“Actual.” Sanctifying grace continues with us, but when grace is given just so that we may do a good act or avoid a bad one, it is called actual grace. Suppose, for example, I see a poor man and am able to aid him. When my conscience tells me to give him assistance, I am just then receiving an actual grace, which moves me and helps me to do that good act; and just as soon as I give the help, the actual grace ceases, because no longer needed. It was given for that one good act, and now that the act is done, the actual grace has produced its effect. Again, a boy is going to Mass on Sunday and meets other boys who try to persuade him to remain away from Mass and go to some other place. When he hears his conscience telling him to go to Mass by all means, he is receiving just then an actual grace to avoid the mortal sin of missing Mass, and the grace lasts just as long as the temptation. Sacramental grace is sanctifying grace—given in the Sacraments—which contains for us a right to actual graces when we need them. These actual graces are given to help us to fulfill the end for which each of the Sacraments was instituted. They are different for each Sacrament, and are given just when we need them; that is, just when we are tempted against the object or end for which the Sacrament was instituted.
111 Q. Is grace necessary for salvation? A. Grace is necessary for salvation, because without grace we can do nothing to merit Heaven.
112 Q. Can we resist the grace of God? A. We can and unfortunately often do resist the grace of God.
Grace is a gift, and no one is obliged to take a gift; but if God offers a gift and we refuse to take it, we offend and insult Him. To insult God is to sin. Therefore to refuse to accept, or to make bad use of the grace God gives us, is to sin.
113 Q. What is the grace of perseverance? A. The grace of perseverance is a particular gift of God which enables us to continue in the state of grace till death.
“Perseverance” here does not mean perseverance in our undertakings, but perseverance in grace—never in mortal sin, always a friend of God. Now, if God keeps us from all sin till the day of our death and takes us while we are His friends, then He gives us what we call the gift of final perseverance. We cannot, strictly speaking, merit this great grace, but only pray for it; so anyone who commits mortal sin may be taken just in that state and be lost for all eternity.
Before speaking of the Church I wish to give you a short account of the true religion before the coming of Our Lord. When Adam was created in a state of grace, God communicated with him freely; he knew God even better than we do now. But after their sin our parents fell from the friendship of God. Cain—one of Adam’s sons—murdered his brother Abel, and for this he and his posterity