DIVINE GRACE - A SERIES OF INSTRUCTIONS ARRANGED ACCORDING TO THE BALTIMORE CATECHISM
An Aid to Teachers and Preachers
REV. EDMUND J. WIRTH, Ph.D., D.D.
Professor at St. Bernard's Seminary, Rochester, N.Y.
NEW YORK, CINCINNATI, CHICAGO
PRINTERS TO THE HOLY APOSTOLIC SEE
+ JNO. M. FARLEY,
Archbishop of New York.
New York, June 3, 1903.
*Nota de Javier: Comparto aquí con todos vosotros un verdadero TESORO, una JOYA INCALCULABLE, un libro que bien leído y meditado tiene el poder de santificarnos cada vez más y hacernos apreciar y estimar tal cual ciertamente se merece el valor INFINITO de LA GRACIA DIVINA, la cual es la perla preciosa de la que habla el Evangelio, y sin la cual no podemos agradar a Dios. Leedlo bien y considerad atentamente en vuestro espíritu sus santas y sabias palabras, pues Dios nos habla a través de estas líneas, y quiere que crezcamos cada vez más en Su conocimiento y amor, y tengamos así la vida eterna ya en esta vida mortal. ¡A la mayor gloria de Dios siempre!
Divine grace is the foundation of the supernatural
life, the source of all supernatural
virtues, the outpouring of the love of God
upon His creatures; it constitutes man a
son of God, and gives him a right to the
kingdom of heaven. Of grace we may say
what Solomon said of divine wisdom, "All
good things came to me together with her,
and innumerable riches through her hands." 1
We can never understand fully the dignity
and excellence of divine grace. Grace is
the sum and substance of the " Good News "
announced by God to men. Grace is the
fruit of the Redemption ; for this did the Son
of God become man, for this did He suffer
and die that we have grace, and through it
Redemption and salvation. Every Christian,
the simple and the learned, the young and
the old, all should know this great " mystery
of Christ, which in other generations was
not known to the sons of men, as it is
now revealed to His holy apostles and
prophets in the spirit; that the Gentiles
should be fellow-heirs, and of the same body,
and copartners of His promise in Christ
Jesus." 2 This knowledge becomes still more
necessary in the circumstances in which we
live. Protestantism has veered from an exaggeration
of grace to a complete denial of it;
the world in which we live is materialistic and Pelagian.
The ideal proposed to the young
outside of the Catholic Church is only
too often the man who is successful
in business, the so-called self-made man.
The world is getting further and further
away from the supernatural ; only what appeals
to the senses is considered real; the words
"miracle" and "mystery" are for many
synonymous with "myth" and "fable." The
influence of these surroundings cannot but
produce a certain amount of unconscious
Pelagianism, even in our own people ; hence
the necessity of insisting, especially nowadays (1903)
upon the dignity, gratuitousness, and
necessity of divine grace.
1 Wisd. 7. II.
2 Eph. 3. 4-6.
The doctrine of grace is difficult; grace
is not a thing that falls under the observation
of the senses; it is supernatural. For
this reason many have thought that it cannot
be explained with any degree of fulness
to children ; yet the greatness of the gift of
God should not be made a reason for passing
it over in silence. If the natural powers
of the child do not extend so far as to grasp
the sublimity of the truths of God, we must
remember that in trying to learn these truths
that same grace of God will be there to
assist them by its supernatural light. "I
confess to Thee, O Father, Lord of heaven
and earth, because Thou hast hid these
things from the wise and prudent, and
hast revealed them to little ones." 3 With
the aid of His light, which He denies to
the proud and gives to the humble, they
will understand something of the mercy of
God and of His goodness, communicated
to man through divine grace.
3 Matt. ii. 25.
These instructions on divine grace are
intended as a help to the teacher and the
catechist in explaining the doctrine of the
Church on this most important subject. My
aim has been to give in simple language as
full an exposition of the doctrine of grace
as possible under the circumstances. All
questions not of faith and subject to discussion
within the schools have been avoided.
These instructions furnish explanations,
proofs, and illustrations of the doctrine of
the Church to the teacher, who can select
from them according to the needs and capacity
of the pupils. Pupils of academies, high
schools, and the highest grade of grammar
schools will, no doubt, be able to grasp
nearly all contained in these pages ; for
smaller children the less important points
may be passed over. The instructions are
arranged according to the questions of the
Baltimore Catechism, which is now in nearly
general use in our Catholic schools. A few
instructions have been introduced to which
no question corresponds in the catechism.
