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486

Part Three

2005

Since it belongs to the supernatural order, grace

escapes our

experience

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.

56

However, according to the Lord’s words—

“Thus you will know them by their fruits”

57

—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.’”

58

III.

M

erit

For you are praised in the company of your Saints and, in

crowning their merits, you crown your own gifts.

59

2006

The term “merit” refers in general to the

recompense owed

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.

2007

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

Creator.

2008

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.

57

Mt

7:20.

58 Acts of the trial of St. Joan of Arc.

59

Roman Missal,

Preface I of Saints;

Qui in Sanctorum concilio celebraris, et

eorum coronando merita tua dona coronas,

citing the “Doctor of grace,” St.

Augustine,

En. in Ps.

102, 7: PL 37, 1321-1322.

1723

1807

42

306

155

970