Actual Grace

Continuing his discussion of the transient assistance God gives us, Father Geiermann mentions the assistance of actual grace.

“Actual grace is a virtuous impulse which God gives man to act in the supernatural order. . . . It illumines the mind to see the truth, the good, the moral beauty, as well as the opportunity of doing something pleasing to God, the infinite Good, by a particular virtuous action. It inspires or moves the will, already inclined to good in general by its innate desire of happiness, to embrace this opportunity. And by its energy it heals the wounds of sin, that may impede or prevent man from performing this particular act of virtue, and, if he is not in sanctifying grace, it supernaturalizes him for the time and to the extent necessary for him to ask God’s help and by means of prayer to obtain every other divine aid necessary for him to know, love, and serve God.”

“Chronologically actual grace is divided into stimulating and co-operating. The first virtuous impulse which God gives man in the supernatural order is called stimulating grace, because it awakens man to the opportunity, and inclines him to an act of virtue. . . . Stimulating grace is sometimes called a light and an inspiration of the Holy Ghost because it always prompts man to act in accordance with the gifts of the Holy Ghost. . . . The second virtuous impulse is called co-operating grace, because, as soon as the will freely yields to the suggestion of stimulating grace by inclining to this particular virtuous action, God grants an additional grace, which co-operates in man’s action by sustaining, confirming, and crowning his efforts with success.”

“In the order of causation stimulating grace is called remotely sufficient grace because it suffices to enable man to pray, and through prayer to obtain every other grace. In the same sense co-operating grace is also called proximately sufficient grace because it is always sufficient to enable man to perform the action for which it is given. . . . Remotely sufficient grace corresponds to the general dispensations of Divine Providence, which God extends to all mankind. Proximately sufficient grace and efficacious grace, on the other hand, correspond to the special dispensations of Divine Providence.”

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

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Dispensations of Divine Providence

Father Geiermann states that, besides the various kinds of permanent assistance God gives us during our pilgrimage through life, He also gives us transient assistance. “The object of this [transient] divine assistance is to aid man in performing supernatural actions.” There are two kinds of transient assistance: dispensations of Divine Providence and actual grace. The former give us the opportunity to do the good God requires of us; the latter gives us the necessary help to do what He requires.

“The dispensations of Divine Providence are the application of God’s paternal solicitude to the details of man’s life.” These dispensations consist of “the natural combination of minute circumstances, which fill in the details of man’s life, and which God positively ordains or passively tolerates, and by means of which He gives man the opportunity to do that good which He expects of him.” They “furnish the occasion for God to give man actual grace.”

“We may consider the dispensations of Divine Providence in their universal application to mankind, in their special application to every individual soul, and in their most special application to those souls whom God has destined to fill a particular place in His divine plan. The general dispensations of Divine Providence establish man in his place in God’s plan and ordain his relationship to the rest of the world. The special, as well as the most special, dispensations of Divine Providence conduct all of good will to that state in life for which God has destined them, provide them with the special qualifications necessary, and give them the opportunities necessary to do God’s holy will in all things. The dispensations of Divine Providence must permit involuntary temptations as opportunities for practising virtue. . . . And though they must tolerate some sinful deeds, they frequently use even these to teach man mistrust of self, confidence in God, and the necessity of making persevering efforts to work out his salvation.”

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

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A Friend Indeed – Part 7 of 7

Concluding his discussion of the varieties of permanent assistance God offers us, Father Geiermann mentions two other kinds of assistance in the supernatural order: sacraments and the gifts of the Holy Spirit.

“The sacraments are fountains of grace established by Jesus Christ. . . . They supply the seven spiritual wants of mankind.” Baptism gives spiritual life, Confirmation supplies the perfection of spiritual life, Holy Eucharist nourishes the spiritual life, Penance provides a remedy for spiritual disease and death, Extreme Unction makes special provision for the journey to eternity, Holy Orders gives authority and strength to minister in the name of Christ, and Matrimony supplies special grace to bring up children for heaven.

“Baptism and Penance give sanctifying grace, while the others increase it in the soul. All the sacraments, besides, confer sacramental grace, which is a right to those actual graces that are necessary to attain the end for which Our Lord instituted each sacrament.”