The reason for this is apparent ; the logical
connection of the doctrine required it ; these
questions are, moreover, of prime importance,
e.g. the doctrine that God wills all men to
be saved, and hence gives to every man
sufficient grace; the doctrine of the necessity
of good works. The insertion of these
instructions has compelled me to unite in
several cases two questions in one, since I
wished to retain the number twelve, the
number of questions in the Baltimore Catechism,
as also not to swell the book beyond proportions.
This has been done in the case of such questions
as would permit a briefer treatment, or which were again
touched upon in other parts of the catechism.
The instructions are based on a small German
treatise, Nepefny, Das Uebernatuerliche
Leben, of which this is an adaptation. The
work of adapting it to the Baltimore Catechism
has, however, necessitated in several
cases the writing of entirely new instructions,
in others the contracting of several
into one, together with many other additions
and omissions, so that this book has
lost much of its resemblance to the original.
EDMUND J. WIRTH.
Feast of Pentecost, 1903.
Which are the chief effects of the Redemption?
The chief effects of the Redemption are two : the satisfaction
of God's justice by Christ's suffering and death,
and the gaining of grace for men.
All things have a purpose for which they
exist. The tools which we use, the things that
grow in the field, all have their usefulness.
The plants and animals exist to furnish
food and clothing for man. We have eyes to
see, ears to hear, feet to walk, hands to work.
All things have their purpose — is man
alone to be an exception to this rule ?
No, certainly not ; man, too, exists for a purpose.
What this purpose is our catechism tells us
on the very first page : God made me to know
Him, to love Him, and to serve Him in this
world, and to be happy with Him forever in
This is the purpose for which we
were created. There are many people who
have given up all belief in Christianity and
lead bad lives. They say that with death all
is over, that there is no heaven or hell, that
there is no God. They say that man is nothing
but a more highly developed animal, that
there is no essential difference between man
and the brute animals. Of course they do not
believe this themselves ; they talk in this manner
that they may the more easily give free
rein to their evil passions, and thus live like
animals. How could any one in his heart
believe such an absurdity! How much man
differs from an animal! He has understanding
by which he can know truth — yes,
reach to a knowledge of God Himself.
This lifts him far above the brute, who
knows nothing but to seek its food and
bodily pleasure. Man has free will, and can
direct his own actions. He is the lord of
creation; all other things are but to serve
him. Even one look at his body shows us
the great difference there is between him
and animals ; whilst the animal has its head
turned toward the earth, man only touches it
with the sole of his foot, as if to indicate that
he is not made for the earth, but that his
destiny is higher. Man is not for the earth, but
the earth is for man. He is made to the
image and likeness of God, and his destiny
is far higher than that of the animals. Man
is made for heaven.
That our destiny or last end is not in this
world we know also from the intense desire of
happiness which we experience in our hearts
and which the things of this world cannot
satisfy. As St. Augustine says, "Our heart is
unquiet until it rests in God." 1 If man were
made for this world, the things of this world
would satisfy him ; but this is not the case.
" The eye is not filled with seeing, neither is
the ear filled with hearing." 2 The things of
this world may seem to satisfy us for a time, but
soon we tire of them and seek new pleasures.
If worldly possessions and the pleasures of
earth could make us happy, then at least
Solomon should have been happy; for he
possessed accomplishments of mind and
body, wealth and wisdom, he tasted all
pleasure. And yet at the end of his life he
exclaimed with bitterness of soul, "Vanity
of vanities, and all is vanity" 3; i.e. all the
goods of this world are nothing but empty
shadows, devoid of any real value.
We will, therefore, not listen to the foolish
talk of those who debase the dignity of man
and try to reduce him to the level of the
beast, in order to abuse him for their shameful
and sinful schemes. We will maintain
our dignity, and as men and Christians
remain faithful to the teaching of our cate
chism, which tells us that we are created
for the happiness of heaven. We will not
be deceived by men without faith; we will
not be robbed of our Christian inheritance ;
we will not be as foolish as was Esau, who
sold his inheritance for a mess of pottage.
1 Conf. 1. 1.
2 Eccles. 1. 8.
3 Eccles. 1. 2.
Heaven is the end of our pilgrimage here upon earth. What a sublime destiny ! We are to be eternally happy! We are made for heaven, the place of perfect happiness with God! The happiness of heaven exceeds all that we can imagine or think. "Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither hath it entered into the heart of man, what things God hath prepared for them that love Him." 1 " We see now , through a glass, in an obscure manner; but then face to face." 2 What joy and happiness to see God face to face, to see Him as He is in all His beauty! What joy and happiness to be always with God and His Blessed Mother in the company of all the angels and saints of God!
