What Is Grace?

The sacraments are said to bring graces. Specifically, the sacrament of holy matrimony is said to bring grace to the married couple, who conferred the sacrament upon themselves. A priest does not marry two people. They marry each other; the priest is only the Church’s official witness.

Merriam-Webster defines the noun grace as follows:

a: unmerited divine assistance given to humans for their regeneration or sanctification
b: a virtue coming from God
c: a state of sanctification enjoyed through divine assistance

That all seems accurate, but it is still fuzzy to me. All the vocations recognized by the Church—marriage, consecrated life, priesthood, and single life—have graces attached to them. Once you have responded to the call and entered your vocation, God grants you the graces needed to fulfill it and become sanctified so that you may enter heaven upon earthly death.

Maybe the better question is, how does one recognize grace? We have unique, unrepeatable souls, so it makes sense that each person would recognize grace in his or her own way.

To me, grace is a peaceful feeling, an infusion of patience that I didn’t have before, that leaves me wondering how I still feel so calm, when I would ordinarily be anxious. I also see grace as the wisdom to keep my mouth shut when I am tempted to verbally lash out. Grace is still hard to recognize, and many times, I fail to use or grasp it, but I have learned to be more open to it and to pray for it.

tl;dr version of this post: I don’t think I ever recognized grace as a legitimate blessing that could be helpful until recently.

Thank you, God, for this grace.

Advent Reflection Series #9

Here’s the last Advent reflection series post, and the prompt seemed to be pretty appropriate for Christmas:

Do you believe that Jesus is the answer?

Well, I wouldn’t be a Catholic if I said no to that, right? I do believe that Jesus is the answer to everything. Some aspect of his life or his teachings can always become relevant to wherever I am in life. Many questions can be answered by the Bible, and if they’re not, then I’m making things too complicated or not looking in the right place.

Like worrying, for example. Most of us worry incessantly for no good reason, and we know it’s not a good reason, but we somehow can’t stop worrying. Plenty of places in the Bible remind us not to worry and let us know that Jesus has our best interests at heart.

This Christmas season has been anxiety ridden for me, because I haven’t been able to really give like I wanted to. There wasn’t any time to send Christmas cards, and I always wish I had the creativity to make handmade gifts instead of buying something from a store. I’m trying to save money for the baby and sure-to-be-outrageous hospital expenses that accompany that, so I haven’t donated to a charity in a long time. I didn’t contribute to my company’s holiday get-together. I haven’t cooked anything. The apartment complex was having a toy drive for needy kids, and I didn’t donate to that.

Kinda feels Grinch-y, especially when people have been so kind to me. I feel like I have no way to adequately repay them. But is Jesus the answer to this problem? Yes. I’m sure he would tell me not to worry. Perhaps in some years, I am supposed to be the recipient of gifts rather than the giver. Maybe next year, I’ll be in a better place to give. Or maybe I won’t. Either way, feeling guilty and worried isn’t going to solve anything.

So I turn to Jesus in the Bible, and he says, “Do not worry about tomorrow; tomorrow will take care of itself.” (Matthew 6:34).

Merry Christmas to all of you!

Advent Reflection Series #8

Do you trust God with the little things?

Not as much as I should. I don’t like to bother God too much, so I will turn to the saints instead. The little things often seem too silly and insubstantial to bother God with. Does he really care about whether I find that object I’ve lost? Will he really help me in a matter as basic as picking what outfit would be most appropriate to wear to that important work meeting?

I know he will help me, but I don’t like to bother him. It’s the same with earthly people—I very rarely ask for help because I don’t want to make a pain in the ass of myself. The only way I ask for help is when I am totally confused or under a deadline or just can’t wrap my brain around what the solution might be.

This is bad. Not asking for help leads to pride—the “I don’t need anyone else” mentality. Everybody needs each other, and we all need God. So it will be important to ask God to help with little things in the future, almost like a warm-up exercise for asking him for big things when the time comes. He is our father, and he wants us to feel like we can come to him with anything. Little kids don’t hesitate when asking their parents for even the tiniest things, so why should we hesitate to ask or trust God?