Course on Grace
Part Two - B
Grace Considered Intensively
by Fr. John A. Hardon, S.J.
Sanctifying Grace and the Indwelling Trinity
In considering sanctifying grace we have been considering created
grace. But there is another grace, greater than sanctifying grace: Gods gift
of Himself to us. In heaven God will give Himself to us in the Beatific Vision,
but even here below He gives Himself to the just in a very real, if mysterious
way, to help them to the Beatific Vision. God, the Triune God comes to dwell
in our souls and there produces a supernatural organism which "deifies"
our souls and enables them to perform deiform acts.
Fact of the Indwelling. The fact that the Blessed Trinity
dwells in the just is beyond question. St. Paul wrote: "Know you not that
you are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?"
(I Corinthians 3, 16). But not only the Holy Spirit, but also the Father and
Son dwell there, for "If anyone love Me he will keep My word; and My Father
will love him, and We will come to him, and will make Our abode with him."
(John 14, 23).
All theologians agree that this Indwelling is common to the three
Persons. And most of them hold that it is specially attributed to the Holy Spirit
only by appropriation. This seems to be also the mind of Pope Leo XIII:
This wonderful union, which is properly called in-dwelling, differing
only in degree or state from that which binds the blessed to God in eternal
happiness, although it is without doubt produced by the presence of the whole
is attributed in a peculiar manner to the Holy Spirit."
Explanation of the Indwelling. That the Indwelling is
a special presence or special mode of presence is beyond question. For God is
present everywhere and in everyone, even in sinners and infidels by His "ordinary
presence of immensity. But the Blessed Trinity dwells only in the just,
not in sinners or infidels. How can God who is already present in every soul,
become "newly," specially present in a soul that receives sanctifying
grace? An explanation that satisfies all theologians has not yet been found.
Pope Pius XII touched on the matter in his encyclical on the
Mystical Body: "The Divine Persons are said to indwell inasmuch as they
are present to beings endowed with intelligence in a way that lies beyond human
comprehension, and in a unique and very intimate manner, which transcends all
created nature, these creatures enter into relationship with Them through knowledge
and love." (n. 79: or: 94). He seems to say that the Indwelling involves
two elements: 1. a unique presence of the Trinity to intelligent beings; 2.
a unique knowledge and love of the Trinity by these intelligent beings.
Theologians have given many answers to this problem, which may be reduced to
three. God is said to become newly present to the just because He produces
in them something utterly new (specifically, essentially now). Or He becomes
newly present to the just as the object of an utterly new knowledge and
love. Or combining these two, God becomes newly present because He produces
something utterly new and thereby becomes the object of an utterly now
knowledge and love.
Present as Agent. How does God first "become present" to
me? By producing me. This is the "old presence" of God, by way of
operation, the presence of immensity. Does Cod become "newly present
when Ho produces new trees? No. Or when He produces something supernatural,
like actual grace? No. These are just different effects of His presence of immensity,
but not "specifically" or "essentially" different. So even
when God produces actual grace in sinners and infidels, He does not dwell in
them, He does not become present to them in a new way that is essentially other
than that of immensity.
But when God makes sanctifying grace, He makes something utterly, "essentially"
new and different, a deiform nature that is so entirely new and different, so
very like the divine nature of the Trinity that God becomes newly present to
the soul -- that the Trinity dwells in the soul. What is more, the words that
Holy Writ uses to describe the production of a just man are: "born
again of God" and "regenerated." Is this a hint that God's production
of sanctifying grace involves a "special causality" (a special efficient-exemplary
causality), a higher than ordinary operation and effect, an operation of "generation"
that is remotely like the uncreated operation of generation within God; such
that as by natural divine generation we have the one natural Son of God, so by this supernatural divine regeneration we have many adopted sons of
Present as Object. Many theologians find the first answer very unsatisfactory.
For they believe that God's production of sanctifying grace does not
and cannot involve any "essentially different" causality or operation,
any essentially different kind of presence, but only a higher presence of immensity.
If one views God merely as Agent, as producing an effect, the only presence
involved will be that of immensity, never that of Indwelling, no matter how
"great" the effect produced may be.
For them, God becomes newly present when He becomes the object of a "new,"
a "very special" knowledge and love on the part of the just, when
He becomes the object of quasi-experimental knowledge and love. For this
new presence of God, it is. not required that the just actually know
and love Him experimentally; it suffices that they be capable of such
experimental knowledge and love by the possession of the gifts of wisdom and
love, as is true in the case of infants.
A number of theologians, such as Cajetan, John of St. Thomas,
Cardeil, Garriou-Lagrange, Ciappi subscribe to this view. They say it was the
doctrine of St. Thomas, at least in his later years (in the Summa Theologica)
if not in his earlier years writings, like the Commentary on the Sentences.
However many proponents of the first view consider this very
unsatisfactory. According to them, intentional presence alone cannot be the
adequate formal reason for the indwelling.
