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A survey of the theology of sacramental grace

Catholic Theological Society of America
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  • Education


A S U R V E Y O F T H E T H E O L O G Y O F S A C R A M E N T A L G R A C E While proximately directed to the pastors and Lenten preachers of Rome, Pope Pius XII's 1945 Pastoral Instruction on the Sacra- ments, "II meno," published as it was in the Acta Apostolicae Sedis,1 wished to impress upon priests the world over that it is their con- stant duty "to re-educate the faithful to a more lively conscience, a fuller understanding, a more just evaluation of grace and of the divine Sacraments." 2 As though to point the way in this task of re-education, the Holy Father's Instruction laid its chief emphasis upon a truth too little realized by the faithful: the fact that the sacraments are dynamic realities not only in that they confer sanctifying grace, ex opere operato, on subjects duly disposed and co-operative, but dynamic realities also in that they furnish the power to act in conformity with this new being and life of grace, the power—for those who will use it—to "walk in newness of life" {Rom. 6:4). This truth, that the sacraments deliver a sustained and sustain- ing power for leading a seriously Christian life, for striving towards spiritual perfection, is brought home to us almost at the very begin- ning of the Instruction, and again later on, where it is dealt with in greater detail. Thus, in the exordium, after noting that in our troublous times we stand in particular need of the support of grace, and after acknowl- edging that that supernatural assistance can and should be sought in prayer, the Holy Father hastened on to insist: "But those supernatural forces, that divine grace, have their primary source in the Holy Mass and in the Sacraments. . . . Like the natural forces, but to a degree incomparably superior, the Sacraments are realities, and working realities. They have the power to raise man above himself and the whole natural 1AAS, XXXVII (1945), 33-43; English translation in American Eccle- siastical Review, CXI1I (No. 6, Dec., 1945), 464-474.

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