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Catholicism, Faith

Grace

[I’m back from holiday in the Balkans. I was lucky enough to visit a pilgrimage site in Bosnia that was rather interesting and for which I’ll have a post up soon!] 

Today’s daily meditation on St. Paul is about grace: My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made complete in weakness. After some reading and prayer I came to the conclusion that I’m not sure I know what grace is and what its precise place is in Catholicism. Another place this has come up for me is in literature. I’m starting to read Brideshead Revisited and from what I’ve heard it’s all about grace. Maybe the book will provide some deeper insight, but from what I’ve read on Brideshead it’s definitely a book that needs to be re-read in order to be understood. That being said, I’m looking to some other resources.

Some thoughts on what grace is from the Catholic Answer Forum:

But I think one simple way to think of grace would be as Gods’ love in action.

There are two kinds of Grace. To use Thomistic terminology, there is actual Grace and habitual Grace, but those terms have a different meaning than might be immediately assumed. Actual Grace doesn’t mean “real” as opposed “unreal”, it means “an act of Grace”, like God nudging your heart to accept Him. Habitual Grace doesn’t mean something we do without thinking, it means a persistant state of Grace (persistant states are called habits in this terminology).

So we have Graces which are movements by God on us (actual), and we have Grace which is the indwelling of God’s own Holiness and Divine Nature in our souls (habitual). Actual Grace isn’t “in us”, but is “done to us”, and it can occur at any time. Habitual Grace is aquired with Baptism. In order to be with God we need both kinds of Grace; we need God to move us with His action, and we need His Divinity to dwell in us (temples of the Holy Spirit). When we sin we cut ourselves off from His indwelling, but He can still act on us to bring us back to Him.

As for being born without Grace, yes we are all born without any Grace at all. That is the definition of Original Sin.

I checked out the Catholic Encyclopedia’s articles on grace and, um, I’m just trying to keep up! I understand the summary above loud and clear but all the other details are a bit fuzzy.

“Like St. Paul, our vocation is to respond to the measure of Christ’s grace given us in the particular circumstances of our own lives.” This talking about actual grace, right? So in essence, our vocation is to respond to ‘movements by God on us.’ Or is it talking about both actual and habitual since ‘we need both kinds of Grace.’ How do these two types of grace interact with regards to vocations? Is actual grace is the nudge towards the vocation but habitual grace the actual carrying out in terms of dwelling with Him in harmony with his plans for us?

Any help would be much appreciated!

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