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Catholic Encyclopedia, abridged by Annalex ^ | 1911 | Catholic Encyclopedia, abridged by Annalex

Posted on 02/10/2006 11:35:15 AM PST by annalex


Abridged by Annalex


This is an abridgement of long and detailed Catholic Encyclopedia article on Merit where I condense the necessary definitions and distinctions in a more concise manner, omitting discussion that seemed to me too arcane. I follow the same subtitle structure as the original and invite the reader to study the original sections for deeper understanding. Much of this abridgement is directly copied from the original, but for the ease of reading I do not use quotation marks. None in this is my own thoughts; my only input was in shortening and paraphrasing.


Merit (meritum) is property of a good work which entitles the doer to receive a reward (prœmium, merces) from the recipient of the service. The word also applies to the work itself in relation to some reward.

Supernatural merit is good work for which God has promised a supernatural reward. The ultimate supernatural reward is eternal life, also known as beatific vision.


(a) In good work there is a merit and a reward. When work is bad, even if someone derives a benefit from it, we speak of demerit and punishment. In either case, the relationship is that of a deed and return. The relationship is also proportional: the reward is in proportion to the merit. Two distinct persons must be involved, -- there can be no self-reward nor self-punishment. Justice, not mercy determines the proportion of the reward, for we must distinguish between reward and gift ("And if by grace, it is not now by works: otherwise grace is no more grace", Romans 11:6). At the same time, we recognize that divine justice and divine rewards themselves have their origin in the divine grace.

There are two kinds of merit.

Condign merit allows for precise measurement of the reward in strict commutative justice. The reward, in its measured quantity, is truly owed: if the reward is withheld, a right is violated. Simple examples of condign merit are labor or trade contracts.

Congruous merit is such that the reward is owed in equity under distributive justice. The measure of the reward is not known precisely but rather is a product of personal discrimination. If a reward is withheld, no rights are violated even though it would be more fitting to award it. Such are military honors and decorations or gratuities for service. A reward for congruous merit depends on the kindness and liberality of the giver. Nevertheless, the reward remains tied to the merit so that to distinguish it from a mere gift of goodwill.

None of the above concepts can be applied to man’s relation to God directly, neither in the natural or supernatural order. This is because God, being self-existent and absolutely sovereign, not deriving any advantage or benefit from man’s work, is not bound by justice, not even properly speaking, by equity. Hence on the part of God there can only be question of a gratuitous promise of reward for certain good works. For such works He owes the promised reward, not in justice or equity, but solely because He has freely bound himself, i.e., because of His own attributes of veracity and fidelity. It is on this ground alone that we can speak of Divine justice at all, and apply the principle: Do ut des (cf. St. Augustine, Serm. clviii, c. ii, in P. L., XXXVIII, 863).

(b) Merit is distinct from satisfaction. Satisfactory work is one undertaken due to a previous injury or offense, while meritorious work, as we have seen, is in anticipation of a positive reward. Theologically, we speak of satisfaction either as

Sin, as an offence against God, demands satisfaction in the first sense; the temporal punishment due to sin calls for satisfaction in the second sense.

Christ has fully satisfied God's anger at our sins by His death on the cross. He has reconciled the world with its Creator. Each man, however, must make the fruits of the Sacrifice of the Cross his own by personal exertion and co-operation with grace, by justifying faith and the reception of baptism. It is a defined article of the Catholic Faith that man before, in, and after justification derives his whole capability of meriting and satisfying, as well as his actual merits and satisfactions, solely from the infinite treasure of merits which Christ gained for us on the Cross (cf. Council of Trent, Sess. VI, cap. xvi; Sess. XIV, cap. viii).

Regarding the second kind of satisfaction, the penitent, after his justification, gradually cancels the temporal punishments due to his sins. He can do so either by performing the penance imposed on him by his confessor (ex opere operato) or a self-imposed penance (ex opere operantis). Enduring sufferings and trials sent by God is also included in the latter category. If satisfaction of the second, penitential, kind, is not given, the full satisfaction will be given in pains of purgatory.

