Grace, from the Latin gratia, is a gift, something freely given. There are natural graces, like good health, and there are supernatural graces, like sanctifying grace and various actual graces. Sanctifying grace is infused in the soul at baptism and abides therein unless lost through mortal sin. Actual graces are given by God to a soul and remain with that soul as long as is necessary to perform some good work. Let us hear what some Franciscan sages have to say about grace:
St. Pascal Baylon gives this advice: “When you pray, imagine yourself to be alone in the world with God, and think He has only you to listen to and to hear. Ask graces and favours of Him with love and importunity.”
Blessed Egidius of Assisi warns us of trouble on the horizon: “We cannot possess an unusual grace in peace; obstacles of all kinds rise up against it. The more grace a man has the more violently the devil attacks him; yet we must not, on this account, cease to be faithful, for the harder the conflict the brighter the crown.” Thus, St. Antony of Padua can declare: “When man follows the inspirations of grace, he finds liberty and peace.”
Bl. Egidius advises: “Man ought to take great care to keep the grace which comes from God, and to work faithfully with it, because we too often sacrifice the fruit for the leaves, the grain for the straw.” And, consider this, he says: “Man will have to render an account even of those graces he has not had, because if he worked with the grace which had been given to him, he would have obtained others which he has not received.”
St. Joseph of Cupertino suggests that “the most certain way of obtaining any grace from God is holy indifference and a complete resignation to His most holy will.”
St. Angela Merici reminds us: “Remember that without God we can do nothing; but with His grace we should dare and undertake everything. Let us learn, then, not to attribute our good actions to ourselves.”
St. Francis of Assisi knew this very well, for he gives us this maxim: “There is a greater distance between sin and grace than between grace and glory.” Moreover, he humbly confessed: “If God had given to the greatest sinner in existence the graces He has bestowed on me, I feel certain that he would have been much more pleasing to God than I am at this moment.”
Quotations from Flowers from the Garden of Saint Francis for Every Day of the Year (London: Burns and Oates, 1882).