Prayer, The Rosary, And Salvation
We cannot, strictly speaking, merit Salvation. Strictly speaking, we cannot and do not merit anything at all. Whatever we have, God has given us. Whatever we attain, God has preordained that we should be given the grace to do so. This applies to absolutely everything we do, up to the last consequences and our eternal destiny. God has, in His Justice, preordained from all eternity whether we will be saved or damned, whether we are elects or reprobates. This brutal truth is a mainstay – nay, it is the foundation – of Catholic theology. If it were not so, God would depend on our decisions and would, therefore, not be Omnipotent.
I can, of myself, merit exactly nothing. What I do is merely collaborate with God's grace; and even this collaboration is, in fact, nothing more than God's grace: an unmerited gift.
The human mind being very limited, and unable to fathom how in God infinite Justice and infinite Mercy meet, the statement above appears rather scary. It is, in fact, not pleasant to realise that God has already decided, out of all eternity, whether I will be saved or damned. What I can know with certainty is that I am given sufficient grace to collaborate with God's will and – in this strict sense – “merit” Salvation. What I do not know is whether I will persevere in making use of it. I don't know; God not only knows, and He Has decreed what the final outcome shall be.
Now, whilst I try to cultivate the virtue of hope – which is, like everybody else, a gift; I for myself could not have any hope, but God gives it to me -, the uncomfortable thought unavoidably remains: could it be that God has already decreed that I will waste the sufficient grace given to me and deserve to be punished with hell? This fear must, I would add, remain, then otherwise we would be thinking like those Protestant and rosewater Catholics sure of their salvation – and thus, gravely sinning – because they love the polar bear cub or say good morning to their neighbours or are best buddies with Christ (you talk to some Prodfies, you wonder whether they thought they just met Him for breakfast). A healthy Catholic soul is healthily optimistic about his salvation, but healthily scared of hell, too. A just God will judge everyone with perfect Justice. Good and scary thought, uh?
At this point, God gives us – in His Mercy – an ace to be played in the game of salvation: prayer.
Prayer is the antidote to the poison of our sinfulness. It is the passepartout allowing us to base our hope in something we actually do. I choose to pray, and whilst doing so I am aware that it is God's grace that prompted me to pray. But I am still collaborating with His grace.
Prayer is the key that opens the door of God's Mercy. Sinful as I am, I do not need to be terrified that my damnation might already have been decreed, I do not need to be (overly) afraid that I will not make use of God's sufficient grace and waste the possibility of salvation; I do not, because I pray, thus collaborating with God in opening a path for me in which mercy will supply what justice cannot give.
This is why a prayerful attitude is a very good sign of predestination. It is the evidence, in our daily life, that we are collaborating with God in such a way that we can be very reasonably, very robustly confident that His Mercy will supply that in which we are, by justice, deficient.
I do not know whether I am one of the elect. But I know that I pray the Rosary every day. That is a fact, a certainty, a solid base for my future, the plaster of my way to Purgatory. My healthy fear of hell is, then, reduced to this: a prompt to pray the Rosary every day. Blessed, blessed fear!
The Rosary is the queen of all prayers. No prayer is as safe, as reassuring as the Rosary. Catholic tradition has attached such devotion to the Apparitions about the Rosary and the promises concerning those who pray it, that it is not reasonable – much less smart – to doubt the ones or the others.
Wretched sinner as I am, I know that God's Mercy has opened for me a path to Purgatory; a path following which I can be very confident to, one day, “merit” Purgatory – which, sub specie aeternitatis , simply means that I hopefully will, one day, realise that God preordained and decreed, out of all eternity, that it should infallibly be so – .
Yes, I am still scared of hell. It is good that I should be, lest I neglect prayer and, little by little, abandon the practice of the daily Rosary. The fear of hell is the guard rail that keeps me on the path.
Prayer is the way I live life everyday, confidently hoping that God's Mercy will supply what I, by justice, should not obtain.
What a beautiful thing, prayer. What a wonderful thing, the Rosary.
Pray the Rosary every day as devoutly as you can.
Your path to salvation is right there, in front of you, now.