God's fatherly providence, of which we have just been
treating, is the source of all the favors and
privileges which He bestows upon those who serve Him.
For it belongs to this providence to furnish man with
all the means necessary for his perfection and
The most important of these means is the grace of the
Holy Ghost, which in its turn is the source of all
other heavenly gifts. This is the garment with which
the good father in the parable ordered the prodigal
to be clothed. But, that we may have a clearer idea
of it, let us see how theologians define it. Divine
grace, they tell us, is a participation of the divine
nature, that is, of God's sanctity, purity, and
greatness, by virtue of which man is despoiled of the
baseness and corruption of his nature and is clothed
with the beauty and nobility of Jesus Christ.
writers illustrate this by a familiar example. A
piece of iron, when taken out of the fire, though it
still continues to be iron, resembles the fire on
account of its heat and brightness. Grace acts in
like manner. As a divine quality it is infused into
the soul, and so transforms man into God that,
without ceasing to be man, he assumes the virtues and
purity of God. This was the change wrought in St.
Paul when he said, "I live, now not I, but Christ
liveth in me." (Gal. 2:20).
Grace may also be
called a supernatural and divine form, by means of
which man lives as becomes his origin, which is also
supernatural and divine.
Grace is, moreover, a
spiritual dress, a chaste ornament of the soul, which
renders her so beautiful in the eyes of God that He
adopts her as His child, or rather accepts her as His
spouse. It was this adornment which made the prophet
rejoice when he said, "I will greatly rejoice in the
Lord, and my soul shall be joyful in my God. For he
hath clothed me with the garments of salvation; and
with the robe of justice he hath covered me, as a
bridegroom decked with a crown, and as a bride
adorned with her jewels." (Is. 61:10). Such are the
gifts with which the Holy Spirit enriches and adorns
the soul. This is the garment of various colors in
which the king's daughter was gloriously arrayed.
(Ps. 44:14). For from grace proceeds that glorious
variety of virtues which forms the power and beauty
of the soul.
From what has been said we can judge of the effects
of grace in a soul. It renders her so beautiful, as
we have said, that God, who is captivated with her
loveliness, chooses her for His spouse, His temple,
and His dwelling.
Another effect of grace is the
strength which it imparts to the soul. This beauty
and this strength are extolled in the Canticle of
Canticles, in which the angels exclaim, "Who is she
that cometh forth as the morning rising, fair as the
moon, bright as the sun, terrible as an army set in
array?" (Cant. 6:9).
Grace, then, is like an
invulnerable armor. So strong does it render man
that, according to St. Thomas, the least degree of
grace suffices to triumph over all sin. (S. T. III,
Q. 62, a. 6).
A third effect of grace is to render
man so pleasing to God that every good action
performed by him contributes to merit for him eternal
life. By good we here mean not only acts of virtue,
but all those which arise from the necessities of
nature, such as eating, drinking, and sleeping,
which, by an upright intention, become pleasing to
God and meritorious in His sight. In addition to all
this, grace makes man the adopted child of God and
heir to His kingdom.
Our Saviour showed the
greatness of this privilege when, seeing His Apostles
rejoicing that evil spirits obeyed them in His name,
He said, Rejoice not in this, that spirits are
subject unto you; but rejoice in this, that your
names are written in heaven." (Lk. 10:20).
finally, qualifies man for all good, smooths the way
to Heaven, makes the yoke of Christ sweet and light,
cures man of his infirmities and lightens his
burdens, so that he is enabled to run in the path of
virtue. Moreover, it strengthens all the faculties of
the soul, enlightens the understanding, inflames the
heart, moderates the appetites of the flesh, and
constantly stimulates us, so that we may not relax in
the pursuit of virtue. And as all the passions which
reside in the inferior part of the soul are so many
breaches in the fortification of virtue, through
which the enemy effects an entrance, grace guards
these avenues of sin with sentinels. These are the
infused virtues, each of which is the opposite of the
passion or vice which imperils the peace of the soul.
Thus, temperance resists gluttony, chastity combats
impurity, humility overcomes pride.
crowning effect of grace is that it brings God into
our souls, in order to govern us, protect us, and
lead us to Heaven. There God is pleased to abide,
like a king in his kingdom, a father in the bosom of
his family, a master with beloved disciples, a
shepherd in the midst of his flock. Since, then, this
inestimable pearl, the pledge of so many other
blessings, is the unfailing lot of the virtuous, who
will hesitate to imitate the wisdom of that merchant
who sold all he had to purchase this pearl? (Cf.