Grace

The following is an excerpt from the Marian Press book 52 Weeks with St. Faustina by Donna-Marie Cooper O’Boyle:

“Neither graces, nor revelations, nor raptures, nor gifts granted to a soul make it perfect, but rather the intimate union of the soul with God.”
Diary, 1107

Grace is a little word with a huge definition! We need grace to enter Heaven one day. It is essential that we pray for grace. This week’s spiritual exercise is all about God’s grace. We’ll learn how it helps us and how we can respond to it. Saint Faustina also lets us in on a secret — a pearl of wisdom she learned from experience about the necessity of praying for “actual grace.” Let’s begin!

The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches, “Grace is a participation in the life of God” (1997, emphasis in original). “Grace is what we need beyond what we have by nature to reach our heavenly destiny,” wrote Servant of God Fr. John A. Hardon, SJ. In St. John’s Gospel, we read, “We know that God does not listen to sinners, but he does listen to one who worships him and obeys his will” (Jn 9:31). Therefore, we should be seeking and doing God’s will in order for God to listen to our prayers. Yet God is merciful and can certainly hear the sincere prayer of a sinner. We should also know that in addition to prayer being necessary for obtaining graces from God, we must cooperate with grace in order to enjoy an eternal reward in Heaven. The Catechism teaches: “Jesus teaches us that one enters the kingdom of heaven not by speaking words, but by doing ‘the will of my Father in heaven’ [Mt 7:21]” (2826).

What is grace? “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” (CCC, 1999). Grace is a powerful gift, which is “first and foremost the gift of the Holy Spirit who justifies and sanctifies us” (CCC, 2003). The Holy Spirit gives us special graces that help us to aid others, as well as the Church. Specifically, the Catechism teaches, “Grace also includes the gifts that the Holy 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” (CCC, 2003). There are graces that are specific to the different Sacraments; these are called sacramental graces. There are also graces called charisms. Sometimes their character is extraordinary — “such as the gift of miracles or of tongues” — but all “charisms are oriented toward sanctifying grace and are intended for the common good of the Church ... at the service of charity which builds up the Church [Cf. 1 Cor 12]” (CCC, 2003).

We learn in St. Paul’s Letter to the Romans that our gifts differ from other people’s gifts depending on the graces we have received. Particularly, “We have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us: prophesy, in proportion to faith; ministry in ministering; the teacher, in teaching; the exhorter, in exhortation; the giver, in generosity; the leader, in diligence; the compassionate, in cheerfulness” (Rom 12:6- 8). The Church teaches that we can receive special “graces of state that accompany the exercise of the responsibilities of the Christian life and of the ministries within the Church” (CCC, 2004, emphasis in original).

So, we must pray for graces (Ask for them), be open to receiving them (Accept them), and Act upon them. I’ll call them “The Three As.” Father John Hardon taught that we should pray for the graces that we need in the mind and in the will. He wrote, “In the mind, we are asking for the light we need to recognize the will of God: for supernatural discernment to know what God wants and how He wants us to do it. In the will, we are asking for strength not only to begin but the perseverance necessary to continue doing what God wants of us.”

Grace in Sr. Faustina’s Life
Sister Faustina prayed to be attentive to grace in her spiritual life. She also strove to act on the graces given to her. She wanted, first and foremost, to please God by doing her part to help sanctify her own soul, as well as the souls of others. This indeed required grace. Much was expected of Sr. Faustina, since God entrusted her with the great mission of spreading the message of Divine Mercy. Sister Faustina had no doubt that God was calling her to great holiness. Every soul is called to holiness, but it would seem that God has chosen some particular souls for great holiness. We recall Sr. Faustina had even asked St. Thérèse one time in a dream whether or not she would be raised to the honors of the altar as a saint.

During a meditation one day, God gave Sr. Faustina an inner light and understanding of sanctity. She wrote what she learned: “Neither graces, nor revelations, nor raptures, nor gifts granted to a soul make it perfect, but rather the intimate union of the soul with God. These gifts are merely ornaments of the soul, but constitute neither its essence nor its perfection.” She understood that effort is required. “My sanctity and perfection consist in the close union of my will with the will of God. God never violates our free will. It is up to us whether we want to receive God’s grace or not. It is up to us whether we will cooperate with it or waste it” (Diary, 1107). We can also learn from Sr. Faustina’s inner illumination and do our best to pray to be united with God. We should pray to surrender our will to that of the Lord.

One time, Sr. Faustina suffered terribly because someone had spread rumors about her. Sister Faustina felt upset that the person had abused the goodness of others. Even though pained by it, she resolved to keep quiet and not defend herself. As time went on, she still felt upset. She said, “I became aware, however, that I was not strong enough to bear this calmly.” As the situation worsened, Sr. Faustina went to Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament and poured out her heart. “Lord Jesus, I ask You to give me the strength of Your actual grace, because I feel that I will not manage to survive this struggle. Shield me with Your breast.” Immediately, Jesus spoke to her. “Do not fear; I am with you.” Extraordinary peace entered Sr. Faustina’s heart when she left the altar. “Power filled my soul, and the storm that was raging broke against my soul as against a rock; and the foam of the storm fell on those who had raised it. Oh, how good is the Lord, who will reward each one according to his deed!” She advised, “Let every soul beg for the help of actual grace, as sometimes ordinary grace is not enough” (Diary, 1150). The Catechism refers to actual graces as “God’s interventions, whether at the beginning or in the course of the work of sanctification” (CCC, 2000). Father Hardon defined actual grace as “the transient illuminations of mind and inspirations of will that enable us to obtain, retain, or grow in sanctifying grace.”

Earlier, we discussed God’s love for the humble-hearted. We must be humble enough to pray for and to receive God’s graces. One time, Jesus said to Sr. Faustina that He had wanted to exalt her congregation many times but was unable to do so because of its pride. He said, “Know, My daughter, that I do not grant My graces to proud souls, and I even take away from them the graces I have granted” (Diary, 1170).

Something to Ponder
We discussed the need for grace in our lives and the need for humble, loving prayer, uniting our wills to God’s will. Take time throughout the week to ponder grace in your own life. Do you ask for it? Do you waste it? Do you desire more grace? Remember “The Three As” that I mentioned: Ask, Accept, and Act upon God’s graces. Take some time with Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, if possible, and ask Him for many graces (as well as actual grace) and strength to follow His holy will.

A Merciful Action
Surprise someone this week with an unexpected beautiful deed of mercy. In addition, pray for that person each day this week. All the while, be attentive to the needs of the people that God will put into your life this week. Offer your deeds of mercy with love. Make it happen!

A PRAYER OF MERCY FOR THIS WEEK
(To be prayed each day this week.)
Dear Merciful Jesus, please grant to me the graces I need to follow Your holy will. Mother Mary, please help me.
Saint Faustina, please pray for me. Jesus, I trust in You!
Amen.
 

You can order 52 Weeks with St. Faustina by Donna-Marie Cooper O’Boyle here:

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Photo by Joshua Davis on Unsplash.

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