True Happiness and God’s Grace

Mar 27th, 2014 | By | Category: Blog Posts, Catholic Life and Devotion

St. Thomas writes the following about attaining true happiness:

[M]an cannot attain his end of Perfect Happiness by his own powers, but only by God’s grace. [ST I-II q.5 a.5]


The Throne of Grace

Why? Because for man, perfect happiness comes only through seeing God Himself. Aquinas refers to what St. Paul writes in 1 Cor. 2:9: “Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither hath it entered into the heart of man, what things God hath prepared for them that love Him.” The vision of God is beyond our natural powers, both of sense and of mind. He addresses the point that seeing God’s Essence is our true happiness in ST I-II q.3 a.8, quoting St. John 1:32: “When He shall appear, we shall be like to Him; and because we shall see Him as He is.

Aquinas makes this same point repeatedly in the Summa Theologiae and Summa contra Gentiles: There is no possible way that our natural powers are sufficient for us to get to heaven—to see God—on our own. There is no question of deeds we might do nor of any natural merit that we can ever do or ever attain that can achieve this. To the contrary, Aquinas insists (and so has the Catholic Church throughout the ages) that we can only ever see God – we can only attain to heaven – by the grace of God. There is nothing in us whatsoever that can change this fact, even if we had never sinned. But we have sinned, and that additional problem makes things all the more impossible.

Aquinas is not presenting some fancy idea of his own. He is merely explaining what the Church has always taught. Those who say that the Catholic Church teaches we can reach heaven on our own are simply mistaken.

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7 comments
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  1. But can we reach heaven without the Roman Catholic Church? Most assuredly.

  2. Irish Protestant:

    My little post doesn’t address that subject at all. It is about the fact that the Catholic Church has always taught that we are saved by grace, despite what some other folks say. So your comment isn’t relevant in this particular combox.

    With respect to your remark, however: The Church affirms that God is not bound by the sacraments, and that He may freely dispense saving grace whenever and to whomever He will. But she also affirms that she knows of no other way of salvation except by the grace given in Baptism.

    Let’s try to keep things on topic. Thanks.

    Peace,

    Fred

  3. “Let’s try to keep things on topic.”

    Is it not the primary purpose of this website to promote Roman Catholicism as somehow essential? Since Aquinas agrees with Protestants that we are saved by grace and not works, why then does anyone need to become a Catholic?

  4. IP:

    You wrote in #3:

    “Let’s try to keep things on topic.”

    Is it not the primary purpose of this website to promote Roman Catholicism as somehow essential? Since Aquinas agrees with Protestants that we are saved by grace and not works, why then does anyone need to become a Catholic?

    The fact that the website has a primary purpose does not make literally any remark or question otherwise relevant to that general subject a valid topic for specific posts. This post has a specific subject, and your question is not germane to it. If you would like to talk about why one ought to become Catholic, more relevant posts might be this or this or maybe this one. Thanks for your cooperation. :-)

    With respect to Protestant agreement with Aquinas about grace: if you agree with St. Thomas, then you should also agree with Trent and Vatican II (and every other ecumenical council) because the Catholic Church has always taught that we are saved by grace alone.

    Peace,

    Fred

  5. Well, Aquinas agrees with Protestants every bit as much as vice versa. You’re simply pointing that out! Of course, it doesn’t follow from his biblical view of grace and works that anyone should believe everything and anything else that Aquinas held to. Certainly not erroneous dogmas.

    By the way, I’m a big fan of Aquinas. I just don’t think one can use him as an apologist for Roman Catholicism (or anyone else pre-Reformation for that matter).

  6. IP,

    You wrote in #5:

    Of course, it doesn’t follow from his biblical view of grace and works that anyone should believe everything and anything else that Aquinas held to. Certainly not erroneous dogmas.

    This post is not about “everything and anything” that Aquinas taught. This post is about one single thing: that Aquinas (and the Catholic Church) hold that we are saved by grace alone. If you agree with that, then there is really nothing more to be said here that is on topic. I am pleased that you agree with me that Aquinas believed and taught sola gratia, but there are many Protestants who would mistakenly suppose otherwise. These other folks are my intended audience, not people who already know that Aquinas held this position.

    Besides, a single blogpost on everything and anything Aquinas taught would be thousands of pages long, so for everyone’s sake let us please stick to this one subject. :-)

    Of course, the Catholic Church also teaches this, as I have pointed out. If you happen to dispute that point, then perhaps we can discuss that here. :-)

    Peace,

    Fred

  7. Irish brother, if you reject the Church you reject Christ for He said, He and this one (not many) historical Church are one, pointing this out poignantly to Saul, “why do you persecute *me”.

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