“The gifts of the Holy Ghost are certain habits infused by God to facilitate the operations of the infused virtues, and thereby to sustain man when acting in union with Him. They consist in a kind of spiritual instinct which enables man to detect the promptings of actual grace readily, and to co-operate cheerfully with them. They are the crowning grace of God’s permanent assistance to man, and bring him into perfect harmony with his heavenly Father.”

The seven gifts of the Holy Spirit are wisdom, understanding, counsel, knowledge, fortitude, piety, and fear of the Lord. “The first four perfect the Christian mind, the last three endow the Christian will. Wisdom enables man to know and take delight in God. Like a luminous flame understanding sheds light on the truths of faith and the mysteries of religion. Knowledge enables man to rise to God by means of His creatures, while counsel points out the best means of union with God by doing His holy will in all things. Fortitude enables man to triumph over every obstacle to his union with the Infinite Good. Piety makes him childlike towards God, and fraternal to the rest of mankind. And, finally, the fear of the Lord cultivates so delicate a conscience in him, that he will avoid even the shadow of evil lest he tarnish his soul and offend the God of infinite love.”

St. John saw “the tree of life, bearing twelve fruits” (Rev 22:2). The fruits of the Holy Spirit, based on Galatians 5:22-23, are charity, joy, peace, patience, benignity, goodness, longanimity, mildness, faith, modesty, continency, and chastity.

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

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A Friend Indeed – Part 6 of 7

Continuing his discussion of the varieties of permanent assistance God offers us, Father Geiermann mentions another kind of assistance in the supernatural order: infused virtues.

“The supernatural virtues which God imparts to the soul with sanctifying grace are the theological virtues of faith, hope, and charity, and the moral virtues of prudence, justice, temperance, and fortitude. The infused virtues elevate man’s faculties to a divine plane, the theological virtues enabling man to unite himself to God, and the moral virtues to act in harmony with Him.”

“Thus faith empowers man to view the economy of God’s work from the true, immutable, eternal standpoint of his heavenly Father, while hope gives him the confidence and courage necessary to face the problems of time and eternity as a child of God, and charity helps him to live in union with God amid all the labors and trials of life. In the same way prudence enables man to take counsel, to judge, and to determine by the light of faith, justice to be fair with God, his neighbor and himself, fortitude to labor and endure as a follower of his crucified Master, and temperance to keep his place at all times while pursuing his destiny according to the plan of God.”

“There is a threefold difference between the natural cardinal virtues and the infused moral virtues, which supernaturalize them: (1) the former man can acquire by his unaided will; the latter are always the gifts of God; (2) the former man may practise for their own sake; the latter must be animated by love for God; (3) the former he can develop by a persevering good will, the latter, God intensifies in proportion as man places the proximate occasion, or gives Him the opportunity, by trying to act in harmony with Him.”

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

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A Friend Indeed – Part 5 of 7

Continuing his discussion of the varieties of permanent assistance God offers us, Father Geiermann mentions another kind of assistance in the supernatural order: sanctifying grace.

“Sanctifying grace is a divine quality, effected and maintained in the soul by the indwelling of the Blessed Trinity, which imparts to it a supernatural life and distinction. As the incandescent lamp, when charged with electricity, radiates light and heat, so the soul, when born again of water and the Holy Ghost, becomes bright and pleasing in the sight of God. And as the incandescent lamp assumes the qualities of electricity when charged with it, so sanctifying grace imparts a divine quality to the soul. This divine quality, as St. Peter says, makes us partakers of the divine nature (2 Pet 1:4). For, as man by his supernatural destiny receives the potentiality of union with God, and by his innate craving for happiness is impelled towards God, so sanctifying grace gives him divine life or makes it possible for him to co-operate with God. It makes it possible for man to be actuated by the love of God, to promote His glory, to do His holy will.”

“Sanctifying grace is likewise called habitual grace because it inheres permanently in the very nature of the soul and makes it a worthy temple of the living God. It is essentially distinct from the infused virtues, however, which inhere in the faculties of the soul and make it possible for man to act in the supernatural order.”

“Sanctifying grace is also called the grace of justification, because it frees man from the slavery of sin and Satan, gives him spiritual life, and makes him a child of God. It is obtained by a worthy reception of the sacraments of Baptism and Penance, or, when that is impossible, by perfect sorrow for sin, united to an ardent desire to do all that God has ordained for man’s salvation.”

