By Rev. Joseph J. C. Petrovits, J.C.B., S.T.L.
Furthermore, Christ in the Sacred Scripture promises life everlasting to those who eat His flesh and drink His blood. He does not specify the frequency of this participation in his flesh and blood. It is to endure throughout our life, and according to the practice prescribed by the discipline of the Church. Parallel is the case regarding the grace attached to the Scapular. One must, Vermeersch maintains, be invested with it at the hour of death. This presupposes a kind of negative perseverance till the last moment of our terrestrial sojourn when the designated favor is to be bestowed. But the Great Promise is not conditioned by, or subordinated to, a practice of indefinite duration, for the indicated conditions can be satisfied long before death overtakes us. It is particularly in this feature Father Vermeersch places the excellence of the Nine Fridays' Devotion.
He argues further that the grace of God can surely triumph over the weakness as well as over the obstinacy of man. It is undoubtedly capable of preventing presumption and hardening in sin. Without grace man is unable to persevere in justice, and God can give anyone a sufficient grace which He foresees will eventually be efficacious. He may lay down certain conditions for its acquisition, or may bring about the same result absolutely, i. e., without any conditions whatsoever. In the present case God will not bestow this grace unless certain conditions are verified beforehand. Since, however, according to the general rule of interpretation, the literal sense is to be preferred, unless something obviously militates against it, therefore, he concludes, all those who fulfill the prescribed conditions are morally certain of their salvation.
The disposition with which these Holy Communions should be received is (1) the state of grace, (2) the intention of not neglecting one's spiritual obligations in the future, (3) in honor of the Sacred Heart as a reparation to make amends for the ingratitude of men, (4) special intention of gaining the grace offered by the Twelfth Promise. Father Vermeersch rejects the opinion of Father Smith who claims that a high degree of fervor must be manifested in the reception of these nine Holy Communions in order that the promised grace may be granted. Bainvel clings to the opinion of Father Vermeersch by claiming that the promise is absolute, and presupposes as a condition only the worthy reception of the nine Holy Communions at the time specified. It promises final perseverance, he says, purporting penitence and the last Sacraments, but only in the degree necessary.
The advocates of the third mode of interpretation, therefore, maintain that if we stand by the plain and obvious meaning of the language none of those who make the Nine Fridays duly are to be excluded from the moral certainty of a happy death. In their estimation the grace of final perseverance spoken of in the Great Promise is an efficacious grace and will infallibly obtain the consent of the will.
But what is to be said about those who presume that their salvation is secure irrespective of the kind of life they lead in the future, provided they have made the Nine Fridays. We are to distinguish whether this presumption on their part arose before they engaged in the devotion or after they terminated it No provision is made for those in whose case this presumption arises concomitantly with the devotion. In the first case they would lack the necessary disposition and consequently have no right to the promised reward. As to the second case the interpretations disagree. Father Bachelet believes that those who by a consequent presumption become hardened in the state of sin, by this very act place an impediment in the way of the realization of the Great Promise. Even those who by mere human weakness, without any presumption on their part, transgress the commandments of God, by this very fact lose their assured title to this special divine assistance. However, we should not hesitate to state, he says, if not absolutely at least as something plausible and especially to be hoped for, that the Heart of Jesus will remember in opportune time the right these sinful souls acquired by the performance of the Nine Fridays' Devotion, and causing the obstacle to disappear, will simultaneously revive the right which is suspended in some way on account of their state of sin.