An illustration may help to clarify this "intentional"
presence on which the second view builds. Suppose a child has been born blind
and never met her father, who is away at war, The father can "become present"
to the child in varying ways and degrees. First, the mother tells the child
about her father and describes him to her: he then becomes present to the child
as an object of faith. Secondly, the father eventually comes home and
the child hears his voice, touches him, feels the contours of his face:
he is now present to her as an object of experience, coming into her
mind through her senses. Finally, if her sight were to be restored either
by surgery or by miracle, he would then become present to her as an object
of vision, Similarly, in a sinner God can be present as object of faith
(through infused faith), in a mystic as object of experimental knowledge and
love (through infused wisdom and charity) and in the blessed as object of vision
(through infused light of glory). When a soul is given sanctifying graces it
is given the capacity for "experiencing" God, and God is then present to it in the new way of indwelling, i.e., as object of experimental
knowledge. God was not present to the soul before as object of experimental
knowledge (only as object of natural or faith-knowledge); as object of experimental
knowledge He is newly present (by a presence essentially, specifically different
from that of immensity). And He is waiting, so to speak, for the time when the
soul will actually use its powers of experimental knowledge and love
and actually ''experience God. He is newly present to the baptized
baby and waiting to be experienced; in the mystic He is being experienced (not
seen); in the blessed He is being seen face to face, in the most intimate presence
Present as Agent and Object. Some theologians think
that neither of the preceding views, taken separately, adequately explains the
Indwelling or adequately presents the mind of St. Thomas. So they combine both,
somewhat in the way we have hinted, or by resorting to the theory of "created
actuation by Uncreated Act." Gods new presence as object must
presuppose, they say, His new presence as agent. His production of sanctifying
grace makes Him newly present ontologically; the mystic's experimental knowledge
and love of God makes Him newly present intentionally. And both the ontological
and the intentional elements are necessary for an adequate explanation of the
Which of these three "explanations" is the best? It is hard to say.
Each has its attractive features -- and its unresolved difficulties. To us the
third view seems the best, but in this matter we are still free to follow any
one of the views mentioned (or variants of these views).
Response to the Indwelling. If out of a very special love for us the
Blessed Trinity dwells within us, there should be some - regular - response
to the God dwelling within. A response of adoration, love, thanks. Yet few of
Catholics seem even to think about the Indwelling Trinity, much less do anything
St. Paul told the Corinthians, "Know you not that you are temples of the
Holy Spirit?" He implied there should be some use made, some care taken
of such a temple. It is a temple made by God for a purpose: a place for a man
to meet his God, to go to His God -- to beg His light and strength -- to adore
and love and thank Him, as the Indwelling Trinity.
Inhabitational and Eucharistic Presence. A clear-cut distinction between
the Inhabitional Presence of the Blessed Trinity and the Eucharistic Presence
of Our Lord is important to avoid a confusion that sometimes occurs. In the
Indwelling the three divine Persons are present in the soul, but the Second
Person is present only in His divinity, not with His nature. In the Eucharistic
Presence it is Jesus Who is present, with His humanity and divinity hypostatically
united in the Person of the Word. Since the Blessed Trinity dwells within our
soul and our soul informs our entire living body, the Trinity penetrates our
whole being and each part. The Eucharistic Presence is localized, however, by
the accidents of the bread and wine, so that Christ is present sacramentally
wherever these accidents are and as long as they exist uncorrupted: The Inhabitational
Presence is as permanent as sanctifying grace, but the Eucharistic Presence
of Christ disappears with the accidents of the bread and wine. There is a close
relation between the two Presences. For the Inhabitational Presence cannot be
obtained without at least an (implicit) desire to receive the Body of Christ,
and grace is not given except by the mediation of Christ. On the other hand
the Eucharistic Christ by bestowing grace helps us achieve greater deiformity
and greater union with the Indwelling Trinity.
The Eucharist contains truly, really and substantially the Body and Blood of
Jesus Christ, with His Soul and Divinity. Since His Divinity is identically
the same as that of the Father and the Holy Spirit, wherever He is the other
two Persons must also be. In fact, each of the Divine Persons "inexists"
in the others. This mutual inexistence of the Divine Persons is cell "Circumincession"
or "Perichoresis." In virtue of this circumincession the Son does
not "come" alone into the soul in Communion, He comes with the Father
and the Holy Spirit. No doubt, the Three Divine Persons are already in us by
grace, but at the moment of Communion They are present within us because of
another, a special title: as we are then physically united to the Incarnate
Word, the Three Divine Persons also are, through Him and by Him, united to us,
and They love us now as They love the Word-Made-Flesh, Whose members we are.
So that Holy Communion is an anticipation of heaven.
Sanctifying Grace and the Mystical Body
The Roman Catholic Church that Christ founded, the Church Militant on earth,
is the Mystical Body of Christ. In the words of Pius XIII, "Only those
are to be included as actually members of the Church who have been baptized
and profess the true faith, and who have not been so unfortunate as to separate
themselves from the unity of the Body, or been excluded by legitimate authority
for grave faults committed. Not every sin, however it may be, is such as of
its own nature to sever a man from the Body of the Church, as does schism
or heresy or apostasy."
To become an actual member one must be baptized and thereby receive
(ordinarily) sanctifying grace, the principle of deiform life. An actual member
in sanctifying grace will thus be a living member. But there can be in the
Mystical Body "dead" members: Catholics who by mortal sin lose sanctifying
grace and the Indwelling Spirit. They still retain ordinarily the virtues of
faith and hope; the baptismal character still marks them as persons configured
to Christ and dedicated to His service. And this remnant of divine life and
of union, though it leaves sinners weak members of Christ, enables them to remain
in the Mystical Body. Schism, heresy, apostasy, excommunication, however,
sever a man from the Body of the Church.
Mystic Union. What kind of union is there between us and Christ?