“The peculiarities of sanctifying grace are (1) that without a special revelation no man can have divine certainty of possessing it; (2) that it is increased at every act of virtue; (3) that it is lost by every mortal sin. . . . The increase of sanctifying grace consists in its taking deeper root in the soul, or in a more intimate adhesion to the nature of the soul. It is effected by God in proportion and to the extent that man, by self-discipline and surrender to God, becomes more and more submissive to the influence of grace in the practice of virtue.”

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

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A Friend Indeed – Part 4 of 7

Continuing his discussion of the varieties of permanent assistance God offers us, Father Geiermann mentions seven kinds of assistance in the supernatural order. Here we discuss three of them: the ministry of the Church, the communion of saints, and divine adoption.

“In the ministry of the Church man receives the supernatural assistance established by Jesus Christ. In holy Baptism he is cleansed from original sin, made a child of God, a member of Christ’s mystical body, and coheir with Him to heaven. He is given divine certainty of the truths he must believe, and the virtues he must practise, and the means he must use to attain happiness by knowing, loving, and serving God. Through the ministry of the Church he is enabled to offer God a worthy sacrifice, while his soul is freed from the malady of sin, nourished with the Bread of Life, and filled with the gifts of the Holy Ghost. Here he receives sympathy, counsel, and encouragement in health, becomes the object of the Church’s tenderest solicitude in sickness and in death, is refreshed in purgatory, and helped to the beatitude of the elect.”

“Through the Communion of Saints God gives man a twofold assistance: the guidance of an angel guardian, and the protection of patron saints. . . . The saints in heaven retain a personal interest in what concerned them specially while on earth, and in what has since been specially dedicated to them. Thus, Mary, as Mother of the Redeemer, is personally interested in the salvation of all. . . . Thus, also, is St. Joseph, the head of the Holy Family, the natural protector of the Church on earth.”

“The divine adoption is a relationship established by God between man and the three persons of the Blessed Trinity. By this relationship man receives God the Father as his spiritual Father, God the Son as his elder Brother, and God the Holy Ghost as the Sanctifier of his soul. When man is in the state of grace this relationship makes him the beloved child of the heavenly Father, the coheir with the Son to heaven, and the living temple of the Holy Ghost. To live in accordance with this relationship man should cultivate (1) a filial confidence in the goodness, love, and mercy of his heavenly Father; (2) a brotherly love and devotion towards Jesus Christ, who earned for him every blessing; and (3) an undying good will towards the Holy Ghost by co-operating in the work of his sanctification.”

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

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A Friend Indeed – Part 3 of 7

Continuing his discussion of the varieties of permanent assistance God offers us, Father Geiermann mentions two kinds of “mixed assistance”: one’s conscience and one’s vocation. They are called “mixed” because they are founded in human nature, but perfected when enlightened and strengthened by grace.

Concerning one’s conscience, he writes: “Conscience is the dictate of reason regarding the morality of human actions. It proclaims the law of God engraven on every human heart. Though essentially a gift of the natural order, conscience attains its full accuracy and vigor only when enlightened and strengthened by grace. Conscience is the application of man’s innate desire of truth and virtue to the circumstances of daily life. It judges of the goodness, the truth, and the beauty, or the moral integrity of an action, and urges man to do the right and to avoid the wrong. In proportion as its dictates are obeyed does conscience impart to man a sweetness or peace of heart, which is the assurance that he has taken another step towards God, the infinite Good. On the other hand, the more its dictates are ignored, the more will conscience rebuke man and fill him with remorse. It will give him no rest until he returns to a normal cultivation of his innate desire of happiness by the pursuit of truth and the practice of virtue.”

Concerning one’s vocation, he writes: “In His universal plan [God] has not only provided a place for every creature, but has made every creature to fill its particular place in the universal plan. God has, besides, implanted in every creature a tendency to work out its destiny in that place. In man this tendency is an inclination of his innate desire of good to seek his happiness in a particular state in life. In the supernatural order this inclination is called vocation.”

Father Geiermann gives two reasons why one should seek out and follow one’s vocation: “In the first place it is the state in life for which God has fitted and destined a person. In the second place it is the state in which God has destined to bestow on that person the benefits of His special providence, and the full measure of His grace. . . . To be happy in any vocation man must be actuated by a spirit of faith in following it, cheerfully make the sacrifices his state in life demands, and pray perseveringly that God may sustain him, guide him, and crown his efforts with final perseverance.”

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

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