Friday, 11 November 2016

Devotion to The Sacred Heart, Its Theology, History and Philosophy part 68.

But, could it not be remarked that their insistence on the infallible bestowal of the promised grace emphasizes on our part a certain right to expect it as a reward acquired by acts performed, and on the part of God a certain obligation to grant it? If it will be given infallibly, then God is not free to refuse it. If He is not free to refuse it, then we acquire a right to it. Yet, some of the advocates of the third mode of interpretation would under no consideration admit such a right. However, if they were consistent, and if they carried their principle to its final analysis, they should not fail to designate this reward of final perseverance as a right acquired by the performance of certain prescribed acts, and by the compliance with certain demanded conditions. All the conditions required to merit such a grace de condigno, can be pointed out in the case under discussion.

To merit such a grace de condigno it is necessary that the recipient of the nine Holy Communions be in the state of sanctifying grace and a member of the Church militant. The work in which he engages must be (1) free from all coercion; (2) good as to its object, end, and circumstances; and (3) supernatural. On the part of God there is required an explicit promise of a special reward attached to a special work. Now, all these conditions are verified absolutely in the case of one who with the proper intention and disposition performs the Devotion of the Nine Fridays. The conclusion is that he merits the grace of final perseverance de condigno.

Nor is there any necessity of insisting on a due proportion between the good works performed and the reward promised, as maintained by the writer of the article " A Ground of Hope." It is well known that the reason for condign merit may arise from two sources, viz., justice and fidelity. While a due proportion between the good act and the merit is requisite in the case of the former, the promise, which, as they contend, was made by Christ, supplies what is wanting in case of fidelity.

From this reasoning it should be legitimately concluded that the grace of final perseverance is actually merited de condigno by one who complies with all the conditions of the Great Promise. At least such a conclusion can be reached if the principles of some of the advocates of the third mode of interpretation are carried to their logical synthesis. This, however, plainly conflicts with the uniform teaching of the theologians that the grace of final perseverance cannot be merited de condigno. It is true that some admit the possibility of such a merit de congruo fallibili, but only by good acts often repeated throughout one's life.

"Furthermore," says Father Hurter, " if the just man could merit the grace [final perseverance], and would still remain exposed to the danger of losing it, then he failed to merit in the proper sense, while, on the other hand, the supposition that he could merit it so as to exclude the possibility of forfeiture, seems to involve a contradiction with the Sacred Scripture and the Church." Even if this grace of final perseverance should be confined only to the last few moments of man's terrestrial life, not all difficulties would be removed thereby. Such a supposition would affect only the duration of the grace but leave its nature intact.

In the face of all these difficulties it is easy to see how a more conservative theologian would reject the idea of the grace of final perseverance both in its active and in its passive sense, and would substitute for it the grace of final repentance. Father Bachelet in his oft-quoted article does not hesitate to state that those who after the completion of the novena of worthy Communions avoid all mortal sins can, on their death-bed, claim this reward as their right. He denies the same right to those who were actuated by a good intention when they engaged in the Devotion of the Nine Fridays but, through human frailty, deviated from the path of virtue subsequently.

In our opinion, no sufficient warrant can be found to justify such a discrimination between the two classes, if we take it for granted that the promise was actually made, and that the wording in which it is couched expresses the proper scope of the revelation. These two classes, therefore, may entertain an equal hope as regards the reception of the grace of final repentance. The text of the Great Promise does not concern itself with the life led after the fulfilment of the condition required. Therefore, it may be justly concluded that since it presupposes only a faithful compliance with certain demanded conditions and dispositions, the infinite mercy of the Sacred Heart will extend the same privilege to both the above classes indiscriminately. Nor is it our intention to reduce the two classes to a rank of equality as regards all their subsequent deserts and rewards. We merely mean to intimate that the grace of final repentance is a common acquisition of both. Would it be out of place to say that a promise of this nature would more likely have been made in behalf of frail, not obstinate, sinners than for the sake of the just?