The Gratuity and Efficacy of Actual Grace

Father Geiermann continues his discussion of the five properties of actual grace. We have read his comments on the necessity of actual grace. Now we read of the gratuity and efficacy of actual grace.

Concerning the gratuity of actual grace, he writes: “Grace is always a gratuitous gift of God. ‘It is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that showeth mercy’ (Rom 9:16).” Why is it called grace? St. Augustine answers: “Because it is given gratis.” And why is it given gratis? The same saint answers: “Not because your merits precede it, but because the blessings of God precede you.” Geiermann concludes: “From this we see that even the good dispositions whereby we submit ourselves to the influence of grace are not to be ascribed to our natural good will, but to a preceding grace which has enlightened the mind and inclined the will toward God.” He calls this preceding grace “stimulating grace.” Others call it prevenient grace or preventing grace, from the Latin gratia praeveniens.

Concerning the efficacy of actual grace, he writes: “The efficacy of grace likewise corresponds partly to the special design of God, as in the conversion of St. Paul, and partly to the special co-operation of man to a previous grace, as in the conversion of St. Ignatius Loyola. . . . God does not grant an efficacious grace to a person whose mind is insincere, or whose will pertinacious. . . . The good thief was evidently sincere and of good will. . . . If St. Augustine, St. Bernard, St. Ignatius, and countless others, whom God had destined to a prominent position in His plan, had turned against the stimulating influence of the first grace they received, even as Pontius Pilate deliberately turned away from the truth, they might have become reprobates, instead of great saints with a special mission on earth.”

“Efficacious grace in no way destroys free will, but perfects good will by giving ‘the increase’ (1 Cor 3:6), by crowning the sincere mind and honest effort of man with efficient and infallible success. As grace always harmonizes with nature, efficacious grace influences man morally by enlightening his mind so clearly on the truth, the goodness, and the beauty of a particular virtuous action, and by stimulating his will so palpably towards it through his innate desire of happiness, through fear of the Lord, through hope of reward, through esteem for virtue, and through love for God, that his sluggish will embraces it with a determination that overcomes all obstacles and is crowned with success.”

Quotations from Peter Geiermann, The Narrow Way (New York: Benziger, 1914).

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