Merit constitutes a debtor who owes a reward. Satisfaction supposes a creditor whose demands must be met. In Christ's work of redemption merit and satisfaction materially coincide almost to their full extent, since as a matter of fact the merits of Christ are also works of satisfaction for man. But, since by His Passion and Death He truly merited, not only graces for us, but also external glory for His own Person (His glorious Resurrection and Ascension, His sitting at the right hand of the Father, the glorification of His name of Jesus, etc.), it follows that His personal merit extends further than His satisfaction, as He had no need of satisfying for Himself.

Good works done by the justified Christian can be meritorious, or satisfactory, or both. Meritorious act has for its main object the increase of grace and of eternal glory. Satisfactory works have for their object the removal of the temporal punishment still due to sin. In practice and generally speaking, however, merit and satisfaction are found in every salutary act, so that every meritorious work is also satisfactory and vice versa. That is because every salutary act, even prayer, does not come without overcoming a difficulty, and hence is penitential as well as meritorious. Therefore, confessors may impose prayer as penance.

(c) One practical difference between merit and satisfaction is that while merit leads to an increase in grace and heavenly glory exclusively to the doer, the satisfactory work can be done on behalf of others. It is because of the fact that the residual punishments for sin are in the nature of a debt, which may be legitimately paid to the creditor and thereby cancelled not only by the debtor himself but also by a friend of the debtor. It is, therefore, satisfactory work, -- but not meritorious work, -- that can be applied to reduce the suffering of the souls in purgatory. This property of satisfactory work is the pivot on which this grand social organization which we call the "Communion of Saints" hinges.

One remarkable example of satisfactory work applied to others is the "heroic act of charity" approved by Pius IX, whereby the faithful on earth, out of heroic charity for the souls in Purgatory, voluntarily renounce in their favour the satisfactory fruits of all their good works, even all the suffrages which shall be offered for them after their death, in order that they may thus benefit and assist the souls in purgatory more quickly and more efficaciously. An important distinction exists between prayer and other kinds of salutary work, such as almsgiving or fasting, when performed by one in a state of justification. Prayer has the additional effect of impetration (effectus impetratorius), for he who prays appeals solely to the goodness, love, and liberality of God for the fulfilment of his desires, without throwing the weight of his own merits into the scale. He who prays fervently and unceasingly gains a hearing with God because he prays, even should he pray with empty hands (cf. John 14:13 sq.; 16:23).

Thus the special efficacy of prayer for the dead is easily explained, since it combines efficacy of satisfaction and impetration, and this twofold efficacy is enhanced by the personal worthiness of the one who, as a friend of God, offers the prayer.


(a) Both Luther and Calvin believed that justification is mere covering of man’s sin; Good work then is no good at all, but is imputed as good. This has lead to such exaggerations as Agricola’s or Amsdorf’s antinomian controversy, settled in 1540 by the recantation forced from Agricola by Joachim II of Brandenburg. The doctrine of modern Protestantism teaches generally speaking that good works are a spontaneous consequence of justifying faith, without being of any avail for life eternal. The Council of Trent upheld the traditional doctrine of merit by insisting that life everlasting is both a grace and a reward (Sess. VI, cap. xvi, in Denzinger, n. 809). It condemned as heretical Luther's doctrine of the sinfulness of good works (Sess. VI, can. xxv), and declared as a dogma that the just, in return for their good works done in God through the merits of Jesus Christ, should expect an eternal reward (loc. cit., can. xxvi).

This doctrine of the Church simply echoes Scripture and Tradition. The Old Testament already declares the meritoriousness of good works before God. "But the just shall live for evermore: and their reward is with the Lord" (Wisdom 5:16). "Be not afraid to be justified even to death: for the reward of God continueth for ever" (Ecclus., xviii, 22). Christ Himself adds a special reward to each of the Eight Beatitudes and he ends with this fundamental thought: "Be glad and rejoice, for your reward is very great in heaven" (Matthew 5:12) In His description of the Last Judgment, He makes the possession of eternal bliss depend on the practice of the corporal works of mercy (Matthew 25:34 sqq.). Although St. Paul insists on nothing more strongly than the absolute gratuitousness of Christian grace, still he acknowledges merits founded on grace and also the reward due to them on the part of God, which he variously calls "prize" (Philippians 3:14; 1 Corinthians 9:24) "reward" (Colossians 3:24; 1 Corinthians 3:8), "crown of justice" (2 Timothy 4:7 sq.; cf. James 1:12). It is worthy of note that, in these and many others good works are not represented as mere adjuncts of justifying faith, but as real fruits of justification and part causes of our eternal happiness. And the greater the merit, the greater will be the reward in heaven (cf. Matthew 16:27; 1 Corinthians 3:8; 2 Corinthians 9:6). Thus the Bible itself refutes the assertion that "the idea of merit is originally foreign to the Gospel" (" Realencyklopädie für protest. Theologie," XX, 3rd ed. Leipzig, 1908, p. 501). That Christian grace can be merited either by the observance of the Jewish law or by mere natural works (see GRACE) this alone is foreign to the Bible. On the other hand, eternal reward is promised in the Bible to those supernatural works which are performed in the state of grace, and that because they are meritorious (cf. Matthew 25:34 sqq.; Romans 2:6 sqq.; 2 Corinthians 5:10).

