The Grace Of Final Repentance

My post about the thankfully now deceased Cardinal Tettamanzi prompted a nice comment about the fact that those who have lived their lives in rebellion to God will not find it easy to manage that perfect contrition that would save them from hell when they die. This is all true but, lest the wrong interpretation is given, I would like to see things from the other side: God's grace.

We, on our own, can do absolutely nothing, much less save ourselves. God's will is the only variable in this. We are wretched sinners who, on our own, could never achieve anything at all.

All we do that is good is because of God's grace, given gratuitously to us without us meriting it. Whilst the common parlance states that one merits salvation, the matter is more complex: God allows him the immense grace of final repentance, and he merely collaborates with it; and he does so only and exclusively because God gave him the grace (that is: the unmerited gift) to do so.

This is an aspect of Catholic teaching that is, if you ask me, too often neglected, engendering in some the idea that, in the end, my salvation is in my hands. No it isn't. To believe in this is, in fact, a heresy.

Without God we are perfect nothings who can do perfectly nothing. All we do that is good is due to God giving us the unmerited grace to act in the right way.

This helps us to put episodes like the sudden death of Cardinal Meisner, or the recent demise of “communion for adulterers” Tettamanzi, in the right perspective.

Meisner might have been reading the breviary when he died, but then again Luther might (hypothetically) have been reading the Bible. The question about their salvation is: after they have gravely failed against Our Lord (in different ways) all their lives, how likely it is that Our Lord would give them this gratuitous, infinitely important gift of the grace of final repentance?

Well the simple answer to that is that – whilst God only judges and He has perfect plans we don't comprehend – it's just pretty unlikely. Again: a heretic or traitor does not save himself by doing things that sound right: if you are in mortal sin, nothing you do is conducive to salvation. If you are in mortal sin you can recite thirty rosaries a day, you are still in mortal sin. A heretic or traitor only saves himself if Our Lord decides to give him this great, unmerited gift, moving him to collaborate with Him and behave in a way that – leading him to the state of grace again – is conducive to salvation.

The grace of final repentance is the grace of all graces. With it, everything is achieved. Without it, everything is lost. None of us, nobody, and be him Padre Pio, can merit salvation out of his own actions and volition. It is always God's grace that allowed those actions in the first place, and gently pushed the soul to perform them.

Therefore, when some lifelong Quisling or outright rascal dies, the thought of how likely it is that he would have received this immense gift is more pertinent than the question about what the man was doing when he kicked the bucket.

Sobering, uh?

Yes. This is exactly the way it should be.



Posted on August 9, 2017, in Catholicism, Conservative Catholicism, Traditional Catholicism and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.

  1. johnfkennedy63

    I think it will be too late at death. Think Luke 13:25. The door will be closed (at death). “I do not know you” .

  2. Even that last moment of grace has to take place within that moment. There are times when there is no last moment. You walk down the street and a brick from a building falls on your head and kills you. You’re driving along and a car cuts you off and sends you careening into an oncoming car. You have an aneurism that takes you out in a second. In the first and third example you aren’t even aware that death is upon you. You’re in the state of mortal sin – BAM – you’re dead. No moment given for the grace to act upon you. In the example of the car, you’re trying to control the car and the survival options are running through your head – BAM – you’re dead. You thought you could survive the impact – wrong. These type of incidents happen all the time. The point I’m trying to make is that one can’t rely on be given the invitation at the end of one’s life to repent. We humans live in time – we’re material as well as spiritual beings. Can God give us the time? Of course, but you notice how often He doesn’t. God’s not our servant. He doesn’t owe us the grace to repent at the moment of our death. He may decide that the graces He gave us during our lives were sufficient for us – we didn’t respond, so be it. I don’t claim to know God’s mind but I do observe the amount of sudden, violent deaths that occur each day and I know that the basic human instinct is first to survive and when survival isn’t possible then to pray. We may not know we’re at the moment of death when death comes and so our thoughts aren’t on our eternal destiny but on the world we’re living in. We hope for God’s grace but we shouldn’t make the mistake of presuming it will be there at a moment that suits us.

  3. johnfkennedy63

    Then I don’t understand the gist of your post. I thought you are implying that at the moment of death you MAY still have a chance to accept Christ, after a lifetime of public disavowal. As Michael Dowd wrote on Monday, to provide that sort of “Get Out of Jail” moment would not make much sense. Can it be done? Sure. As you said “not likely”. My point is I think Christ is pretty clear in several places that many people will want to come on in at the end (of their life or the end of the world) but will be refused admittance.

  4. Priesthood is chosen as a watch man of true Israel (Catholic Church). No fulfillment of this duty means going to the court where every knees shall bounce before the Just Judge. All will become poorest creatures, only perfect justice reigns.

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