This is the happiness for which God created man; this is the happiness which man was surely to attain; but by the sin of Adam an obstacle was put in the way. God created man, and to try his fidelity He gave him a command not to eat of the fruit of a certain tree in the garden of Paradise. If he remained faithful, he was to be preserved from death, and after a time to be taken to heaven, there to be happy forever with God. We know from our Bible History what happened : the devil in the shape of a serpent tempted Eve, promising her that if they ate of the forbidden fruit, they should become like God, knowing good and evil. Eve allowed herself to be deceived and took of the fruit and ate and also gave it to Adam, and he, too, ate of it. By this act of disobedience to the law of God our first parents lost all the supernatural gifts bestowed on them by God, and they were driven from Paradise. They lost the gift of immortality, and were made subject to death; they lost heaven, which was promised them on condition that they remain obedient. The punishment was death of the body and death of the soul. They had offended God by transgressing a commandment which God had made for them. God had intended that the state of friendship with Him in which they were created, and the happiness of heaven which was to follow, were to be handed down by them to their descendants. When they lost these gifts which God had bestowed on them, they lost them not only for themselves but also for their descendants. They could not hand down that which they had lost. Through the sin of Adam and Eve we are born, not friends of God, as we should have been had they not sinned, but we are born His enemies ; we are born in sin. This sin is called original sin. The condition of man is, therefore, much worse after the fall than it was before the fall. We have not the gift of immortality, we are not born in the friendship of God ; and with the loss of the right to the inheritance of heaven our understanding is darkened, and there is left in us a strong inclination to evil.
1 1 Cor. 2. 9.
2 1 Cor. 12. 13.
Sin is an offence against God. Justice
demands that some reparation should be
made for this offence. When we consider
the greatness of the offence, we see that man
could not repair the injury done. The
offence was against God; He who is infinite
in all perfections was insulted by one whom
He had made out of nothing. Just as it is
a greater fault to insult one who is far above
us than it is to insult one who is our equal
or even below us, so it was an immeasurably
great crime to insult God, who is infinitely
above man; likewise it is a greater fault
to insult one who has shown us nothing but
kindness than it is to insult a stranger to
whom we owe no gratitude ; God had been
not merely a friend and benefactor, but He
had given to man all that man was and
possessed. We see from the greatness
of the guilt of sin that man was unable
to make reparation for the offence committed
against God. God took pity on the
work of His hand, and sent His only Son
to redeem us, and thus reinstate us in His
friendship. It was His love that prompted
Him to do this, for He "so loved the world
as to give His only begotten Son" 1 to
redeem it. The Son of God, being true God
as the Father is God, could make ample
satisfaction for the sins of the world. This
He did by His Passion and death. Hence
our catechism gives, as the first effect of
the Redemption, the satisfaction of God's
justice by Christ's Passion and death.
1 John 3. 16.
The second person of the Blessed Trinity
became man, suffered and died, not only
to satisfy God's justice,but also to gain
grace for man. Christ died not only to make
reparation for the insult offered to God by
sin, but also to raise man again to the state
of friendship with God, to reopen heaven
to him. Through sin heaven, for which
man had been created, was closed to him;
Christ came to obtain for man that which
was necessary that he might again be made
worthy of that inexpressible happiness which
comes from the possession of God Himself
for all eternity. Through the merits of the
suffering and death of Jesus Christ we are
again called to the inheritance of the kingdom
What must we do in order that we may
reach heaven? is the all-important question
for us. God wills us to reach heaven
because He is our Father; He has made
heaven for us and wants us, His children,
to be with Him for all eternity. When
we had lost our right to heaven through
sin, God's only begotten Son became man
to regain it for us. If God wills us to
obtain the possession of heaven, we can
obtain it. Still, heaven is not to be given
us without our doing something to earn it.
Heaven is to be a reward. St. Paul compares
heaven to a crown that is given to
the victor in a race.1 Our Lord says, " The
kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and
the violent bear it away." 2
1 1 Cor. 9. 24.
2 Matt. 11. 12.
There is then something to be done on
our part that we may receive the reward
of eternal happiness. What is this ? To be
saved we must believe in God, and keep His
commandments. First we must believe in
Him; we must believe all that He has
made known and proposes for our belief
through the holy Catholic Church. This
is the first requisite. "Without faith it is
impossible to please God." 1
"He that believeth not shall be condemned." 2
One who refuses to believe the truths which
God Himself has revealed insults God.
Such a one will not go to heaven, but will
be punished forever in hell. We will therefore
always believe all that God has revealed
and teaches us through His holy Church,
for God is all truth and cannot deceive us ;
He is all-knowing and cannot err. We will
therefore always be good, faithful Christians,
clinging to the faith of the holy Catholic
Church. In this faith we will live, and in
this faith we hope to die.
1 Heb. 11. 6.
2 Mark 16. 16.