church, either in a solemn pronouncement or in her ordinary and universal teaching power, to be believed as divinely revealed.

But, since "without faith it is impossible to please God" [Heb 11:6] and to attain to the fellowship of His sons, hence, no one is justified without it; nor will anyone attain eternal life except "he shall persevere unto the end on it" [Mt 10:22; 24:13]. Moreover, in order that we may satisfactorily perform the duty of embracing the true faith and of continuously persevering in it, God, through His only-begotten Son, has instituted the Church, and provided it with clear signs of His institution, so that it can be recognized by all as the guardian and teacher of the revealed word.

For, to the Catholic Church alone belong all those many and marvelous things which have been divinely arranged for the evident credibility of the Christian faith. But, even the Church itself by itself, because of its marvelous propagation, its exceptional holiness, and inexhaustible fruitfulness in all good works; because of its catholic unity and invincible stability, is a very great and perpetual motive of credibility, and an incontestable witness of its own divine mission.

By this it happens that the Church as "a standard set up unto the nations" [Is 11:12], both invites to itself those who have not yet believed, and makes its sons more certain that the faith, which they profess, rests on a very firm foundation. Indeed, an efficacious aid to this testimony has come from supernatural virtue. For, the most benign God both excites the erring by His grace and aids them so that they can "come to a knowledge of the truth" [1Tim 2:4], and also confirms in His grace those whom "He has called out of darkness into his marvelous light" [1Pet 2:9], so that they may persevere in this same light, not deserting if He be not deserted. Wherefore, not at all equal is the condition of those, who, through the heavenly gift of faith, have adhered to the Catholic truth, and of those, who, led by human opinions, follow a false religion; for, those who have accepted the faith under the teaching power of the Church can never have a just cause of changing or doubting that faith. Since this is so, "giving thanks to God the Father, who hath made us worthy to be partakers of the lot of the saints in light" [Col 1:12], let us not neglect such salvation, but "looking on Jesus, the author and finisher of faith" [Heb 12:2], "let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering" [Heb 10:23].

Footnotes

24 ⇒ Mt 16:17; cf. ⇒ Gal 1:15; ⇒ Mt 11:25.
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.



Divine Grace and the Entitlement Mentality

clock October 25, 2012 07:46 by author John |
The Holy Spirit By Giaquinto Corrado
The Holy Spirit By Giaquinto Corrado
Grace is the result of the Holy Spirit working in our lives

In present American culture, the term “Entitlement” has a particularly strong connotation with social help programs, which provide support for many people in the lower economic rungs of our society. Many on the right side of the political spectrum associate entitlements with handouts that frequently are undeserved and wasteful. Those on the left equate entitlements with a lifeline, sustaining those who are unable to sustain themselves whether through disability or hard luck.

As humans, we are all part of a universal entitlement society, living hand-to-mouth on the Divine assistance of grace. Grace is the Divine handout, the result of the Holy Spirit working in our lives. In a sense, grace is the spiritual assistance which parallels the entitlements our government provides.

Grace is undeserved. By our nature as fallen humans who have rejected the loving plan of God from the very beginning, we could hardly fault God if He simply went along with our will of spiritual destruction. We made a choice which removed us from the relationship God intended for us. Through His perfect mercy and love for us, God did not allow us to languish and succumb to spiritual death. He intervened in our destiny, sending His Son to save us through His passion and death. He also intervened throughout our history to bring about positive outcomes to dire circumstances. Wars have been won, plagues overcome, and natural disasters averted through His loving involvement in our affairs. He has furthermore inserted good outcomes into each of our lives when surely those results were not deserved. His grace is abundant and freely given despite being utterly unmerited in due to our actions.

Grace is most often wasted by its recipients. Time and time again, Our Lord showers grace upon us and just as often, we derive some benefit from it, but after a while, we turn away from the life of grace and fall into depravity. The abundant gift of grace is forgotten, ignored and rejected more often than it is embraced and utilized. Nevertheless, God comes back to us. He gives us this gift of grace even after we have consistently rejected or squandered it.

Grace sustains us when we are unable to sustain ourselves. Without the gift of grace, we would scarcely be able to function as a society. Without the continual intervention in our lives and events, we would descend into thoroughly selfish and prideful behavior. Every time we receive an infusion of grace, we are called back from sinfulness to reestablish a loving relationship with God. You can see the good that is done when grace is given and eagerly accepted.

