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Brookline Carmel Bulletin                        

September 25, 1960

Cogitatio Sancta

(Holy Meditation)


The Nature of the Supernatural Life



We have already seen that spiritual perfection consists in the full development of Charity, which is love of God.  Charity is a love of friendship (I have not called you servants but friends), and as such presupposes that we are in some way ‘equal’ to God and capable of fulfilling the ‘offices’ which friends exercise toward one another.  In order to enable us, who are finite creatures, to live on terms of mutual benevolence with Himself, who is uncreated and infinite, God has had to bestow upon us a battery of supernatural gifts.  Having them, we are able to lead a Divine Life.


To understand the effects of this battery of gifts, we need only consider what is necessary for us to live a natural life, for a rather close correspondence exists between the natural life of a man and his spiritual life.  (Grace builds on nature.)  To live a natural life, 1) the soul must exist; 2) its rational faculties must be capable of functioning (i.e., not impeded by injury to brain or nervous system), and 3) they must actually function.  To lead a supernatural life, then, 1) the soul must exist supernaturally; 2) its faculties must be capable of functioning in a supernatural way; and 3) they must actually function.  All this is made possible by the aforementioned gifts.


The gift that gives us a supernatural existence is Sanctifying Grace.  It causes us to participate in the Divine Nature.  It is infused into the soul at Baptism, making the soul a child of God.  The soul is not God; obviously, it merely possesses the life of God.  An idea of what this means can be seen in the following comparison.  Sugar is sweet by nature; coffee is not.  When we put sugar into our cup of coffee the sugar causes the coffee to participate in its attribute of sweetness.  Of course, this comparison limps badly.  Coffee molecules (a molecule is the smallest particle of a substance that retains the chemical properties of the substance) never become sweet.  It is the sugar molecules, which are so evenly dispersed throughout the cup of coffee that cause the sensation of sweetness, and overwhelm the natural taste of the coffee molecules.  But Sanctifying Grace does make the soul ‘divine’ even though it remains distinct from God.  This is a mystery.


Together with Sanctifying Grace, God bestows upon the soul at Baptism the Theological Virtues of Faith, Hope and Charity and the Infused Moral Virtues.  The Theological Virtues raise the higher faculties of the soul, Intellect, Memory and Will, to a supernatural level and make them capable of performing supernatural acts.  Faith enables the Intellect to know infinite Truth.  Hope enables the Memory to be mindful of the all-powerful aid God has promised to us to help us achieve Sanctity.  Charity enables our Will to adhere to God as the infinite Good. These virtues are necessary because of itself the mind cannot accept what it does not understand, the memory cannot of itself be mindful of aid which is not tangible, nor can the will love of its own accord anything or anyone whose goodness cannot be perceived by the senses.


The infused Moral Virtues are supernatural gifts that ‘inform’ the natural Moral Virtues, that is, they elevate them to the supernatural level and give them supernatural value, by which they are capable of meriting a supernatural reward.  (The reward of natural virtue is natural happiness.)  The soul is not given the natural virtues when the Infused Virtues are bestowed.  Only after we have acquired them by dint of our own efforts can natural virtues be elevated and given supernatural efficacy.


Finally, God provides Actual Graces to stimulate the supernatural organism that comes into being in the soul as the result of Sanctifying Grace and the Infused Virtues, Theological and Moral.  Under the influence of Actual Graces, which are given in the form of illuminations of the intellect and inspirations of the will, the soul begins and continues the performance of supernatural acts.


For further clarification, then, of the nature of the supernatural life:  A newborn baby possesses human life in its simplest form; it gives the child the radical capacity to lead a rational life.  Sanctifying Grace gives the soul the radical capacity to lead a divine life.  After a time, the child’s faculties of intellect, memory and will become capable of functioning.  The Infused Virtues, Theological and Moral, make the soul capable of functioning on a supernatural plane.  Sensory stimuli move the faculties of a human being to begin rational operations, and usually accompany their performance.  Actual Graces cause the supernatural organism to function, and accompany the exercise thereof.


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