The Germans have a saying, Anfangen ist leicht, beharren eine Kunst.
This translates, “To begin is easy, to persist is an art.”
When speaking of the grace of final perseverance, I would add, “to persist is to have a particular grace.”
There are at least seven different types of graces. I think someone on this blog has referred to the basic one of salvation, labelled, salvific grace.
There is actual grace, which helps us respond correctly, morally, spiritually, to a specific action, event, need, or so on.
There is sanctifying grace, which is given in the sacraments; the first gift is at baptism. Those who are not baptised are not in sanctifying grace, and are still under the darkness of Original Sin. God is the cause of salvation, not men or women willing it so.
There is sufficient grace, which gives each one of us the power to do good. Efficacious grace allows us to do the good—power and action, governed by graces.
In the case of conversion, God gives us the salvific grace to want to convert, the sufficient grace which is the power to convert, and the efficacious grace to convert.
There is also prevenient grace, which enlightens the mind to accept the truths of the Catholic Faith. God prepares our wills to accept Him, with this predisposing grace given through Jesus Christ. If we pray, it is God who moves the will to pray through prevenient grace.
Prevenient grace, salvific grace, sufficient grace, efficacious grace, actual grace, sanctifying grace….
And the grace of final perseverance…
This last grace is a unique and special grace, separate from all the other graces. It CANNOT be merited. This is an important point. It is a free gift, not something each one of us can gain through merit.
However, we can gain this grace through prayer. We should pray daily for the grace of final perseverance.
This grace is one which most Catholics forget. And, we must pray for it, as it is not merited by freely given. There is a mystery here. Without the grace of final perseverance, anyone may despair and fall away at the last moment of life, especially in the face of the torments of satan and his legions which attack the faithful at death, trying to snatch the soul to hell through despair. The reminders of our past sins could be enough to cause us to despair, if we did not have the grace of final perseverance.
One may ask, then, what is the grace of final perseverance and what does it enable us to do?
The Church teaches that there are two aspects of the singular grace of final perseverance. The first is called the active and the second the passive. Active final perseverance is internal; that is, the constant living in sanctifying grace, the turning away from sin, and the praying for the grace which happens at death, which is the passive gift from God of persevering. Heretics of various types, including the Semipelagians and the Jansenists, taught that it was our own free will which allowed the grace of final perseverance to occur. This denies the gratuitous nature of the passive grace. One may have a disposition to receive that grace from the interior life of the Spirit, but that interior life is not the same as the passive grace given at the time of death.
In other words, we do not at the time of death will to remain faithful. It is God’s free gift of the grace of final perseverance which allows this. St. Alphonsus tells us we must pray for this grace daily.
Here is one of his prayers for that intention.
Eternal Father, I humbly adore Thee, and thank Thee for having created me, and for having redeemed me through Jesus Christ. I thank Thee most sincerely for having made me a Christian, by giving me the true faith, and by adopting me as Thy son, in the sacrament of baptism. I thank Thee for having, after the numberless sins I had committed, waited for my repentance, and for having pardoned (as I humbly hope) all the offences which I have offered to Thee, and for which I am now sincerely sorry, because they have been displeasing to Thee, who art infinite goodness. I thank Thee for having preserved me from so many relapses, of which I would have been guilty if Thou hadst not protected me. But my enemies still continue, and will continue till death, to combat against me, and to endeavor to make me their slave. If Thou dost not constantly guard and succor me with thy aid, I, a miserable creature, shall return to sin, and shall certainly lose Thy grace. I beseech Thee, then, for the love of Jesus Christ, to grant me holy perseverance unto death. Jesus, Thy Son, has promised that Thou wilt grant whatsoever we ask in his name. Through the merits, then, of Jesus Christ, I beg, for myself and for all the just, the grace never again to be separated from Thy love, but to love Thee forever, in time and eternity. Mary, Mother of God, pray to Jesus for me.
St. Alphonsus writes this in his book Preparation for Death.
When banished from a soul, the devil finds no repose, and does everything in his power to return: he even calls companions to his aid; and if he succeeds in re-entering, the second fall of that soul will be far more ruinous than the first. Consider, then, what arms you must use in order to defend yourselves against these enemies, and to preserve your soul in the grace of God. To escape defeat, and to conquer the devil, there is no other defense than prayer. St. Paul says that we have to contend, not with men of flesh and blood like ourselves, but with the princes of hell. Our wrestling is not against flesh and blood, but against principalities and powers (Eph. vi, 12).
By these words the Apostle wished to admonish us that we have not strength to resist such powerful enemies, and that we stand in need of aid from God. With his aid we shall be able to do all things. I can do all things in Him that strengthened me (Phil. iv, 13). Such is the language of St. Paul; such, too, should be our language. But this divine aid is given only to those who pray for it. Ask and you shall receive. Let us, then not trust in our purposes; if we trust in them, we shall be lost. Whenever the devil tempts us, let us place our entire confidence in the divine assistance, and let us recommend ourselves to Jesus Christ, and to the Most Holy Mary.
This is why we need the prayer….
Ernest Hoffman is a retired educator living in Europe
JMJ, pray for us.
God is good,