Grace can be refused and frequently is. The effects of rejected grace echo throughout the world. Sin is the result of the rejection of grace. Wars, terrorism, abortion, prostitution, pornography, infidelity, promiscuity, secularism, atheism, theft, greed, sloth are all the product of our fallen nature devoid of the life of grace in our soul. Just as a person living in poverty would struggle unnecessarily without public assistance, so too do we when we turn down the help of God.

Grace is necessary for our salvation and in fact for the proper functioning of our society. We can grow in holiness through the undeserved gifting of this Divine assistance. Our fallen nature at times inclines us to turn away from this grace, so it is important for us to consciously look for the infusion of grace, beg and plead God for it, accept it when it is given and build on it in order to perfect our lives and realize the end to which we are all called: Heaven.



How Often Should Catholics Go to Confession?

clock October 24, 2012 09:26 by author John |

Sacrament of PenanceThe Catholic Church requires every Catholic to go to the Sacrament of Reconciliation at least once each year during the Easter Season. This is one of the precepts of the Church, which means it is a bare minimum requirement that each Catholic must fulfill in order to properly consider themselves a Catholic. If we are truly engaged with our faith, we should be more concerned with how often we should go to confession rather than how often we must go to confession.

The frequency of confession is something of an unsettled question since it depends on several factors: 1) the state of the person’s soul, 2) the person’s tendency toward sin, particularly mortal sin, 3) the effects of Grace on the person’s soul, and 4) the availability of the sacrament. We will discuss each of these factors individually.

State of the Soul

This is the most important factor. If someone is conscious of a mortal sin on their soul, they should make every effort to get to confession as soon as possible. Confessions are offered on Saturdays in most parishes, but any good priest will make himself available for confessions by appointment as well. If you can’t make it to confession on Saturday, find another time/location to make use of the sacrament or call the church and schedule a confession. If you do not confess your sins, you place your immortal soul in grave danger. Don’t carry mortal sins around with you. You do not know the day or the hour that you will die, so don’t play Russian roulette with your soul. Confess those sins.

Tendency Toward Sin

Each of us has different proclivities to sin. Each of us has different abilities to resist those temptations. Only you and God know how likely you are to sin. If you are a weak in your resolve to avoid sin, then you should make frequent use of the Sacrament of Reconciliation. We are all weak, some are weaker than others. If you find that you are falling into sin shortly after going to confession, then perhaps weekly confession is the best option for you. Confessing your sins weekly has 2 major advantages: 1) you can confess your sins on Saturday and receive the Eucharist on Sunday each week and 2) you will receive tremendous graces from the sacrament that will help you avoid sin in the course of the week.

Weekly confession could pose a problem for some people if they are susceptible to scrupulosity. Scrupulosity is an overabundance of guilt or finding fault with yourself where it does not exist.  Keeping in mind the need to confess mortal sins as soon as possible after committing them, you may find that confession every 2 weeks or once a month works best for you. Having a hard and fast schedule for penance makes a big difference in your spiritual life. You change the oil on your car before there are serious problems; why not perform the necessary maintenance on your soul before you fall into grave sin?

The Effects of Grace on the Soul

The effect of grace on the soul is not a constant among people or even a constant for each person. Grace is given at the discretion of God in the abundance, time and case He sees fit. Our openness to that grace is something that we can control, however. If you are open to the graces conferred in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, you will benefit greatly from them, and you may find that you do not have to confess your sins as frequently. Maybe you haven’t been to confession in a long time, and after confessing your sins you find that you need to go back to confession after a few days. Over time, the effects of the grace on your soul will build, and you may find that later, you only need to go to confession every 2 weeks or once a month.

Availability of the Sacrament

The availability of the sacrament is another concern for many people. Some areas of the world are not a friendly to Catholicism. The Church is not as well established in many areas. Some places are desolate. On the other hand, some people may have to work during the appointed times for confession at their local parish. This can play a big role in determining the frequency with which you receive the sacrament. If possible, it may be best in these cases to attempt to set up a recurring appointment with a priest to have your confession heard. You may also benefit from spiritual direction if the priest is willing and able to work with you in that way. The salvation of souls is the first priority of priests, so they should be more than willing to work with you in any way possible to make sure that you are in the state of grace.

 

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