Since it belongs to the supernatural order, grace
and cannot be known except by faith. We cannot there
fore rely on our feelings or our works to conclude that we are
justified and saved.
However, according to the Lord’s words—
“Thus you will know them by their fruits”
—reflection on God’s
blessings in our life and in the lives of the saints offers us a
guarantee that grace is at work in us and spurs us on to an ever
greater faith and an attitude of trustful poverty.
A pleasing illustration of this attitude is found in the reply
of St. Joan of Arc to a question posed as a trap by her
ecclesiastical judges: “Asked if she knew that she was in
God’s grace, she replied: ‘If I am not, may it please God to
put me in it; if I am, may it please God to keep me there.’”
For you are praised in the company of your Saints and, in
crowning their merits, you crown your own gifts.
The term “merit” refers in general to the
by a community or a society for the action of one of its members,
experienced either as beneficial or harmful, deserving reward or
punishment. Merit is relative to the virtue of justice, in conformity
with the principle of equality which governs it.
With regard to God, there is no strict right to any merit on
the part of man. Between God and us there is an immeasurable
inequality, for we have received everything from him, our
The merit of man before God in the Christian life arises
from the fact that
God has freely chosen to associate man with the work
of his grace.
The fatherly action of God is first on his own initiative,
and then follows man’s free acting through his collaboration, so
that the merit of good works is to be attributed in the first place to
the grace of God, then to the faithful. Man’s merit, moreover, itself
is due to God, for his good actions proceed in Christ, from the
predispositions and assistance given by the Holy Spirit.
56 Cf. Council of Trent (1547): DS 1533-1534.
58 Acts of the trial of St. Joan of Arc.
Preface I of Saints;
Qui in Sanctorum concilio celebraris, et
eorum coronando merita tua dona coronas,
citing the “Doctor of grace,” St.
En. in Ps.
102, 7: PL 37, 1321-1322.