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(Definition of the State of Grace and the information on this page are the work of Michael Ruggiero, M.A., with the exception of the quoted material from the Catechism of the Catholic Church. All rights reserved. Duplication of this material in any form without the express, written consent of the author is prohibited.)
Why We Must Attain and Deepen
the State of Grace:
“Grave sin (mortal sin) deprives us of communion with God and therefore makes us incapable of eternal life, the privation of which is called the “eternal punishment of sin…” (paragraph 1472, Catechism of the Catholic Church).
What the “State of Grace” is:
The “state of grace” is a state of gift, a state of spiritual being, of holiness, caused by God (and freely accepted and lived by each human person who receives the opportunity to possess it). One enters this state of being when they express faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, accept His sacrificial death as full payment for their sins, express faith in His Resurrection and Ascension, acknowledge Him as the Second person of the Blessed Trinity and receive the sacrament of Baptism. For those who have been baptized but fallen into mortal sin and hence, out of this state, they re-enter this state when they renew their faith in Jesus Christ and repent of and receive absolution from all mortal sin. Once absolved or baptized, the soul enters the state of justification or acceptability before God and receives the indwelling of the Holy Spirit (the indwelling of the Holy Trinity, the crowning point of justification) a certain spiritual union with God, and the gift of sanctifying grace, a specific grace which produces a certain quality or condition in the soul: this habitual gift is “a stable and supernatural disposition that perfects the soul itself to enable it to live with God, to act by His love.”1 One remains in this state as long as he keeps the minimal demands of the Roman Catholic Church and commits no mortal sin.
How One Receives this Wonderful, Most Precious of Gifts:
God, the Holy Trinity and undivided unity, continually seeks to gain and keep spiritual union with us. He first bestows the gift of knowledge — the knowledge of who He is — to a person, thus causing that person to respond to Him in faith. Once we correctly acknowledge who He is — Father, Son — Jesus Christ and Holy Spirit, and express faith in Him, He makes us aware of who we are in relation to Him: poor sinners, lost sons and daughters who need to be made acceptable or justified before Him. In order to be justified before Him, we must acknowledge that we are sinners who owe a sin debt that cannot be paid, acknowledge and repent of our sins, firmly resolve never to practice them again and accept the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ His only begotten Son as full payment for our sin debt. In short, we must hope and ask for forgiveness in Jesus’ name and accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior. Next, we must ask for the gift of the Holy Spirit, the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in Jesus’ name (when we do this we invite our beloved God, the Holy Trinity, the source of all life and goodness into our souls). This makes us fit to receive the sacrament of Baptism in Jesus’ one, true Catholic Church.
*If one has already received the sacrament of Baptism (and/or the other sacraments of initiation in the Catholic Church) and falls into mortal sin or deliberately does not keep the minimum obligations of the Church (ie., attend Mass every Sunday unless sick), he/she must pray an act of contrition and as soon as possible attend the sacrament of reconciliation (confession) and receive absolution in order to be restored to the state of grace (this state in which we live in spiritual union with God and free of mortal sin).
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How One Maintains the State of Grace:
A person maintains the state of grace when he or she refrains, routinely, from practicing any deadly sin and keeps, at least, the minimal demands of the Church: when he refrains from any grave thought, word or action that violates God’s divine law, proves his faith genuine through good works, attends Mass every Sunday and on holy days of obligation (unless sick), receives the Holy Eucharist worthily — while in the state of grace — and attends sacramental confession as prescribed (at least minimally) by the Church.
Keep in mind that in order to maintain the state of grace a person must have a certain union and sharing with God: he must pray daily and cooperate with God (His help) to refrain from the practice of mortal or deadly sin.
(Our goal is to remain in the state of grace and gradually grow in virtue — in the practice of charity. Further, to attain the ninth stage of Christian perfection and prayer – transforming union with God.)
What Must Occur for a Sin to be Mortal (Deadly):
For a sin to be deadly the substance of the thought, word or deed must be comprised of grave matter committed with full knowledge and complete consent.
(See the Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraphs 1854-61 for more information).
***Be sure to read the section, “The Proliferation of Sin,” in the Catechism of the Catholic Church — paragraphs 1865-1869 which notes what sin creates and how it makes us accomplices of one another when we sin!
A precise way for those who are already Catholic (who have been received into the Church — received at least the sacraments of Baptism and Holy Eucharist) to attain the state of grace, maintain it, and grow in virtue:
*(The Catholic Evangelization Society strongly recommends you read St. Francis de Sales’ book “Introduction to the Devout Life” as you embark on your journey toward holiness.)
1. Ask our Heavenly Father in the name of our Lord and savior, Jesus Christ, for the grace (supernatural gift) to attain the state of grace and remain in it. Ask God for the grace (His undeserved gifts and help) to recognize sin and to stop sinning mortally.
2. Sincerely repent — recognize the grave sins you've committed, tell God you are sorry for them and willfully change your direction and thinking. Go to confession — see #3 below – tell the priest all of the mortal sins you've committed and when you make your act of contrition resolve firmly not to practice mortal sin again (when you leave the confessional tell yourself “no matter what circumstances I face, I will not commit mortal sin again. I’ll depend on God’s grace to see me through moments of temptation”). Shun all mortal sin. Further, make a commitment to practice self-discipline and to walk away from mortal sin when tempted by saying a prayer (depend upon on God’s grace — His undeserved help – in moments of temptation by praying your way through temptations).
Every moral response to temptation contains two elements: a divine element and a human element – God’s offer of grace and our response to it (hopefully willful acceptance of it – cooperation with it). The key is to do your best to cooperate with God’s grace, to do His will, not yours.
