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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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There’s only one question: Does it honor God?

I’ve been thinking a lot about how to approach these topics that I’m both interested in and feel are crucially important: environmentalism, Catholicism, veganism. Putting those three words together can be somewhat controversial. My approach is not arguing about whether it’s ‘right’ or ‘ethical’ to eat meat or whether environmentalism is just some ‘leftist conspiracy theory’ that should be ignored. My approach is simple: does it honor God?

Over 90% of meat in the United States comes from factory farms.*
Does the factory farm system of production honor God?

We increasingly value convenience in the form of plastic bags over conscientiousness. There are 46,000 pieces of plastic floating in every square mile of ocean.**
Does using the oceans as a dumping ground honor God?

We have the opportunity to honor God every time we sit down to eat, every time we choose something to drink, every time we go grocery shopping. I think that’s pretty darn amazing.

*calculation based on U.S. Department of Agriculture, 2002 Census of Agriculture, June 2004. **http://www.statisticbrain.com/plastic-bag-statistics/

What I’ve been reading

Climate change statements from world religions via Yale (fascinating!)
Pope Benedict preaches environmental protection at World Youth Day
Earth Day 2012: Quotes on the environment from Pope Benedict XVI

Books I need to get:
The Environment, Benedict XVI
Ten Commandments for the Environment: Pope Benedict XVI Speaks out for Creation and Justice, Woodeene Koenig-Bricker
Embracing Earth: Catholic Approaches to Ecology, Albert J. Lachance

Have you already read these books? What did you think of them?

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Quotes from the United Methodist and Roman Catholic Churches on the Eucharist and Ecology

Access to the full paper on the Eucharist and ecology.

In Scripture, Jesus rejects the Pharisees’ appeal for signs from heaven. Jesus chastises the Pharisees for being able to interpret the skies while being unable to interpret the signs of the times. (cf. Mt 16:3) In our time, the appearance of the skies has become a sign of the times. The threat of climate destabilization, the destruction of the ozone layer, and the loss of bio-diversity point to a disordered relation between humankind, other living beings and the rest of earth.

We are called to listen to creation’s groaning (cf. Rom 8:22) and to respond in hope because of the promise of God’s reconciliation of all things in Christ (cf. 2 Cor 5:19)

… John Paul II and Benedict XVI remind us, human dominion “is not an absolute power”, but rather, ” a summons to responsibility” which must be ordered by a humble awareness of our dependence on God’s generosity and mercy.

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Environmentalism & Catholicism

I’ve been reading quite a few Catholic blogs lately and one issue that I keep seeming to come upon is environmentalism. The majority of these bloggers take a rather harsh tone toward environmentalism and suggest that many are putting the earth before God.

I would agree that many environmentalists put the earth before God, but that’s mainly because I’ve never actually met a Catholic/Christian environmentalist. The earth doesn’t generally seem to be on many people’s agenda as much as abortion, marriage, etc. within the Catholic community. The Baptist fundamentalist school I attended was, in fact, very anti-environmentalism as it denied climate change and took the position that God gave us the earth to squander as we see fit. I guess if you’re constantly acting as if the Second Coming is going to happen tomorrow then why would you care about the earth, animals, clean water, etc.?

The Vatican does take a position on quite a few environmental issues, which means I have a bone to pick with the Catholic media. Bloggers, Catholic online magazines, I’m looking at you! Why aren’t you covering these things as much?!

I’ve recently discovered Eco Catholic which is part of the National Catholic Reporter and here are just some of the stories they’ve reported on:
God can always be found in the natural world
Sisters’ polyhouse guarantees fresh produce
California diocese takes on ecological issues
Vatican: Water is human right, not for-profit commodity
Catholics, Methodists unite to craft paper on Eucharist, ecology

Good stuff, huh? I can’t wait to delve deeper into Catholicism and environmentalism. If you’re looking for some prayers, here are few to get you going.

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