I was raised a Catholic but I have never been an overly religious person. I went to church under duress as a child and my father actually called me “the little Pagan.” Years later; however, when my brother was diagnosed with cancer, I turned toward prayer as a way to alleviate my anxiety about his recovery and the future. Interestingly, I began to pray for Grace.
I am not sure why I did because I did not even fully comprehend the meaning of my prayer to God. Grace, in the Catholic religion is defined as unearned merit bestowed upon a person by God. Then there is the more complicated notion of sanctifying grace, this is the grace that communicates supernatural life into the soul. In Catholicism, the soul in its natural state isn’t fit for heaven but if you can reach a state of sanctifying grace you are in fact fit to enter the pearly gates.
So how does the soul actually achieve this state of sanctifying grace in the Catholic religion? The soul must first go through a process of justification which includes preparatory acts. During this time the soul must endure great spiritual suffering such as fear and contrition. At last the sinner is transformed from the state of sin to the state of sanctifying grace and the soul is in a state of holiness and is one with God.
What in fact was I praying for? Certainly not this, but truth be told this is what I got; pain and suffering and the transformation of my soul. In my ignorance, I forgot to put the “ful” on the end of grace. I really wanted God to help me curb my opinions, keep my voice down and help me not to laugh so loud. Instead, I have been grappling with this notion of sanctifying grace ever since my brother got sick. Next time I make a plea to God, I will certainly make sure that I get my terminology right.
Is this a testament to the power of prayer? Perhaps it is. My friend Katie just called and I explained my revelation to her. “Katie, I can’t believe I was praying for something I didn’t even understand and sure enough I got it.” Her response was interesting. “Jeanne, I totally believe it. My mother used to pray for a cross to bear and sure enough she got it. My dad died in a terrible car accident a year later and the next year my brother died from a brain tumor. I tell her to pray for joy now.” Good advice. Thanks Katie.
Now I wonder if I am in a state of grace. It would follow, from these teaching, that I would be, although I don’t feel that way. I feel more connected to the universe and closer to God but I certainly don’t feel like I am in a state of holiness. Maybe that is “the Little Pagan” coming out again. I would, however; say that I am transformed. Hardship of any kind transforms people. Illness makes you view life, and death for that matter, differently.
I suppose that most of all through all of this I have learned that we need to be joyful and playful in our endeavors and try to remember to be GRACEFUL towards one another and perhaps we will reach a state of grace.