How are we "one with Christ and with one another? How can you make one thing" out of many members in many places and
with their Head in heaven? This unity cannot just be due to sanctifying
grace, for each living member has his own numerical sanctifying grace; not just
to the baptismal character, for once again each has his own character. However,
there is one vital principle, numerically the same in each living
member of the Body: the Holy Spirit, Christ's own Spirit of holiness dwelling
in Him and in sanctified souls. There is identically the same Holy Spirit
in Christ, in you and in every living member of the Mystical Body. Since the Holy Spirit links Christ and ourselves, our mystic union is sacred
We together with Christ our Head make up the Mystical Christ. He, Son of God by nature, we sons of God by adoption: we and He are the family
of God's children on earth, with a common bond of "sonship." As in
each member of the Mystical Body the Father sees His child and another Christ,
so in the living group He beholds His mystical Son, Jesus, enlivened by the
Spirit of Christ and showing the likeness of Christ before all men. Within the
Blessed Trinity the Holy Spirit "links" the Father and Son
in one Godhead; within the Mystical Body the Holy Spirit vitally binds all the
members into one divine sonship, mystical Christ. The union within this Mystical
Body is spiritual, not material, supernatural, not natural, and properly "mystical,
i.e. mysterious and transcending any natural union we know.
Pope Pius XII strongly insists that the Mystical Body is the Roman Catholic
Church. Those who are invincibly ignorant of the Church but have sanctifying
grace (e.g. through baptism of desire), are not actually members but "by
an unconscious desire and longing they have a certain relationship with
the Mystical Body of the Redeemer." This implicit desire (vetum)
can bring them within the sphere of the Church's influence sufficiently to allow
for the possibility of their salvation,
Some theologians, in explaining the Catholic Church's necessity
for eternal salvation, employ the distinction between the "body" and
the "soul" of the Church and state that it is necessary with
the necessity of means to belong to the "soul," while it is necessary
only with the necessity of precept to belong to the "body" of this
society. But there is a definite tendency among modern writers to recognize
the radical inadequacy of this terminology. Furthermore the Holy Father in his
Encyclical Mystici Corporis did not employ it. This terminology has the
disadvantage of leading to the inference that the internal bond of union within
the Church could be regarded as requisite for salvation without any adequate
reference to the outward bond or to the visible Church itself. What is by far
the most acceptable presentation
is the one which describes the Church
(not merely the "soul" or the "body" of the Church) as necessary
for salvation with the necessity of means in such a way that no one can
be saved unless he either belongs to the Church in re (as a member) or
is related to her in voto, as one who intends to become a member, whether
explicitly or implicitly.
Figures of the Mystical Body. Many figures have been used to express
the "mystical" union between Christ and His members. The two that
stand out most are St. Paul's metaphor of the "Body of Christ," and
St. John's of the Vine and the Branches. Another, that vividly expresses
certain aspects of the Mystical Christ, is that of a candle: "put
upon a candlestick that it may shine to all." (Matthew 5, 15). The Mystical
Christ is the great Candle, and each member a small one, with the obligation
to shine forth Christ, the Light of the World, everywhere he goes, by using
the grace and virtues and gifts of Christ to live a Christ-like life, so that
Christ can thus co on living and shining out in the world.
Another powerful figure is that of an army, since the
Church Militant is the Mystical Body on earth. The Mystical Body is an army
on the march, battling for the salvation and sanctification of souls, against
the "world, the flesh and the devil." An array led by Christ, its
invisible Commander-in-Chief, by the Pope and Bishops and Priests! An army of
missionaries, nuns, lay apostles, preachers, teachers, theologians, contemplatives,
men, women and children: all soldiers of Christ, each fighting in his own way
to spread the Kingdom of Christ. An army with a miraculous unity! Unity of aim:
that all may be one! One Body! all members of the same Head! Unity of
soul: all living members "vitalized" by the same Holy Spirit! Unity
of life : all living the same deiform life! Unity of character: all marked with
the sign of Christ! Unity in faith and obedience, unity in sacraments
and the Mass, unity in doctrine, prayer and mortification.
Double Life of the Mystical Body. The life of the Mystical Body is a
double life. Each Catholic is called to an individual grace-life, to a growth
in interior deiformity through better and better use of his sanctifying grace,
infused virtues, gifts of the Holy Spirit. But he is also called to a group-life,
for whose growth he must also answer to God. A group-life that the world can
see: attendance at Sunday Mass, in Friday abstinence, in Lent and Advent
mortification, in Ash Wednesday ceremonies, in Eucharistic Congresses; group
manifestation that makes a powerful impression by radiating the Light
and Life of Christ to a skeptical world. A group-life that means a growing union
between members, through Christ-like love and action toward one another. A group-life of prayer: that the number of members may grow, that their perfection and
union with one another may increase, that they may draw others into the Mystical
Body by living out Christ's virtues, by gaining for them more graces
through prayers, works, suffering, Masses and Holy Communions, "that all
may be one, even as thou, Father, in me and I in thee; that they also may be
one in us." (John 17, 21).
Sufficient and Efficacious Grace.
It is a dogma of the Catholic faith that there exists a truly sufficient but
inefficacious grace, and also that there exists a truly efficacious grace which,
however, is not necessitating.