Even Protestants concede that, in the oldest literature of the Apostolic Fathers and Christian Apologists, "the idea of merit was read into the Gospel," and that Tertullian by defending "merit in the strict sense gave the key-note to Western Catholicism" (Realencykl., pp. 501, 502). He was followed by St. Cyprian with the declaration: "You can attain to the vision of God, if you deserve it by your life and works" ("De op. et elemos.", xiv, ed. Hartel, I, 384). With St. Ambrose (De offic., I, xv, 57) and St. Augustine (De morib. eccl., I, xxv), the other Fathers of the Church took the Catholic doctrine on merit as a guide in their teaching, especially in their homilies to the faithful, so that uninterrupted agreement is secured between Bible and Tradition, between patristic and scholastic teaching, between the past and the present. If therefore "the reformation was mainly a struggle against the doctrine of merit" (Realencyklopädie, loc. cit., p. 506) this only proves that the Council of Trent defended against unjustified innovations the old doctrine of the meritoriousness of good works, founded alike on Scripture and Tradition.

(b) This doctrine of the Church, moreover, fully accords with natural ethics. If there be no eternal reward for an upright life and no eternal chastisement for sin, it will matter little to the majority of people whether they lead a good or a bad life. It is true that, even if there were neither reward nor punishment, it would be contrary to rational nature to lead an immoral life; for the moral obligation to do always what is right, does not of itself depend on retribution. But then, despite Kant who posited his frigid "categorical imperative" is alone sufficient to produce moral behavior, in real life duty and happiness are always linked together. Indeed, the peace of a good conscience that follows the faithful performance of duty is an unsought-for reward of our action and an interior happiness of which no calamity can deprive us.

(c) But is not this continual acting "with one eye on heaven", with which Professor Jodl reproaches Catholic moral teaching, the meanest "mercenary spirit" and greed which necessarily vitiates to the core all moral action? Can there be any question of morality, if it is only the desire for eternal bliss or simply the fear of hell that determines one to do good and avoid evil? Such a disposition is certainly far from being the ideal of Catholic morality. On the Contrary, the Church proclaims to all her children that pure love of God is the first and supreme commandment (cf. Mark 12:30). It is our highest ideal to act out of love. For he who truly loves God would keep His commandments, even though there were no eternal reward in the next life. Nevertheless, the desire for heaven is a necessary and natural consequence of the perfect love of God; for heaven is only the perfect possession of God by love. As a true friend desires to see his friend without thereby sinking into egotism so does the loving soul ardently desire the Beatific Vision, not from a craving for reward, but out of pure love. It is unfortunately too true that only the best type of Christians, and especially the great saints of the Church, reach this high standard of morality in everyday life. The great majority of ordinary Christians must be deterred from sin principally by the fear of hell and spurred on to good works by the thought of an eternal reward, before they attain perfect love. But, even for those souls who love God, there are times of grave temptation when only the thought of heaven and hell keeps them from falling. Such a disposition, be it habitual or only transitory, is morally less perfect, but it is not immoral. Only that desire for remuneration (amor mercenarius) is reprehensible, and "doubly servile fear" (timor serviliter servilis) is alone immoral, which proceeds from a mere dread of punishment without at the same time fearing God.

