What is Grace?

grace2What is Grace?

What does it mean? Where does it come from? What kind of graces are there? How do you get it? It’s best to keep in mind that grace isn’t something tangible that you can hold up to show anyone or that you can have appraised like you can a valuable piece of jewelry.

Grace by definition is the underserved gift God gives us to respond to His call. Grace, according to Webster’s dictionary is “Beauty or harmony of form, movement, manner, mode of expression. Any attractive characteristics, quality, social aptness or thoughtfulness. An extension of time granted, as in the payment of a debt. The love of God toward mankind, a power coming from God that enables one to achieve such a state, any divine favor. A short prayer before or after meals, good will, favor to dignify; honor. Music to ornament with grace notes.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church gives us several paragraphs of explanations, descriptions and evaluations of what grace is and how it should relate to us. # 1997 says “Grace is a participation in the life of God”. Grace is specifically mentioned twice in the Mass. In the Introductory Rites or the beginning of Mass when the priest says, “The grace of Our Lord Jesus Christ be with you”. Then again in the Eucharistic Prayer “…so that all of us…may be filled with every grace and heavenly blessing…”

Where does Grace come from?

Grace is the free and UNDESERVED GIFT that God gives us to respond to His Call, to become His adoptive children, partakers of the divine nature of eternal life.

God’s grace is freely given. The Council of Trent acknowledged the freedom of God’s grace but insisted that our works do contribute to our salvation, though even our ability to do good works is due to God’s grace.

Baptism fully cleanses or heals us of original sin. But baptized people still tend to sin and need continual grace through the sacraments.

Grace can’t be known except by faith. So without faith you can’t have grace. Grace is a participation in the life of God! Let me repeat that. GRACE IS A PARTICIPATION IN THE LIFE OF GOD! It introduces us to the Trinity. The Father – The Son – and the Holy Spirit. By grace we receive the life of the Spirit who brings charity to us.

The Different Types of Grace

There are several different types of graces.

Sanctifying Grace perfects the soul itself to enable you to live with God, to act by His Love. The perfecting of your soul is sometimes referred to as “the state of grace”. It’s an ongoing power or control to live and act in keeping with God’s call. Sanctifying grace stays in your soul. It’s what makes your soul holy. It’s what makes your soul immortal. Your soul is “created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness” (Eph 4:24) Of course we are still human. God gave us “free will”, so we are still tempted by sin, but God removes the sins we have – much like a mom will wash the dirt off a child who goes out and gets dirty again. We sin, we’re sorry, we repent, we get grace, and we go back out and do it all over again.

Habitual Grace is the permanent disposition to live and act in keeping with God’s call, a supernatural push or encouragement, whether at the beginning of conversion or in the course of the work of sanctification.

Actual grace is transient – brief – and momentary. It doesn’t live in your soul but acts on it from the outside. It’s a supernatural kick in the pants, your wake up call. It gets your will and intellect working so that you can seek out and keep sanctifying grace. It’s God’s support for you in individual circumstances. God will keep on giving you these divine pushes, all you have to do is follow His lead. You can become unselfish, forgive, and accept without judgment. This power can bind people together, give comfort and peace.

Sacramental graces are gifts that the Holy Spirit grants us to enable us to collaborate in the salvation of others and in the growth of the Body of Christ, the Church. We are all given graces at different stages of our lives. God works in us, slowly developing block upon block on building a temple of our bodies to conform to His. Some people are given special graces. For example, the gift of tongues, strong in service, teachers, etc. However, don’t wish for something someone else has. God will give you what He wants you to have when He wants you to have it. It’s up to you to listen to His call and cooperate with the reception of these graces.

How to Recognize Grace

Honestly, I don’t know the answers to these questions. I have no way of describing something I don’t understand BUT believe deeply in my soul that it exists. How do you get these graces? Sanctifying grace is IN your soul. It’s the free and underserved gift from God. Actual grace would come from our knowledge and belief of all things right and wrong – following the Ten Commandments, making sure we follow a path that is pure and justified. Justified means to be sinless, and to be sinless means you are in favor with God. When you are baptized you are sinless and therefore have favor with God. When you go to reconciliation, you are once again sinless and in favor with God. You are in a state of grace. Once sanctifying grace is in your soul, you can increase it by every good action you do – receiving Communion, saying prayers, performing corporal works of Mercy. The most important thing to think about is NOT what you are going to do or how you are going to do it but to recognize God’s love. The reason you can do any good work is because God LOVES YOU FIRST in Grace. You must continually seek God’s grace, continually respond to the actual graces God is working within you, inclining you to turn to Him and do good.

Have I answered the question as to what Grace is? I’ve read through all the study guides provided to me and compiled all the information, but I don’t believe that I’ve properly explained what Grace is.

To me Grace is a feeling. Sometimes it’s butterflies in the stomach, and it takes my breath away. I feel this way every time I think of my husband. We met and married 38 years ago. I see God’s grace in our meeting, getting married, and living our life together as husband and wife. Sometimes it’s a jolt, like an electric shock and then an overwhelming wave of love, like the enormous amount of love I felt when I held my first baby in my arms for the first time. This happened again with my 2nd and 3rd child, and then God blessed us with twins to make 4 and 5. Then sometimes it feels like a raging fight going on inside me, making hard decisions that breaks my heart in two. I have no power to stop things from happening and my only recourse is just to constantly pray. Mostly it’s a feeling of ultimate peace and an over-whelming calmness that comes over me at different times during the day when God allows me glimpses of HIS love for me: when my dog and cat are doing something cute together; when I see the birds eating the seed I put out for them; when a certain little girl comes over to the house and calls me “Grandma”. I just breathe a sigh of thanksgiving and relax in the comfort of His hand.

More Reading:

“What Makes us Catholic?” Topic Sheet: Grace