A truly sufficient grace is sufficient for placing a salutary act. It carries
with it the power of producing such an act. Jansenius denied "merely sufficient
grace." He could not see how a grace could be truly sufficient and yet
not be efficacious. He conceded that a grace could be absolutely sufficient
for man, if it were viewed apart from his present circumstances and difficulties;
but if it were viewed relative to these circumstances and remained "sterile,"
then it was not sufficient in his present condition. Against him we hold that
there exists a grace that is truly and relatively sufficient, and yet inefficacious.
By a truly efficacious grace is meant one that will be (is) infallibly followed
by the act to which it tends, e.g. contrition. If you receive such a grace,
even before your will consents to it, that grace is infallibly sure of success;
it will infallibly procure your consent, produce that act of contrition. But
although it infallibly procures your consent, it does not necessitate you to
consent: it leaves you free to dissent. Your will will infallibly say
"yes" to it, but it is free to say "no. Luther, Calvin, and
Jansenius denied the existence of such a non-necessitating efficacious grace:
an efficacious grace, they maintained, necessitates you to consent: you cannot
resist it or dissent from it.
The disagreement between the Dominicans and the Jesuits is, of course, not
over Catholic dogma: both sides firmly maintain the existence of a truly sufficient
inefficacious grace and of a non-necessitating efficacious grace. They differ
over the best way to explain these two graces; how are we to reconcile the infallible
efficacy of efficacious grace with 1. human liberty and 2. truly sufficient
but inefficacious grace? The Jesuits point out to the Dominicans that their
grace is so efficacious it seems logically incompatible with human freedom
and with a truly sufficient but inefficacious grace; the Dominicans in turn
point out to the Jesuits that their human freedom is so extreme it seems to
make man determine Gods operation.
Banezian Efficacious Grace. The theory of efficacious grace held by
the Dominicans was developed by the Spanish Dominican, Banes, not by St. Thomas
(we maintain). This efficacious grace of Banes is a physical predetermining
grace, one that physically (not morally, not suasively) premoves and predetermines
our will to e.g. consent. Without such a grace we cannot not"
place a salutary act -- and indeed that one act to which it predetermines us.
Such a grace is efficacious "ab intrinseco" (from its very
intrinsic nature); there is something in the grace that will get this effect;
and when grace has that something in it, then the will infallibly consents;
but when a grace lacks it, then the will cannot give a salutary consent.
Many theologians hold (according to St. Thomas) that the will cannot go from
potency to act except in virtue of a divine premotion. For the Dominicans, however
this cannot be an "indifferent" premotion but must be a strictly predetermining
physical promotion, a praedeterminatio ad unum. And precisely in this
physical predetermination of the will lies the great difficulty of the Dominican
theory, for to very many theologians (and not just Jesuits) it seems extremely
difficult if not impossible to reconcile such a predetermination with any real
A non-necessitating physical predetermination of my will seems like a contradiction
in terms. How else would one ordinarily describe a physical necessitation of
the will than by saying that it is a physical predetermination of that will
to one alternative? Attempts to show that St. Thomas "fathered" this
theory -- made by Garrigou-Lagrange and others before him -- have been futile
(we think!). Its true "father" seems rather to be Scotus. Early Scotists
held "predetermining decrees," and early Thomists opposed them with
the same objections that Jesuits later urged against Banezians. And the early
Scotists gave practically the same answers as their early Dominican opponents.
After a while the Scotists abandoned their "predetermining decrees"
and espoused instead "condetermining decrees," so that they might
be better able to maintain a proper human freedom. And then, by one of those
strange "twists" of history, the Dominicans "went all out"
for predetermining decrees, using them even to explain Gods knowledge of futuribles.
Theologically, such physically predetermining efficacious graces seem unsatisfactory,
for several reasons. Human freedom, under grace is a dogma. According
to the Councils of Trent and Vatican, human freedom means that man has the power
to resist grace, to answer it with dissent rather than consent. How a grace
that physically predetermines my will to consent, leaves me any real power to
dissent, is more than Jesuits can see. Freedom to most everyone means a duality
of choice, a power to do or not to do, to do this or that, to dissent or consent:
otherwise what free choice have I, what freedom is left me? If I can only do
what God is physically predetermining me to do, what real freedom have I? What
power to dissent? Not to do this? What real power to determine myself to this
or that, if I am always utterly physically predetermined to this?
There are, it seems, only three "freedoms" that might count here:
freedom of reception, freedom of exercise, and freedom of specification (what
is called objective indifference or freedom will manifest itself in one of these
ways). The physically predetermining grace seems to leave us none of these.
Certainly no one claims for it freedom of reception, i.e. that we are free to
receive it or not. For no will can "reject" such a premotion from
God Who is producing it in the will so that the will can act.
Hence this freedom is ruled out. However, Ballarmine inclined to give our will
this "freedom of reception" -- by way of a peculiar negative determination"
of itself to this premotion; and more recently Maritain seems to have a similar
The freedom of exercise -- to act or not to act -- seems likewise ruled out
in the Banezian system. For without such a predetermining grace they say the
will is not able to act salutarily; with it, it is not able not to act salutarily,
for this is the "grace of action." Also ruled out is the freedom of
specification -- to choose this or that, either of two alternatives -- for this
intrinsically efficacious grace physically predetermines you to this
and only this (e.g. to consent) and gives you no possibility, no power for that
(e.g. to dissent). You have no free choice of this or that: all you can do is
this. It is futile to say that the will was free before the grace
came -- free to do what, we ask? Without such grace it is not free
to place any salutary act, for it has not the power to place any.