Besides blaming the Church for fostering a "craving for reward," Protestants also accuse her of teaching "justification by works". External works alone, they allege, such as fasting, almsgiving, pilgrimages, the recitation of the rosary etc., make the Catholic good and holy, the intenor intention and disposition being held to no account. This accusation comes from ignorance of the Catholic teaching. In accord with the Bible the Church teaches that the external work has a moral value only when and in so far as it proceeds from a right interior disposition and intention (cf. Matthew 6:1 sqq.; Mark 12:41 sqq.; 1 Corinthians 10:31, etc.). As the body receives its life from the soul, so must external actions be penetrated and vivified by holiness of intention. Not only does the moral teaching of the Catholic Church attribute no moral value whatever to the mere external performance of good works without a corresponding good intention, but it detests such performance as hyprocrisy and pretence. On the other hand, our good Intention, provided it be genuine and deep-rooted, naturally spurs us on to external works, and without these works it would be reduced to a mere semblance of life.

A third charge against the Catholic doctrine on merit is summed up in the word "self-righteousness", as if the just man utterly disregarded the merits of Christ and arrogated to himself the whole credit of his good works. If any Catholic has ever been so pharisaical as to hold and practise this doctrine, he has certainly set himself in direct opposition to what the Church teaches. The Church has always proclaimed what St. Augustine expresses in the words: "Non Dens coronat merita tua tanquam merita tua, sed tanquam dona sua" (De grat. et lib. arbitrio, xv), i. e., God crowns thy merits, not as thine earnings, but as His gifts. Of the satisfactory works of penance the Council of Trent makes this explicit declaration: "Thus, man has not wherein to glory, but all our glorying is in Christ, in whom we live, move, and make satisfaction, bringing forth fruits worthy of penance, which from Him have their efficacy, are by Him offered to the Father, and through Him find with the Father acceptance" (Sess. XIV, cap. viii, in Denzinger, n. 904). Does this read like self-righteousness?


For all true merit (vere mereri; Council of Trent, Sess. VI, can. xxxii), by which is to be understood only meritum de condigno (see Pallavicini, "Hist. Concil. Trident.", VIII, iv), theologians have set down seven conditions, of which four regard the meritorious work, two the agent who merits, and one God who rewards.

(a) In order to be meritorious a work must be morally good, morally free, done with the assistance of actual grace, and inspired by a supernatural motive. Not only are more perfect works of supererogation, such as the vow of perpetual chastity, good and meritorious but also works of obligation, such as the faithful observance of the commandments. The married state is also meritorious for heaven. It is doubtful whether morally indifferent works, such as listening to music is by itself meritorious; likewise the mere omission of a bad action. Overcoming a temptation, however, would be meritorious, since this struggle is a positive act and not a mere omission.

As to the second requisite, i. e., moral liberty, it is clear from ethics that actions, due to external force or internal compulsion, can deserve neither reward nor punishment.

The strictly supernatural destiny of the Beatific Vision, for which the Christian must strive, necessitates ways and means which lie altogether beyond what is purely natural, hence the third condition, of the influence of actual grace.

Finally, a supernatural motive is required because good works must be supernatural, not only as regards their object and circumstances, but also as regards the end for which they are performed (ex fine). But, in assigning the necessary qualities of this motive, theologians differ widely. Motive of faith, motive of charity are set forth as necessary by some. Others again set down as the only condition of merit that the good work of the just man, who already has habitual faith and charity, be in conformity with the Divine law, and require no other special motive.

(b) The agent who merits must fulfil two conditions: He must be in the state of pilgrimage (status viœ) and in the state of grace (status gratiœ). By the state of pilgrimage is to be understood our earthly life; death as a natural (although not an essentially necessary) limit, closes the time of meriting.

In addition to the state of pilgrimage, the state of grace (i. e., the possession of sanctifying grace) is required for meriting, because only the just can be "sons of God" and "heirs of heaven" (cf. Romans 8:17). In the parable of the vine Christ expressly declares the "abiding in him" a necessary condition for "bearing fruit": "He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same beareth much fruit" (John 15:5); and this constant union with Christ is effected only by sanctifying grace.

