So the creative idea for this post came from a friend from my theology days in Ohio before I transferred to American University in DC. This friend and I go way back and have an extensive history of inside jokes and antics that had a reputation for taking place in the local ice-cream parlor or on Facebook. The latest was last night concerning the Biblical cleanliness of ants.
A few nights back my friend messaged me asking if I would write a post on grace. The idea came to her after she had heard professors at seminary miss use the idea of grace. My friend was obviously turned off by these incidents and I was asked to write a piece on grace. As my friend is Lutheran and I am Catholic, I can only write on the Catholic perspective of grace.
As I look through the messages that my friend sent me via text, the sum of the problem is this: seminary professors used the idea of grace in a way that suggested that grace can be bestowed onto humans by other humans. This is not so because only God can bestow grace onto humans. To believe otherwise is to elevate humans to the level of God.
In the Catholic Church there are two kinds of grace: sanctifying and actual. Sanctifying grace acts within the soul while actual grace is an external force that moves a person to God. I think of sanctifying grace as the grace one receives during baptism when the Holy Spirit enters the person’s body. The Holy Spirit when it enters a person’s body is bestowing sanctifying grace. On the other hand I think of actual grace as the force that moves a person to have a relationship with God through prayer, service to others and a whole list of grace moving actions.
In Catholic teaching a person can fall from grace by committing sin. There is a long list of sins that a person can commit that pushes sanctifying grace from the soul. These sins all relate to the Ten Commandments and you can look them up on The Confession App. Yes, there is such a thing. And, yes, you can commit sin that moves you away from actual grace by ignoring the spiritual pushes from the Holy Spirit. To restore sanctifying grace and to become more aware of actual grace one goes to confession to confess their sins. This action restores graces to the person. This is important because if a person dies without grace they are not permitted to enter heaven.
The purpose of grace is to allow a person to live a good and holy life with the gift of heaven at the end because with out grace humans cannot live a good and holy life. So, yes, grace is not natural. It is a gift given by the Holy Spirit that elevates humans to a state where they can enter heaven (and depending on state of grace and sin people can enter purgatory). Grace is a gift from the Holy Spirit that should be carefully guarded but when the need arises can be restored through confession.
So, forget all the talk about humans being able to give grace to other humans. That doesn’t happen. You could be that annoying child or student who tells professors (in a child like voice), “You don’t know what grace is!” But it don’t suggest it…