This theory of physical predetermination" also seems to make God the
author of sin. For if no "free act" can be placed without a corresponding
physical predetermination, then a sinful act requires such a predetermination
also, What, then, of Judas? He would have been predetermined by God to that
sin, so that without that predetermination he could not have done that
sin, with it he could not but do that sin. This seems hard doctrine! To escape
this difficulty somewhat it has been suggested that perhaps Judas had a "predisposition"
to that sin, an evil tendency to it, to which God merely gave the corresponding
physical predetermination'. Is this much of a solution? Suppose we
apply it to another sin: that of Adam. Certainly in Adam there was no such "predisposition"
to sin, no evil tendency to it. Why, then, did God give him the physical predetermination
which infallibly meant "that sin?
Not only is it extremely difficult to reconcile Banezian efficacious grace
with proper human freedom; it is also hard to square it with a truly sufficient
but inefficacious grace. It is true, of course, that all defendants of
this system sincerely maintain the existence of such a merely sufficient
grace. But they must make it a rather "peculiar" grace, so that
it will not derogate from the primacy and necessity of their efficacious
grace. For if they gave it "too much power," i.e. all the power
needed for the actual placing of a salutary act, then it could conceivably
"become efficacious" and produce a salutary act and then no
strictly efficacious grace would be needed for every salutary action,
as the system demands. Hence their "sufficient" grace cannot
be (and is not for them) immediately sufficient for any salutary
act, but only mediately sufficient. For of itself it gives a peculiar
"power to act" which by itself cannot produce any salutary act,
but which "must be complemented" by another grace, i.e. efficacious
The rub in this part of the system is how to get from grace "A"
which is only mediately sufficient, to grace "B", which is immediately
sufficient and efficacious at the same time? Some "bridge" seems needed.
The transition cannot be automatic, or else the grant of a merely sufficient
grace would always mean the grant of an efficacious grace, and all those who
received sufficient grace would never commit any sins, something which is definitely
not the case. To say that the "bridge" to the efficacious grace is
non-resistance" to the sufficient grace, is inadequate for at least two
reasons: 1. the simple fact that "one cannot but resist sufficient grace,
if he is not further aided by efficacious grace (De Lemos, O.P., Panopl.
grat. t.4, IV p.2tr.3)." Where only resistance to sufficient grace
is possible, non-resistance cannot be a bridge to efficacious grace. 2. If God
be said to deny efficacious grace to one whom He foresees resisting sufficient
grace, this answer really makes no sense in the Banezian system, for in it God
has no "scientia media," and hence cannot know what a free
creature would do, unless He first predetermines him to do it.
Jesuit Explanation. The common Jesuit explanation takes
as its starting point three solid dogmas; the existence of a non-necessitating
efficacious grace, of a truly sufficient but inefficacious grace and of human
freedom (under grace). And it says quickly: let us so explain merely sufficient
grace that it remains truly sufficient, and so explain efficacious grace
that it remains truly non-necessitating.
This means that a truly sufficient grace rust be just that: truly
sufficient for placing the salutary act for which it is given. It is given not
for an ornament but for a salutary act. And it must be truly sufficient by
itself for the act for which it is proximately given, for that is what Holy
Writ and the Fathers and the "sensus fidelium" understand by
a truly sufficient grace. God gives us an actual grace that we may place a definite
salutary act; if it is a truly sufficient grace (and what other kind would He
give?), then it gives me the full power here and now to place that act which
He wants and which without this grace I could not place. So everything must
be in this grace that is needed for it to be immediately sufficient for this
salutary act. If I freely consent to it, to use it, then this salutary act
is produced by my grace-aided will. If I dissent to it, resist it, the salutary
act toward which it was urging me does not take place. The truly sufficient
grace is thus inefficacious (and so God foresaw it would be from all
eternity by Scientia Media). But it was by itself truly sufficient, and
it is my fault that the act did not take place: I did not want to place
the act, which I should have and could have placed then and there.
An efficacious grace, to be non-necessitating must leave me my freedom to resist
it, to dissent from it. It must give me the full power to place a salutary act,
e.g. of contrition, and at the sane time leave me free not to place that act
of contrition or to place another act. For that is what the Ecumenical Councils
say such a grace must do: it must not necessitate me, it must leave me free
to dissent, to resist it. But if it is to leave me free to dissent, to resist
it, then it cannot predetermine me to consent, either physically (as the Banezians
hold), or morally (as the Augustinians hold). It simply cannot be a predetermining
grace, for such a grace seems utterly incompatible with any real freedom. It
cannot be an intrinsically efficacious grace, one that by its very intrinsic
nature says infallibly that this precise effect will take place now. It must
be a grace that is extrinsically efficacious, so that its infallibility does
not derive from the intrinsic nature of the grace but from Gods infallible
prevision from eternity of my free consent to this grace. If this grace cannot
be a physical predetermination of my will, what is it? For many Jesuits (not
all) it is a physical premotion, not a predetermining one but an "indifferent"
or rather an "impedible" one, to which God foresaw from all eternity
-- by scientia media -- that I would consent, and moved by it would place
the salutary act for which it would be given, e.g. contrition. It is a grace
which premoves me (impedibly, not predeterminingly) to this salutary act in
such a way that I freely consent to it, although I am fully and proximately
able to dissent to it.