(c) Merit requires on the part of God that He accept (in actu secundo) the good work as meritorious, even though the work in itself (in actu primo) and previous to its acceptance by God, be already truly meritorious. Theologians, however, are not agreed as to the necessity of this condition. The safe middle course seems to be that the condignity between merit and reward owes its origin to a twofold source: to the intrinsic value of the good work and to the free acceptance and gratuitous promise of God.


Merit in the strict sense (meritum de condigno) gives a right to a threefold reward: increase of sanctifying grace, heavenly glory, and the increase thereof; other graces can be acquired only in virtue of congruous merit (meritum de conqruo).

(a) In its Sixth Session (can. xxxii), the Council of Trent declared: "If any one saith . . . that the justified man by good works . . . does not truly merit [vere mereri] increase of grace eternal life, and the attainment of that eternal life — if so be, however, that he depart in grace — and also an increase in glory; let him be anathema." The expression "vere mereri" shows that the three objects mentioned above can be merited in the true and strict sense of the word, viz., de condigno. Increase of grace (augmentum gratiae) is named in the first place to exclude the first grace of justification concerning which the council had already taught: "None of those things, which precede justification — whether faith or works — merit the grace itself of justification" (Sess. VI, cap. viii). This impossibility of meriting the first habitual grace is as much a dogma of our Faith as the absolute impossibility of meriting the first actual grace (see GRACE). The growth in sanctifying grace, on the other hand, is perfectly evident from both Scripture and Tradition (cf. Sirach 18:22; 2 Corinthians 9:10; Revelation 22:11 sq.). To the question whether the right to actual graces needed by the just be also an object of strict merit, theologians commonly answer that, together with the increase of habitual grace, merely sufficient graces may be merited de condigno, but not efficacious graces. The reason is that the right to efficacious graces would necessarily include the strict right to final perseverance, which lies completely outside the sphere of condign merit although it may be obtained by prayer (see GRACE). Not even heroic acts give a strict right to graces which are always efficacious or to final perseverance, for even the greatest saint is still obliged to watch, pray, and tremble lest he fall from the state of grace. This explains why the Council of Trent purposely omitted efficacious grace and the gift of perseverance, when it enumerated the objects of merit.

Life everlasting (vita aeterna) is the second object of merit; the dogmatical proof for this assertion has been given above in treating of the existence of merit. It still remains to inquire whether the distinction made by the Council of Trent between vita œterna and vitœ œternœ consecutio is meant to signify a twofold reward: "life everlasting" and "the attainment of life everlasting", and hence a twofold object of merit. But theologians rightly deny that the council had this in view, because it is clear that the right to a reward coincides with the right to the payment of the same. Nevertheless, the distinction was not useless or superfluous because, notwithstanding the right to eternal glory, the actual possession of it must necessarily be put off until death, and even then depends upon the condition: "si tamen in gratin decesserit" (provided he depart in grace). With this last condition the council wished also to inculcate the salutary truth that sanctifying grace may be lost by mortal sin, and that the loss of the state of grace ipso facto entails the forfeiture of all merits however great. Even the greatest saint, should he die in the state of mortal sin, arrives in eternity as an enemy of God with empty hands, just as if during life he had never done anything, meritorious. All his former rights to grace and glory are cancelled.

As the third object of merit the council mentions the "increase of glory" (gloriae augmentum) which evidently must correspond to the increase of grace, as this corresponds to the accumulation of good works. At the Last Day, when Christ will come with his angels to judge the world, "He will render to every man according to his works [secundum opera eius]" (Matthew 16:27; cf Romans 2:6). And St. Paul repeats the same (1 Corinthians 3:8): "Every man shall receive his own reward, according to his own labour [secundum suum laborem]". This explains the inequality that exists between the glory of the different saints.

(b) By his good works the just man may merit for himself many graces and favours, not, however, by right and justice (de condigno), but only congruously (de congruo). Most theologians incline to the opinion that the grace of final perseverance is among the objects of congruous merit, which grace, as has been shown above, is not and cannot be merited condignly.

