I’ve been quiet about this, but for the past six months I’ve been teaching a weekly “seminary course” with the goal of preparing candidates for ordination, and for a handful of laity who simply want to gain a deeper acquaintance with their faith.
In this week’s class, we talked about the doctrines of grace, of merit, and of “predestination.” The next morning, I woke up with several thoughts in my mind.
Now I’ve long subscribed to the Eastern view of grace as “energy,” while the Catechism of the Novus Ordo Church defines it as “a participation in the life of God.” The textbook I’m using for the “First Foundations in Catholicism” part of the course, Coppens’ Systematic Study of the Catholic Religion, describes grace as the help and influence God gives us to help us reach salvation.
All of these definitions are valid. So is one of the classic definitions of actual grace as “those helps that assist in strengthening our faith,” along with my definition of actual grace as “when God manifests things in your life, answers prayer, or otherwise assists you to gain or keep sanctifying grace” as answered prayer can only help strengthen one’s faith and help deepen his or her relationship with God.
Yet there is also the Church’s teaching that God offers grace to everyone – whether the bishop in the cathedral or the isolated man in the jungle who’d never heard of Jesus or his Church – because he is not willing anyone should perish (2 Peter 5:8), and that while “many are called but few are chosen,” the reason only “few are chosen” has to do with the individual human’s use of free will to decline the offer made by God.
The complete process behind this gets into a complicated discussion of Scientia Media, Baptism of Desire, and a bunch of other factors we’d have to go over with a fine-tooth comb. Suffice to say that Romans 2:11-16 lays the groundwork that if a non-Catholic does the best he can with what he has, and follows “the law of God in his heart,” then he can also be saved in spite of being a non-Catholic. Jesus himself said “I have other sheep who are not of this fold” (John 10:16), and the Church he founded has never seriously claimed all the “saved” reside within her borders, or even that all the people within her borders are “saved.” (I plan to talk about this further in a future blog post about the issues with Spiritual Evolution doctrine and Hard Universalism.)
What Does This Mean in the Real World?
Everything we’ve said thus far is all well and good, provided we keep to the confines of the classroom. But what about how this plays out in the real world, with its jagged moral quandries and upside-down scenarios?
This is where my thinking began the morning after class, and my mind shifted to three people I know, each with different degrees of notoriety in the occult world, who followed the call of grace even though they were involved in organizations or practices the Church explicitly forbids.
I consider all three people friends, and I’m listing them in the order I met them. You’ll understand that I prefer not to give their names, and will confine my remarks to what they’ve revealed publicly. All three people read this blog, and I apologize in advance if I’ve overstepped any lines.
The first was raised Protestant, and spent some time as what she called “apostate” (I suspect she means Neopaganism but don’t know for sure). After a particularly rough time in her life, she worked the Enochian system as completely as anyone can from primary sources, whereupon John Dee and Edward Kelley led her through a series of training exercises and initiation. This journey led her to come back to Christianity and ultimately to Catholicism.
The second was a cradle Catholic who grew up around the worst the “conservative” post-Vatican II Church had to offer. He fled religion and ran to some self-destructive behaviors, including alcohol and political extremism. Then he found occultism, in particular John Michael Greer’s “Celtic Order of the Golden Dawn,” and it helped him get his life back together. The so-called “occulture” may destroy people, but Occultism saved this man. And say whatever I may about the Golden Dawn, the fact is it was his Golden Dawn practice which eventually brought him back to Catholicism. In fact if the time comes for me to step down from THAVMA, this man’s on the shortlist of people I’d want for my successor.
The third, I don’t know much about his past, only that he was a cradle Catholic who also left for some reason or other. He later became very active in Freemasonry (currently involved with Le Droit Humain), and tends to be very defensive of Masonry if someone speaks a falsehood against it, especially if it involves the Taxil Hoax (I agree with him here; whatever issues exist, are better served by keeping the discussion to known truths and neither side resorting to falsehoods). However, it was through Masonry that he came back to Catholicism.
Now THAVMA readers are intelligent people. How do I know this? I know this because fluff-bunnies can’t stand me, and I’ve seen occulture-tards trashing this site on reddit. So who does that leave? It leaves the smart people, and that’s how I know THAVMA readers are intelligent people.
So, intelligent people, what’s the first thing that pops out at you from these stories, other than that they led all three to (or back to) Catholicism? What pops out to my mind is that all three people found their way by expressly embracing things that same Church had EXPRESSLY FORBIDDEN.
I don’t need to go into any detail about the Church’s prohibition of Spiritism (DZ 2182), or Theosophy (DZ 2189), or Freemasonry. For the first two, I just gave you the citations from Denzinger’s Sources of Catholic Dogma so you can look them up for yourself. Since the commendations against Freemasonry are numerous and span a period of 150 years, I’ll link you to the pertinent excerpts at Novus Ordo Watch, where they give links to the entire documents.
As to the condemnations about Magic and Occultism, I’ve documented them at this blog post, in my books, and elsewhere so many times I’m tired of talking about it anymore. So I’ll just refer you to Is Magic Wrong and, of course, Chapter 1 of The Magic of Catholicism.
Why Are These Stories Important?
Now since we’ve established THAVMA readers are intelligent people, you can see why these three stories came to my mind, the day after I taught a class on the mysteries of grace, merit, and election. Because these people found that exact grace while in the thick of where the Church says not to go finding it!
These stories are important, likewise, because they’re modern and are happening to people we actually know. I mean, we can all call to mind the story of Blessed Bartolo Longo’s conversion from (Theistic) Satanism to Catholicism, but that was a long time ago and “in the past” makes him harder for most people to relate. But with people who are living and breathing, telling and sharing their stories today, we can see what’s going on.
And what’s going on is that the Catholic doctrines of grace and redemption are being proven true: God’s grace is available to all people and refused to none, no matter who or where they are; that God gives stirring grace (a sort of “divine temptation”) to the individual; offers sufficient grace to the individual to carry out what the stirring grace has proposed; that the individual’s will is free to accept or reject that offer; that the sufficient grace becomes efficacious grace the moment the individual’s will chooses to co-operate with it; and finally that the individual who co-operates either gains or increases in sanctifying grace and subsequent holiness.
That this grace is available to anyone anywhere is not an argument for Universalism, but it’s also a full refutation of Calvinism, Jansenism, and Feeneyism which are wrong anyway.
This is what I was thinking that morning, the morning after the class. I was thinking of people I knew and their journeys, and how we can benefit by not confining God’s grace to a certain set of organizations or practices authorized by the hierarchy. It doesn’t mean that what’s forbidden is necessarily okay, either (case-by-case basis), and I certainly don’t encourage you to follow in theirs or even my own footsteps; I have my own share of stories, too. It simply proves God’s unwillingness to let anyone perish means He will always keep reaching out to them.
It also means we must keep in mind the constants helps being offered to us, train ourselves to recognize those helps (and distinguish them from temptation of self-delusion), and make the best use of those helps as they’re being offered. Even a magical manifestation or answered prayer is but a call to increased faith and holiness – to increased participation in our own theosis – and to use these gifts wisely is to co-operate with that call.