3. Contact a devout local priest and schedule a time to make a good general confession. REMEMBER, all sin is committed not just against God, but also His Church. You need to see the Church’s representative (a validly ordained priest) to receive forgiveness from the Church and absolution. If you’re not Catholic, click on “Join the Catholic Church” and follow the instructions.
***Before your general confession, ask the Holy Spirit in Jesus’ name to help you recall all of your past grave (mortal) sins. Before your confession, confirm what sins were mortal in your past: pick up a copy of the Catechism of the Catholic Church and read paragraphs 1852-1876.
Remember, every priest has heard every kind of sin so have no fear of going to confession. They’ve “heard it all before.” Tell the priest you’re making a general confession after having been away from the Church a long time and that you need his assistance. He’ll help you through your confession.
4. After your confession, train yourself to see people as precious temples of God — His sons and daughters — not objects to be used for pleasure or monetary gain. Ask God to give you the gift of the “mind of Christ Jesus” — to think as He thinks.
5. Purge yourself from all affection for mortal sin:
*Start by reading/performing the meditations listed in St. Francis de Sales’ book, “Introduction to the Devout Life.”
6. Embrace these spiritual practices:
*Give all of the grace you merit, each day, to our Blessed Mother Mary! Simply state each morning, “I give all of the grace I merit to you, oh Blessed Mother.”
a. ATTEND MASS DAILY IF POSSIBLE (receiving holy communion — the Holy Eucharist as long as you can do so worthily — see the Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraphs 1415, 1417, 1650-51).
b. Pray your Rosary daily without fail. Even if you can’t say it all at once, complete 5 decades each day. Be sure to give the grace you merit to our Blessed Mother. Mary is our spiritual Mother and will help you.
c. Do penance
If you can, depending upon your circumstances, without losing virtue (ie., losing your patience, becoming bitter, angry or inclined to sin etc.,) abstain from meat or dessert two days a week or eat less (if you can afford to do so, especially during Lent, give the money you save to the poor — to your local Church’s poor box or food bank or Food for the Poor, a worthwhile organization). Be sure, however, not to let your penance make you proud (esteem yourself too highly) and others miserable. Penance is only good if it helps you grow in virtue (remember, when you grow in any virtue you grow in charity, for as St. Thomas Aquinas noted, all of the virtues are interconnected)! We should always ask our savior to guide us with regard to the practice of penance, for sometimes life becomes difficult to bear and is itself a penance. Let the Holy Spirit, your beloved in spirit, guide you! The key is to take our concerns to our savior (guided by the Holy Spirit in prayer) and ask Him to guide us spiritually. Jesus will tell you when to "lighten up" or "tighten up."
Remember, penance is an act of self-denial. It is the exterior manifestation (clear display) of an interior change of heart and mind. These actions prove we've changed our thinking about something and wish to strengthen ourselves spiritually against the sinful desires of our flesh and choose God the greatest good! (ie., One may abstain from meat in order to remind himself that there’s more to life than food, then take the money saved from the act of abstinence and give it to the poor as an act of charity — an act of self-denial for the welfare of others — to prove to God that he loves his neighbor.)
d. Adore our savior in the Most Blessed Sacrament — give at least 1/2 hour each week to Eucharistic adoration if you are able. Remember, Jesus Christ our Lord is really present, His whole divine person — body, blood, soul, and divinity — in the Most Blessed Sacrament! It only looks and tastes like bread! He’s there, a prisoner of love for love of you, so set some time aside to adore Him.
e. Read your Bible constantly (interpret it, according to the 3 conditions listed in the Catechism of the Catholic Church — see paragraphs 112-114).
*All Catholics should receive training in how to correctly read and interpret Scripture! Contact us and we’ll show you how to enroll in our Biblical Studies I class.
f. Be obedient to the teachings of the Magisterium of the Church.
g. Pick your company. Your friends are not your friends if they practice, joke about or condone base behavior.
h. As a rule, calmly ignore and don’t examine bad thoughts and change your thought(s) when tempted. Even better, kiss the holy wounds of Christ reverently (in your mind or physically on the crucifix) and practice acts of love toward Him when you are tempted and distracted by bad thoughts. Now and again, cover yourself under the precious blood of our Lord Jesus Christ: make the sign of the cross and state “I cover myself under the precious blood of Jesus Christ my savior and accept His sacrificial death as full payment for my sin debt.”
i. Go to confession at least once a month. You receive great grace – merited or undeserved gifts and power — from Jesus through Mary to help you overcome sinful tendencies every time you make a good confession. Be sure to be perfectly sorrowful for your sins and resolve never to practice them again. Now and again renew your Baptismal promises — to reject Satan and all sin – and then renew your acceptance of Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior through His one, true Catholic Church. Pledge to worship only the Holy Trinity and undivided unity — Father, Son — Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit.
Lastly, remember God loves you! He is there for you. If you should fall, know He still loves you, get up, repent, go to confession and try again. But NEVER settle for a life of mortal sin.
God’s commandments aren't suggestions: choose Him today in thought, word, and deed by keeping His commandments (praying your way through temptations) and practicing acts of charity — acts of self-denial for the welfare of others (you begin practicing the two great commandments every time you resist mortal sin). In this way, you’ll imitate God’s own divine nature, grow in grace and achieve greater union with God.
1 Compiled, paraphrased and modified from Herbermann, Charles, The Catholic Encyclopedia. NY: Robert Appleton Co., 1910.
Also Ratzinger, et al. Catechism of the Catholic Church. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1994.
Copyright 2014. CES. All rights reserved.