Jesuits are charged with making the human will so free that it predetermines
God. They reply simply that in their theory neither does man predetermine God
nor God predetermine man. But God freely premoves man to a certain act, and
under this divine premotion man freely moves and determines himself to that
act. Man thus neither predetermines God nor is independent of God, but simply
acts in the way in which God arranged that a free creature should act freely.
The "crux" of the Jesuit explanation is said to be scientia media,
God's infallible, non-predetermining knowledge of futuribles (the free acts
that rational creatures would place in various circumstances). By scientia
media, e.g. God foresaw from eternity that I would freely consent to this
grace, without being physically predetermined by Him to do so, and hence it
would be an efficacious grace for me. Dominicans consider this scientia media
"impossible," "contradictory," something that simply does
not explain "how" God knows futuribles. To which Jesuits often reply
that it is not intended to explain "how" God knows futuribles (that
is a mystery), but "how He does not know them" i.e. by means
of Dominican predetermining decrees (for if He did know them that way they would
not be free acts). And so the controversy continues, as it has for a long,
What has the Church said about the matter? Pope Benedict XIV
declared in 1748 that the Dominican, Augustinian and Jesuit theories were all
tenable and that declaration remains still in force. Today the Augustinian view
seems to lack defenders. But the other two theories are strongly defended, along
parallel lines that will probably not meet here below.
External Graces in the Spiritual Life
Spiritual writers often describe the activity of God as embracing all time
and all things, operating without ceasing and with divine surety for the sanctification
of human souls. They see all creation as unified in this divine operation and
consequently regard every creature, in its way, as a predestined means to lead
men to their supernatural end; in other words, as a grace of God. "The
order established by God, the good pleasure of God, the will of God, the action
of God grace -- all of these are the same thing in this life. It is God laboring
to make the soul like to Himself. And perfection is nothing else than the soul's
faithful cooperation with this labor of God." Moreover, what may not seem
immediately evident, since the power of God is infinite, it is not only the
good things but also the evil which He can use to accomplish His eternal designs
upon men; so that "everything succeeds in the hands of God, He turns everything
Although writers on the subject seldom distinguish between internal and external
graces, but consider everything in some sense as a grace of God, yet it is not
difficult to trace such a distinction in their writings. Following the common
terminology, graces are called external when they are outside of man's intellect
and will and internal when they are immediately and specially received from
God within the intellect and will. In answer to the question, What is an external
grace? we are told, "Every creature which is not an internal grace of
God." "The divine order gives to all things, in favor of the
soul which conforms to it, a supernatural and God-given value. Whatever this
order imposes, whatever it comprehends, and all objects to which it extends,
become sanctity and perfection; for its virtue knows no limits, but divinizes
all things which it touches." As extensive as it is, this concept of external
grace is in full accord with Catholic theology. St. Augustine, for example,
does not hesitate to call external graces all the effects of supernatural providence
which help the human will to perform acts of virtue and those which under divine
guidance, prevent men from committing sin.
DIFFERENT KINDS OF EXTERNAL GRACE
An exhaustive classification of the various types of external grace would run
into a score of items. But these can easily be reduced to several large divisions.
Everything Which Is Good. As a general principle, the love of God
transforms into grace everything which is, good, nor does it limit this transformation
only to such things as appear good to us. For divine love is present in all
creatures, with the sole exception of those which are sinful and contrary to
the law of God.
and Adversities. God uses them to convert and sanctify our souls, No matter
how painful, sickness and physical suffering are in reality a grace of God,
always intended as such for the one suffering and sometimes used by Him for
the conversion and sanctification of others. Writing on one occasion to a friend
whose fields were destroyed in a storm, Caussade expressed his sympathy that
"hail and the rains have done great damage in many provinces, including
your own. But God intends this as a grace, that we may derive profit from all
the plagues of heaven for the expiation of our sins."
Spiritual and Psychological Trials. It is generally easier to accept
sickness and temporal adversity as coming from God than to recognize His gift
in the negative conditions of our mind and emotions: aridity in prayer, coldness
in spiritual things, anxieties, discouragements, and fears. We do not subscribe
to the theory that these states of mind and feeling are a certain sign of negligence
on the part of the soul. Without denying this possibility, we prefer, with St.
John of the Cross, to consider them as species of divine grace. "Just as
God converts, reproves, and sanctifies people living in the world through afflictions
and temporal adversities, so He ordinarily converts, reproves and sanctifies
persons living in religion by means of spiritual adversities and interior crosses,
a thousand times more painful, such as dryness, fatigue and distaste" for
the things of God.
The Actions of Others. God
uses the actions of other people as graces for our sanctification. Their ordinary
words, conduct, and gestures are intended as means of producing supernatural
effects in our souls. This is particularly hard to see where the actions are
offensive and the offender is personally not wicked, and may even be highly
virtuous. Hence the exclamation. "Blessed be the God of all things for
sanctifying His elect through one another
He often uses a diamond to polish
another diamond. How important is this thought for our consolation, that we
may never be scandalized at the petty persecutions which good men sometimes
occasion against each other," In this connection, St. John of the Cross
used to say that a religious is refined and sanctified in word, thought, and
action by the character and manner of conduct of his fellow religious.