It is impossible to answer with equal certainty the question whether the just man is able to merit in advance the grace of conversion, if perchance he should happen to fall into mortal sin. St. Thomas denies this absolutely: "Nullus potest sibi mereri reparationem post lapsum futurum neque merito condigni neque merito congrui" (Summa Theol., I-II, Q. cxiv, a. 7). But because the Prophet Jehu declared to Josaphat, the wicked King of Juda (cf. 2 Chronicles 19:2 sqq.), that God had regard for his former merits, almost all other theologians consider it a "pious and probable opinion" that God, in granting the grace of conversion does not entirely disregard the merits lost by mortal sin, especially if the merits previously acquired surpass in number and weight the sins, which, perhaps, were due to weakness, and if those merits are not crushed, as it were, by a burden of iniquity (cf. Suarez, "De gratia", XII, 38). Prayer for future conversion from sin is indeed morally good and useful (cf. Psalm 70:9), because the disposition by which we sincerely wish to be freed as soon as possible from the state of enmity with God cannot but be pleasing to Him. Temporal blessings, such as health, freedom from extreme poverty, success in one's undertakings, seem to be objects of congruous merit only in so far as they are conducive to eternal salvation; for only on this hypothesis do they assume the character of actual graces (cf. Matthew 6:33). But, for obtaining temporal favours, prayer is more effective than meritorious works, provided that the granting of the petition be not against the designs of God or the true welfare of him who prays . The just man may merit de congruo for others (e. g., parents, relatives, and friends) whatever he is able to merit for himself: the grace of conversion, final perseverance, temporal blessings, nay even the very first prevenient grace (gratia prima praeveniens), (Summa Theol., I-II, Q. cxiv, a. 6) which he can in no wise merit for himself. St. Thomas gives as reason for this the intimate bond of friendship which sanctifying grace establishes between the just man and God. These effects are immeasurably strengthened by prayer for others; as it is beyond doubt that prayer plays an important part in the present economy of salvation. For further explanation see Suarez, "De gratia", XII, 38. Contrary to the opinion of a few theologians (e. g., Billuart), we hold that even a man in mortal sin, provided he co-operate with the first grace of conversion, is able to merit de congruo by his supernatural acts not only a series of graces which will lead to conversion, but finally justification itself; at all events it is certain that he may obtain these graces by prayer, made with the assistance of grace (cf. Psalm 50:9; Tobit 12:9; Daniel 4:24; Matthew 6:14).

TOPICS: Apologetics; Catholic; Orthodox Christian; Theology
KEYWORDS: atonement; communion; communionofsaints; error; indulgences; manmade; merit; mistakes; reformation; saints; treasureofmerits
I intend this as an in-depth discussion on the Catholic theology of merit. It is not suitable, in my opinion, for a primer on the role of good works in salvation.

It is a second article on this topic that I post. The previous one was Indulgences: Spreading the Wealth

1 posted on 02/10/2006 11:35:21 AM PST by annalex
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To: Kolokotronis; kosta50; Dionysiusdecordealcis; jo kus; Hermann the Cherusker; Nihil Obstat; ...

Allegory of Merit Accompanied by Nobility and Virtue

Giovanni Battista Tiepolo
Museo del Settecento Veneziano, Ca' Rezzonico, Venice

2 posted on 02/10/2006 11:42:07 AM PST by annalex
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To: annalex

Thanks, Alex. A long and complex read which deserves more time than I have given it thusfar. But I am thankful for this piece at this point only insofar as it points up again the difference between the Eastern and Western "understandings" of the nature of our Triune God, sin and the relationship between God and man. Frankly it reads like something out of the Corpus Iuris. I'll read it more carefully later.

4 posted on 02/10/2006 3:56:38 PM PST by Kolokotronis (Christ is Risen, and you, o death, are annihilated!)
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To: Kolokotronis

It is not the liveliest of reads. Once we chew this one down, I have something far more exciting planned. The Encyclopedia article is necessary background because it defines the terms the meaning of which has meen nearly lost by (expletive redacted) modernity.

5 posted on 02/10/2006 4:04:24 PM PST by annalex
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To: annalex

Interesting post, thank you. I look forward to the whole series.

6 posted on 02/10/2006 9:42:49 PM PST by Nihil Obstat
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To: annalex

Thank you for the post.

I prefer the Catechism of the Catholic Church pps 2006-2011 concerning merit.

Of particular mention is pp 2009 "Our merits are Gods gifts."

