On one occasion the great mystic, prayer-warrior, penitent, as well as a Doctor of the Church, Saint Catherine of Siena was granted a vision into the state of one soul imbued with sanctifying grace. Upon contemplating the beauty of this one soul in God’s grace she fell to her knees. Enthralled and totally captivated by its beauty she thought it was God Himself! Of all of the gifts that we can receive on earth, as pilgrims travelling towards our eternal home which is heaven, the grace of God is by far the greatest treasure. It is the pearl of infinite price!
Whereas the worldly and sensual pursue money, fame, power, and pleasure as their ultimate source of happiness (which really is a lie and illusion), God’s true friends pursue ardently and constantly to grow in grace. Another rather simple way to understand the life of grace is simply this: friendship with God. God desires ardently to be our Friend, the best of Friends; however, He respects our time and freedom to accept Him as our best Friend!
The life of grace all starts in the moment that we receive the Sacrament of Baptism. The graces that flow from Baptism are extraordinary, almost mind-boggling—how good God really is. Once the water is poured on the head and the words: “I baptize you, In the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit”, invisible but real miracles occur: an intimate relationship with the Blessed Trinity, the infusion of the theological virtues, moral virtues, and gifts of the Holy Spirit. Still of paramount importance is the reality of Grace that permeates and imbues the soul in the moment of Baptism!
With the waters of Baptism we enter into a deep and intimate friendship with the Triune God and we become partakers of His divine nature—we become sons of God and have as inheritance—if we persevere in grace—heaven forever! For that reason the saints teach us: grace is the seed of eternal life.
Given that grace in our souls is the greatest gift and presence, we should do all in our power to preserve grace, grow in grace, so as to die in the state of grace. Saint Alphonsus Liguori, Doctor of the Church and author of the classic Glories of Mary, states that the grace of all graces is to die in the state of grace. This should be our prayer every day for our souls, that of our loved one as well as for the whole world. Indeed Jesus came as universal Savior—to save the whole world through His Paschal mystery—His passion, death and Resurrection from the dead!
Then there are the two worse things in the universe are the following: 1) Committing a mortal sin (this indeed is terrible); 2) Worse still is dying in the state of mortal sin; this, of course results in an eternal separation from God for all eternity! May God save us from the reality of mortal sin. Nonetheless, if we do have the misfortune of falling into mortal sin, we should never give into despair. On the contrary, we should have a limitless confidence in God’s infinite mercy and have recourse to the wonderful Sacrament of God’s mercy that we call Confession! The Psalmist reminds us with these encouraging words: “God is slow to anger and rich in kindness.” Saint Paul reiterates the same theme: “Where sin abounds, the grace of God abounds all the more.”
Ways to Grow in the Grace of God
We should do all in our power to preserve God’s grace in our souls, but also to grow daily in God’s grace. God’s grace and His intimate Friendship in our soul are worth more than the whole created universe. The natural realm in which we live can never be compared to the supernatural realm in which we find the concept and reality of grace. As a fish swims in water, as a bird flies in the sky so should we be swimming and flying in the atmosphere of grace! This should be the most ardent desire of our hearts, mind and souls!
1. Prayer. Every time we pray with humility of heart, purity of intention and a desire to please God we immediately grow in grace. For that reason we should treasure prayer, our prayer life and the prayer life of others as the highest and greatest of all realities. Parents who teach their children to pray are the best of parents; parents who are slothful and negligent in the education of their children in the arena of prayer will have to give an account on the day of their judgment! Because of the numerous distractions of daily life, how easy it is for parents—who must be the first educators of their children—to be negligent and sloppy in teaching their children to pray! May God have mercy on us!
2. Charity. The Word of God teaches us this consoling truth: “Love covers a multitude of sins.” If we can find ways and opportunities that God offers us on a daily basis to practice charity and service or even alms-giving towards others then we have another means to augment grace in our souls. In the movie Little Boy, the little boy was given what the priest called the “Magic list” to accomplish so that his father would return home safe and sound from the World War. The magic list is nothing more than less than the corporal works of mercy listed in (Mt. 25:31-46) “ I was hungry and you gave me to eat; thirsty and you gave me to drink; a foreigner and you welcomed me; sick and in prison and you came to visit me; dead and you provided burial…” Beg the Holy Spirit in prayer which of these He is calling you to carry out in practice in your life so as to increase grace in your soul!
3. Penance. Jesus stated that some devils can be cast out only through prayer and fasting. The Lord also reminds us: “Anyone who wants to be my follower must renounce himself, take up his cross and follow me.” Every time we say “no” to our selfish desires and “yes” to a sacrifice that the Holy Spirit has inspired in our hearts then once again the grace of God rises in our hearts! An added blessing from God when we undertake a life of sacrifice is conquering our bad habits and interior peace of mind, heart and soul! Let us be generous with a God who loves us so much!
4. Sacraments: The Eucharist. Of course the greatest action in the whole universe is that of receiving the greatest of all Sacraments—The Eucharist! The Holy Eucharist, Holy Communion, is truly and substantially the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ! Receiving Our Lord with the best of dispositions, in grace, with faith, love, humility and desire for a deeper conversion to His love is an infinite source of grace because this Sacrament is God Himself! For this reason there is no greater action we can do as pilgrims and wayfarers on earth than to receive Jesus with lively faith, frequency and burning love! If you like a simple image, upon receiving Jesus with burning love the gas gauge in your spiritual tank (your soul) shoots up way beyond the full. Beg for the grace to have a daily hunger for the Bread of life so as to constantly skyrocket in grace—to penetrate the high heavens even while on earth! In the Our Father we pray, “Give us this day our daily bread…” Perhaps Jesus is challenging you to aim at daily Mass and daily Holy Communion so as to surmount the highest mountains in the realm of grace.
5. Our Lady: Hail Mary. On one occasion the German mystic and saint, Saint Gertrude, saw Jesus in heaven. He was resplendent in glory, but He was doing an intriguing gesture: placing a golden coin on top of a huge mound of other gold coins. The saint was just finishing praying to our Lady the Hail Mary. Jesus responded in this manner. “Gertrude, every time you pray to my mother the Hail Mary with faith and devotion, I am depositing a Golden coin in heaven that will be yours for all eternity.” If we want to be multi-billionaires in heaven let us love Mary and the prayer that Mary loves so much—Hail Mary. In the Hail Mary we greet the Queen of Heaven and earth with these beautiful words: “Hail Mary, Full of Grace.” Therefore, let us get into the habit of praying the daily Rosary, with the beautiful prayer Hail Mary. If done, Our Lady, through her powerful intercession will be storing up for you infinite treasures and an eternal home in heaven! May we love grace, treasure grace, strive to grow in grace and finally die in grace through the intercession of Mary, the “Full of grace.”