Q+A: God has given us so many graces and yet people do not understand what “grace” is? Can you explain?

A: Indeed, God does give us many graces. The Church defines it in this way: “By grace we mean God’s free, loving gift to us, his helping goodness, the vitality that comes from him. Through the Cross and Resurrection, God devotes himself entirely to us and communicates himself to us in grace. Grace is everything God grants us, without our deserving it in the least.” (YouCat #338)

The Catholic tradition has always made distinctions as to different types of grace:
1. Sanctifying or deifying grace: where we become children of God and heirs of heaven, especially in Baptism.
2. Habitual grace: when God gives us our permanent disposition to do good.
3. Actual grace: when God helps us “to know, to will, and to do everything that leads us to what is good, to God, and to heaven.”
4. “Grace comes about in a special way in the sacraments, which according to the will of our Savior are the preeminent places for our encounter with God (sacramental grace).”
(see YouCat #339)

Usually God’s grace is given to us in hidden ways that tend to blend into or hide behind nature, but this does not undermine God’s work but rather it shows just how much God honours our free will by not imposing himself upon us. However, in the sacraments he provides us with a clear means of receiving his grace because Christ himself has told us, but, even here, God does not impose himself so that even the Eucharist, Christ’s own Body and Blood, is seen only under the sign of bread and wine so as to leave us completely free of any coercion towards belief.
Fr. Andrew

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