7 posted on 02/10/2006 9:48:25 PM PST by sanormal
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To: sanormal
Yes. Here it is:

You are glorified in the assembly of your Holy Ones, for in crowning their merits you are crowning your own gifts.59

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.

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.

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.

Filial adoption, in making us partakers by grace in the divine nature, can bestow true merit on us as a result of God's gratuitous justice. This is our right by grace, the full right of love, making us "co-heirs" with Christ and worthy of obtaining "the promised inheritance of eternal life."60 The merits of our good works are gifts of the divine goodness.61 "Grace has gone before us; now we are given what is due. . . . Our merits are God's gifts."62

Since the initiative belongs to God in the order of grace, no one can merit the initial grace of forgiveness and justification, at the beginning of conversion. Moved by the Holy Spirit and by charity, we can then merit for ourselves and for others the graces needed for our sanctification, for the increase of grace and charity, and for the attainment of eternal life. Even temporal goods like health and friendship can be merited in accordance with God's wisdom. These graces and goods are the object of Christian prayer. Prayer attends to the grace we need for meritorious actions.

The charity of Christ is the source in us of all our merits before God. Grace, by uniting us to Christ in active love, ensures the supernatural quality of our acts and consequently their merit before God and before men. The saints have always had a lively awareness that their merits were pure grace.

After earth's exile, I hope to go and enjoy you in the fatherland, but I do not want to lay up merits for heaven. I want to work for your love alone. . . . In the evening of this life, I shall appear before you with empty hands, for I do not ask you, Lord, to count my works. All our justice is blemished in your eyes. I wish, then, to be clothed in your own justice and to receive from your love the eternal possession of yourself.63

59 Roman Missal, Prefatio I de sanctis; 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.
60 Council of Trent (1547): DS 1546.
61 Cf. Council of Trent (1547): DS 1548.
62 St. Augustine, Sermo 298,4-5:PL 38,1367.
63 St. Thérèse of Lisieux, "Act of Offering" in Story of a Soul, tr. John Clarke (Washington DC: ICS, 1981), 277.

8 posted on 02/10/2006 10:10:09 PM PST by annalex
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To: annalex

Mo clue why the paragraph number don't show. They are 2006 - 2011.

9 posted on 02/10/2006 10:11:50 PM PST by annalex
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To: seamole

I like the way they said this:

Council of Orange II

"[G]race is preceded by no merits. A reward is due to good works, if they are performed, but grace, which is not due, precedes [good works], that they may be done" (Canons on grace 19 [A.D. 529]).

11 posted on 02/11/2006 8:43:31 AM PST by Knitting A Conundrum (Act Justly, Love Mercy, and Walk Humbly With God Micah 6:8)
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To: annalex

This all gets way too scholastic for me.

My commentary for those who also get overwhelmed: (IMHO, of course - you can disagree with my summary, and that's cool.)

For some people, they confuse the workings of God's grace with the merits of doing the works God asks us. Other people see us talking about merit and think that we think we can earn our way to heaven.

Catholic teaching sees salvation and grace as something unearned and given to us by God.

Yet, we are told in things like the Parable of the talents and the parable of the minas that Jesus expects us to work, doing good deeds, and we will be rewarded for them in the end.

Thus we talk about merits. Not about the gift of God's grace, but about doing God's work.

I am reminded of what happened to the guys who sat on their talents or minas when I hear the people who talk about grace like doing deeds of good works is somehow contraindicated, because it interferes with the work of grace (I suspect its semantics about how God saves us, rather than about the call to be Christlike).

My prayer has always been, Lord, help me not to be like that person.

And I am also reminded of Mother Teresa's slogan for doing things like this: It went something like we do it through the power of Jesus for Jesus, as if we were doing it to Jesus.

And that is where I wish my heart were when I try to walk in the right path.

Commentary from this non-scholastic person over.

12 posted on 02/11/2006 8:54:07 AM PST by Knitting A Conundrum (Act Justly, Love Mercy, and Walk Humbly With God Micah 6:8)
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To: annalex

"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.

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."

Does this answer the Protestant question concerning "earning salvation?"

13 posted on 02/11/2006 10:08:56 AM PST by sanormal
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To: annalex
See this article: Indulgences in the Life of the Church
14 posted on 06/08/2006 10:44:11 AM PDT by annalex
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