Raphael Moss, O.P.
Cluny Media (16 Dec 2016)
Is marriage a union of one man and one woman for life? Or is this an ideal to be aimed at? These are the typical questions we are asking as Catholics these days. Those who have written in favour of life-long marriage as merely an ideal to be aimed at have recently written volumes. But they miss out on one word: grace. All is grace and without grace it is not possible to live the wonderful adventure known as Catholicism.
This book is one of the very best books I have read on the subject of grace. It comprises a series of conferences given by a Dominican priest to students at Oxford University at the end of the nineteenth century. It is remarkably easy to read, filled with sound advice and common sense and, as one might expect, is steeped in the spirit of St Thomas Aquinas. This is not merely a reprint of a great classic: the brand new introduction by Dominican Father Ezra Sullivan enables the reader to get the most out of the work. Quoting Chesterton, Father Sullivan writes that "when one takes away the supernatural, what remains is the unnatural." The rejection of the supernatural life of grace helps explain why evil is spreading throughout the world.
The book is divided in two sections: the life of grace and the works of grace. The first section covers such topics as prayer, confession, Holy Mass and the last things. The second section covers such important topics as the necessity of grace, the action of grace and the cause of grace. The chapter on grace and merit proved really helpful as it is a topic that is frequently brought up when debating non-Catholic Christians.
Father Moss writes that grace is caused by God alone and by grace we become partakers of the Divine Nature. We are adopted as sons and daughters of God. Does this mean that we become partakers of the Divine Power as well as the Divine Nature? No, says St Thomas. We enjoy a happiness which belongs to God but because we are adopted children, we cannot possibly transmit to others what we have been allowed by privilege to share: the life of grace.
Grace "affects the inmost soul of man and even acts upon his will: the power to change our souls and influence our wills is the inalienable attribute of God alone." And so, yes, we can live an authentic Catholic life even in our fallen world by co-operating with grace. There is no other way.
Father Moss writes that the Sacraments are the instrumental causes of grace. The frequent reception of the Sacraments enable us to grow in the life of grace. God has given us the Catholic Church and bestowed on the Church all the graces we need to go to heaven.
The Nihil Obstat to this book was granted by the great Father Vincent McNabb, the "saint of Hyde Park". And little wonder: the book is truly splendid and worthy of its sublime subject.
Reviewed by Dr Pravin Thevathasan