I was taught as a child that two things are necessary for salvation as the Catholic Church teaches: Faith and good works.
Do we merit salvation by our own works, be it faith or good works? Or is this Pelagian, neo or otherwise?
This is what I was taught from the good old Baltimore Catechism with my comment or question in red:
- Actual grace is obtained by good works. (Sounds like we can merit it, no?) It is especially obtained by the use of means
offered by the Church, such as hearing Mass, sermons, etc., and
receiving the sacraments, particularly the Holy Eucharist, which
contains God, the Source of Grace.
Although we cannot merit grace by our good works, (oh!) still our good works can beg God for us, to give us grace. Good works are necessary, for God will not save us without our cooperation.
Actual grace is made to act through various means: through sermons, reading of good books, illness and death, advice of superiors and friends, good example, etc.
The first converts at Pentecost were moved by the preaching of the Apostles. St. Ignatius of Loyola was moved by the reading of the lives of the saints; St. Francis of Assisi, during an illness; St. Francis Borgia, upon seeing the corpse of Queen Isabella. Often God sends us sufferings as a means by which the Holy Ghost may speak to us.
- Can we resist the grace of God? --Unfortunately, we can resist the grace of God, for our will is free, and God does not force us to accept His grace.
- Grace does not force us. It leaves us free to
choose between good and evil. The Holy Ghost guides and enlightens, but
we can still close our eyes to His grace. If we cooperate, we gain other
As Christ said, "For to him who has shall be given, and he shall have abundance" (Matt. 13:12). He who persists in rejecting the gift of God's grace and refuses to be converted will die in his sin and will be forever excluded from the sight of God. "From him who does not have, even that which he seems to have shall be taken away. But as for the unprofitable servant, cast him forth into the darkness outside, where there will be the weeping, and the gnashing of teeth" (Matt. 25:29-30). Would it not be an insult to a king if he keeps offering gifts to one of his people, and these gifts are despised?
- We should be on the lookout for the graces of God, ready to accept them as soon as they are offered. The action of the Holy Ghost on the individual soul is not continuous in particular graces; we must be ready when He comes with special gifts. Some receive only one summons to the banquet. In the desert, the Israelites who rose late found the manna melted away. There are times of special grace for the Christian, such as Lent, a retreat, etc.
- How can we make our most ordinary actions merit a heavenly reward?
--We can make our most ordinary actions merit a heavenly reward by
doing them for the love of God, and by keeping ourselves in the state of
grace. (This sounds Pelagian to me, how about you?)
- God grants us the right to a heavenly reward for the most ordinary good actions in the supernatural order, provided we are in the state of grace. God does not ask us to do extraordinary things. If we do the most ordinary tasks of the day, like cooking, studying, doing small chores, carpentry work, sewing, and such, in a spirit of love and obedience to Him, our acts will deserve merit before God's eyes. God does not expect all of us to be great scientists saving thousands of lives each day, great discoverers, great lawyers, great statesmen. Does God need our help? All He wants is our love; and this we can give in the most ordinary daily actions. "Whether you eat or drink, or whatever else you do, do all to the glory of God."
- By mortal sin one loses the merit he has gained from his good actions. It is necessary that he regain that state of grace before he can regain that merit.
To regain God's friendship, we must be sorry for our sins, make a good confession, and resolve never to displease Him again. Then He will give us back the gift of His grace and love, and the merit of all our good works.