It is of special importance to see
God operating in the persecution or perhaps criminal actions of others, He permits
these things in order to draw good out of them. Thus St. Paul's inspired panegyric
on the great believers of the Old Law -- Noe, Abraham, Moses, Isaac, Jacob,
and Joseph -- is an application of this principle, that God tries His chosen
servants by sending them trial and opposition; and their sanctification is determined
by the measure of faith which recognizes in these human obstacles the workings
of divine grace. This was the spirit in which David accepted the cursing of
Semei, as just punishment ordained by God for his spiritual welfare. With St.
Augustine, therefore, we should "marvel at the way God uses even the malice
of those who are wicked in order to help and elevate those who are good.
Temptations. If considered as coming from the devil, temptations are
directed only to the destruction of souls; but from the viewpoint of Gods permissive
will, which never allows us to be tried beyond our strength, they are true graces.
And "violent temptations" are especially "great graces for the
soul." By the same token, the revolt of the passions, which is often a
cause of anxiety to spiritual persons, should not be regarded as evidence of
aversion from God, but, "on the contrary, as a greater grace than you can
conceive. Troubles of conscience may be estimated in the same manner.
Sins at least might seem to be excluded from the category of external
graces. Evidently God does not want anyone to commit sin. And yet, "we
must remember that, without willing sin, God uses it as an effective instrument
to keep us in humility and self-depreciation." This thought is very much
like that of St. Augustine who, when speaking of Peter's denial of his Master,
explained that God permitted this humiliation to teach him not to trust in himself
--thus turning a grievous fault into spiritual acquisition.
SANCTIFYING EFFECT OF EXTERNAL GRACES
The sanctifying effect of external graces was already familiar to Sts. Augustine
and Thomas Aquinas, who recognized that God exercises a special supernatural
providence over souls who are living in His friendship. The contribution of
modern spiritual writers is the tie-up which they make between external graces
and the sacramental system; while only analogous, there is real similarity between
the two. In both cases, the external element is an instrument for the communication
External graces are sanctifying in countless ways. But in general
we may concentrate on the three most familiar in the spiritual life; namely,
by purification, illumination, and union with God. This is not to say that only
these effects take place, or that they occur in any particular sequence; and
least of all does it mean that we may ignore the correlative necessity of internal
grace to purify, enlighten, and unite the soul with God,
I. Purification. A great deal of spiritual literature is mainly
concerned with the purifying effect of external grace, achieved
through detachment from creatures and stripping of self. Repeatedly the axiom
is stated that a person cannot be united with God, source of all purity, except
through detachment from everything created, source of impurity and continual
corruption. To this end it is necessary that our souls be emptied of creatures,
before God can fill them with His own Spirit.
By means of external graces, and especially suffering, God accomplishes in
us this detachment from creatures and self. There is a difference, however,
in His way of acting with different persons. Those already advanced in the spiritual
life, He is accustomed to (?) of all gifts and sensible fervor, whereas the
effect of His mercy is to deprive worldly persons of temporal goods in order
to detach their heart from them.
Time and again, writers stress the same truth: God purifies the soul by suffering
and trial. But they go beyond the ordinary interpretation of the statement in
Scripture that the just man is tried by afflictions as gold is tried by fire.
Crosses and tribulations, they say, are such great graces that generally
sinners are not converted except through them, and good persons are not made
perfect except by the same means.
Following the analogy used by the saints, God is compared to a doctor who administers
bitter medicine to restore health to the soul and removes with the scalpel of
suffering whatever stands in the way of our spiritual progress. According to
St. Augustine, "in those whom He loves, God, like a wise physician, cuts
away the tumor of overweening self-confidence. To be specially noted is that
this law of purification is universal; it applies as well to worldly minded
as to saintly souls; it affects temporal goods as well as spiritual attachments;
and it is proportionally more intense and complete as the degree of union with
Himself to which God intends to raise a soul is greater. Thus St. John of the
Cross: "according to the proportion of its purity will also be the degree
of enlightenment, illumination and union of the soul with God, either more or
less;" and the requisite purity is obtained in the crucible of purification.
We may therefore, conclude that "the more God retrenches nature, the more
He bestows the supernatural."
II. Illumination. External graces also enlighten the soul to recognize
the will of God in its regard. We may look upon this, manifestation of the divine
will as the "spiritual direction of God," One of the surest means
of sanctification is simply to use whatever God, the supreme Director of souls,
places before us moment by moment, either to do or to suffer. Souls who thus
abandon themselves to the will of God find evidence everywhere of what He wants
them to do. They are directed "by the intermittent actions of a thousand
creatures, which serve, without study, as so many graces of instruction."
Consequently, God is seen as leading us as much by the external events of our
life as by the internal inspirations of His grace. He speaks" to us as
He spoke to our Fathers, to Abraham and to the chosen people, showing us His
will in all the circumstances which befall us.
Addressing ourselves to God, we can say, "You speak, Lord, to the generality
of men by great public events. Every revolution is as a wave from the sea of
Your providence, raising storms and tempests in the minds of those who question
Your mysterious action. You speak also to each individual soul by the circumstances
occurring at every moment of life. Instead, however, of hearing Your voice in
these events, and receiving with awe what is obscure and mysterious in these
Your words, men see in them only the outward aspect, or chance, or the caprice
of others, and censure everything. They would like to add, or diminish, or reform,
and to allow themselves absolute liberty to commit any excess, the least of
which would be a criminal and unheard-of outrage.
