On one occasion the Great Saint, Mystic and Woman Doctor of the Church, Saint Catherine of Siena was given by God the grace to contemplate one soul in the state of sanctifying grace. Enthralled and captivated by the magnificent beauty of this one soul, the holy woman mystic fell to her knees ready to adore this soul—believing the soul to be God Himself. Quickly God informed Saint Catherine that this person was not God, but very simply, this was nothing more than a soul living in the state of sanctifying grace.
The utter, ineffable and indescribable beauty of this one anonymous soul in the state of sanctifying grace moved Saint Catherine to the very depths of her soul and caused her to fall to her knees, almost casting her into ecstasy!
SANCTIFYING GRACE, WHAT IS IT? WHERE DOES IT COME FROM? HOW TO GET IT? Sanctifying grace is participation in the very life of God Himself. It is the “God within us” that makes us pleasing to God. We first receive sanctifying grace at the moment of our reception of Holy Baptism. It is a free, gratuitous gift from God whose nature is to give abundantly, and as abundantly and copiously as we are willing to receive.
THE GRACE OF ALL GRACES. In one of his many writings, Saint Alphonsus asserted the following related and pertinent to our present topic: “The grace of all graces is to die in the state of grace.” Therefore, let us present a clear but demanding pathway in our lives to appreciate and realize to the highest degree the reality of grace in our soul. We will offer a very simple program on how we can constantly, by making a concerted effort with the help of God’s grace (no pun intended!), preserve God’s grace in our soul, defend grace in our inner being, grow in grace, be a channel of grace to others that we meet, and be a means of spreading and growing the grace of God in the world at large.
Let us turn to Mary, the Mother of God, the Mother of the Church, and the Mother of all of us, who is the full of grace, to appreciate grace and grow in grace until we reach our Heavenly Home!
TEN WAYS THAT WE CAN GROW IN GRACE DAILY
1. MORTAL ENEMY NUMBER ONE: SIN—MORTAL AND VENIAL. The worst enemy in our spiritual life in general is the reality of sin. If you like, it is toxic, poisonous, lethal and deadly in our pursuit of living and growing in sanctifying grace. Venial sin diminishes God’s grace in our soul; mortal sin—our worst enemy—expels grace from our soul. Let us humbly beg God for the grace to detest and have an abhorrence for sin—all sin, but especially mortal sin!
2. PRAYER. What air is to the lungs, so is prayer to the soul. It is recorded in the life of the Jesuit scholar Suarez that after having written many solid, scholarly works, he said that he would gladly trade all of these for the value of one fervently prayed HAIL MARY! The reason? This saintly scholar arrived at the keen awareness at the end of his life of the value of grace and how grace flows to the soul through prayer, and especially through Mary, the full of grace! This being said, any prayer offered to God with humility, purity of intention and love increases grace in our souls.
3. PENANCE: PRACTICE OF SACRIFICES. Our Lady of Fatima stated with sadness that many souls are lost for all eternity because not enough prayers and sacrifices are offered to God for the conversion of poor sinners. In the eyes of God, even though they may be small, any sacrifice made with love attains grace, and sometimes even the grace necessary for the conversion of a sinner, especially deathbed sinners. Saint Therese stated: “Pick up a pin for the love of God and you can save a soul.”
4. CHARITY/SERVICE TOWARDS OTHERS. All the saints are unanimous on the greatest of all virtues—it is supernatural love or charity. Saint Paul expresses this truth eloquently in his letter to the Corinthians—I Cor. 13. Get in the habit of striving on a daily basis to put into practice at least one, better yet some of the Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy; they are seven apiece. By practicing concrete acts of love toward our neighbor, grace increases in our soul! Let us get to work now.
5. SACRAMENT OF CONFESSION. Now we are ascending to a higher level or realm of attaining grace—that is to say, the Sacramental life. If we have the misfortune or disgrace of forfeiting the grace of God in our soul through committing a mortal sin, we should never despair, but place our trust in God’s Infinite Mercy. Remember the words of the Psalm: “God is slow to anger but rich in mercy.” (Ps. 145:8) If we have not fallen into mortal sin, we can still have recourse to frequent Confession by confessing our venial sins and thereby augmenting sanctifying grace in our souls, utilizing the Sacrament of Confession as preventive medicine as well as healing medicine!
6. DOCILITY AND OPENNESS TO THE INSPIRATIONS OF THE HOLY SPIRIT. Another most efficacious means to augment grace in our soul is to live a recollected life and be open to God’s presence through the inspirations of the Holy Spirit. The more humble, silent, pure, and recollected we can become, the more powerful the work of the Holy Spirit in such a beautiful soul. Therefore, when the Holy Spirit sends us a gentle but insistent touch, inspiration, knock at the door of our heart, each time we say YES a deluge of graces descend into the terrain of our soul and growth in holiness takes place. “If today you hear His voice harden not your hearts.” (Heb. 3:15) Rather, may we say: “Speak, O Lord, for your servant is listening.”
7. BECOME A BEGGAR BEFORE GOD, YOUR MASTER. Jesus stated unequivocally the importance of the prayer of petition or prayer of supplication: “Ask and you will receive; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.” (Mt 7:7) If you humbly beg God, as well as Our Lady, the full of grace, to attain for yourself the ability to defend grace in your soul, to strengthen grace in your soul, as well as to grow in grace, no doubt this request will be granted. In fact, God desires to communicate grace to us even more than we desire to receive it!
8. THE GREATEST MEANS OF SKYROCKETTING IN GRACE: HOLY MASS AND HOLY C0MMUNION. By far and beyond comparison, the most efficacious means by which we can grow in grace, better yet skyrocket in grace, is a fervent, humble, confident and worthy reception of the Eucharist. The reason could not be clearer: the Eucharist is GOD HIMSELF! Therefore, make a decision and concerted effort to attend Holy Mass and receive Holy Communion as often as possible, but with passion, fervor, and burning love for Jesus in your heart. If done, every fervent Holy Communion can result in the reception of an immense ocean of graces. Yes, and immense ocean of graces!
9. HAVE MASSES OFFERED FOR YOU AND YOUR INTENTIONS. Arriving at the celebration of my Silver Jubilee as a priest, my good Mom won the prize of all the gifts that I received on that momentous occasion. She had 25 Masses offered for my 25 years as a priest. Explosions of grace skyrocketing to the sky, an infinite ocean of blessings and graces flowed from every one of those Masses that were offered for me and my intentions. I am infinitely grateful for such a gift and blessing—Thanks Mom!
10. OUR LADY: “THE FULL OF GRACE”. It goes without saying that turning to Mary, the full of grace, praying to her frequently and fervently is one of the most efficacious means to preserve sanctifying grace in our soul, defend it, augment it, and eventually die in the state of sanctifying grace. Every time we pray the HAIL MARY with love and devotion, Our Lady communicates grace to our soul. Better yet, every time we recite the most Holy Rosary to Mary—50 times more graces—like a deluge—rain down from heaven into the garden of our soul. Therefore, let us beg Our Lady, the full of grace, to attain for us the grace of all graces—to die in the state of sanctifying grace—so as to be united with God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, Mary and the Angels and Saints forever in Heaven!