April 4th marked the inaugural Defense of the Faith Mass, dinner, and lecture for the Milwaukee Region. Invitees included members of the Federal and American associations in Milwaukee as well as auxiliary, family members, guests, and prospective members.
After a welcome from Dan McCarthy, KM, the Federal Association hospitaller for Milwaukee, the evening then began with Mass celebrated by the Rev. Cliff Ermatinger at the historic Old St. Mary Church in downtown Milwaukee. Afterward, a delightful “surf and turf” dinner was served in a private room in a local restaurant close to the church, followed by Father Cliff’s lecture.
Father Cliff is the spiritual consultant for the Archdiocese of Milwaukee and author of several books. His most recent publication, “If You Knew the Gift of God,” published by Padre Pio Press, served as the basis for his talk. As Catholics, we often talk about grace, but how well could we describe what it is or how it operates if asked? Most of us have the basic idea, but if we were honest with ourselves, we would acknowledge that our understanding of grace is far from adequate and our explanation of it would most likely fall short, especially if we were speaking with members of other faith traditions.
Father began his talk by describing grace, what it does, and how to grow in it. He continued by explaining sanctifying grace is a divine gift, a supernatural quality, infused by God in our souls, which offers us a true and formal participation in God's nature. There are, of course, differences in degree, such as the baby who possesses sanctifying grace through Baptism, all the way up to the greatest saints in heaven.
He continued to explain that given graciously to us by God, grace is a gift we have not earned. But sanctifying grace bears within it a habitual quality. And as sanctifying grace makes a person pleasing in God's eyes, he or she becomes justified, a friend, a child, and an inheritor of God. Our divine affiliation by way of grace is not a natural filiation, but an adopted one. Grace does not work of its own accord; it gives us a supernatural life but not supernatural operation.
Father Cliff went on to describe the influence of actual graces, the gifts of the Holy Spirit, and the cumulative effect of a life of cultivating grace. The time went by too quickly. Perhaps there will be a Part 2 in the coming months.