"They respect the Holy Scriptures, however, and will not permit the addition
of a single comma. It is the word of God,' they say, 'and is altogether holy
and true. If we cannot understand it, it is all the more wonderful and we must
give glory to God, and render justice to the depths of His wisdom.' All this
is perfectly true, but when you read God's word from moment to moment, not written
with ink on paper, but on your soul with suffering, and the daily actions that
you have to perform, does it not merit some attention on your part? How is it
that you cannot see the will of God in all this?"
Every circumstance, therefore, of our daily life is an expression of the divine
will for us at that moment. And, correspondingly, every external grace is meant
for our "guidance and illumination."
Commenting on this doctrine, Garrigou-Lagrange points out another function
which external grace may serve as a means of our instruction. In this way,
he says, "within us is formed that experimental knowledge of God's
dealings with us, a knowledge without which we can hardly direct our course
aright in spiritual things or do any lasting good to others. In the spiritual
order more than anywhere else real knowledge can be acquired only by suffering
and action." For example, we foresee that a very dear friend who is sick
has not long to live, yet when death does come and if our eyes are open to see,
it will provide a new lesson in which God will speak to us as tine goes on.
This is the school of the Holy Ghost, in which His lessons have nothing academic
about them, but are drawn from concrete things. And He varies them for each
soul, since what is useful for one is not always so for another."
An important element in this experimental knowledge is the experience it gives
us of our weakness and imperfection in the face of trial and temptation. These
occasions -- external graces of tribulation --- show us how impotent we are
to do any good without the help of God, and teach us to turn to Him instead
of depending on ourselves. We must be thoroughly convinced that our misery is
the cause of all the weaknesses we experience, and that God
permits them by His mercy. Without this realization we shall never be cured
of secret presumption and self-complacent pride. We shall never understand,
as we should, that all the evil in us comes from ourselves, and all the good
from God. But a thousand experiences are needed before we shall acquire this
two fold knowledge as an abiding habit; experiences which are more necessary
the greater and more deeply rooted in the soul is this vice of self-complacency."
III. Union with God. The most important effect of external graces is
the union with God which they develop in the soul, to which purity and illumination
are only contributing means. We may properly regret that more people do not
appreciate this power that creatures have to unite us with the Creator. "What
great truths are hidden even from Christians who imagine themselves most enlightened.
How many are there among us who understand that every cross, every action, every
attraction according to the designs of God, gives God to us in a way that nothing
can better explain than a comparison with the most august mystery? Nevertheless
there is nothing more certain. Does not reason as well as faith reveal to us
the real presence of divine love in all creatures, and in all the events of
life, as indubitably as the words of Jesus Christ and of the Church reveal the
real presence of the sacred flesh of our Savior under the Eucharistic species?
Do we not know that by all creatures and by every event, the divine love desires
to unite us to Himself, that He has ordained, arranged, or permitted everything
about us, everything that happens to us with a view to this union? This is the
ultimate object of all His designs, to attain which He makes use of the worst
of His creatures as well as the best, of the most distressing events as well
as those which are pleasant and agreeable."
It nay be added by way of explanation that union with God may be understood
in two ways, as active and as passive. In active union, the soul gives itself
to God by conformity to His will; in passive union, however, besides the active
conformity of will, God Himself acts in the soul by the gifts of His interior
grace. Obviously, external graces cannot of themselves produce the latter kind
of union; they only dispose the soul to receive it. Yet, in the ordinary providence
of God, they are the conditio-sine-qua-non for passive union with God.
This doctrine which regards external graces as disposing the soul for passive
union is familiar from the writings of St. John of the Cross. God uses external
events, persons, places, and circumstances to perfect a human soul in His love.
This may take place in a variety of ways.
- External graces give us occasion to resist temptation and acquire
the contrary virtues. In general, temptations are said to be the
effect or permissive result of "one and the same mortifying and life-giving operation of God. On the one hand, He allows
the various movements of passion to give you an opportunity for combat and development
in the opposite virtues. On the other hand, He establishes in you, in the midst
of these agitations, the solid foundation of perfection, namely, understanding,
profound humility, and hatred of self." Thus conceived, the fight against
temptations takes on a nobler meaning. Without them we should remain satisfied
with a minimum of effort, with less intense acts of virtue. They spell the difference
between a certain regularity in well doing and the fervor which leads to high
- These trials not only help us acquire solid virtue, but they prepare us for
union with God, that "you may love God for Himself at the cost of yourself."
We are also given occasion to prove our love, as declared by St. Francis de
Sales, that "it is not in abnegation, nor in action, but in suffering that
we give the best evidence of our love
To love suffering and affliction
for the love of God is the high-point of heroic charity; for then nothing else
is lovable except the divine will."
- Finally, external graces assist our growth in sanctity and render us more
apt for union with God by increasing the store of supernatural merit. Divorced
from the spirit of faith, the routine details of domestic and religious life
seem to be quite meaningless. In reality "these trifling' daily
virtues, faithfully practiced, will bring you a rich treasure of graces and
merits for eternity."
More heavy trials can be more meritorious. This does not mean that the degree
of merit corresponds to the difficulty of the work performed, which is false.
But in supporting burdens that are more difficult, we generally give a greater
proof of virtue than when doing actions which are more agreeable. Difficult tasks not infrequently demand the
outpouring of all the generosity of which a soul is capable.*
* Direct quotations in this chapter are drawn from LAbandon a la Providence
Divine of Père Caussade, who has been properly described as the classic
teacher of resignation to the will of God.
Copyright © 1998 by Inter Mirifica