actual and sanctifying grace

Can anyone explain the difference between actual and sanctifying grace? I looked it up at and it’s all Greek to me! Can you have one kind of grace without the other? Is one kind higher than the other?


CCC 2000 Sanctifying grace is an habitual gift, a stable and supernatural disposition that perfects the soul itself to enable it to live with God, to act by his love. Habitual grace, the permanent disposition to live and act in keeping with God’s call, is distinguished from actual graces which refer to God’s interventions, whether at the beginning of conversion or in the course of the work of sanctification.

I love my Baltimore Catechism, Number Two:

109. What is grace?
Grace is a supernatural gift of God bestowed on us through the merits of Jesus Christ for our salvation.

111. What is sanctifying grace?
Sanctifying grace is that grace which confers on our souls a new life, that is, a sharing in the life of God Himself.

112. What are the chief effects of sanctifying grace?
The chief effects of sanctifying grace are:
first, it makes us holy and pleasing to God;
second, it makes us adopted children of God;
third, it makes us temples of the Holy Spirit;
fourth, it gives us the right to heaven.

113. What is actual grace?
Actual grace is a supernatural help of God which enlightens our mind and strengthens our will to do good and to avoid evil.

114. Can we resist the grace of God?
We can resist the grace of God, for our will is free, and God does not force us to accept His grace.

115. Why is sanctifying grace necessary for salvation?
Sanctifying grace is necessary for salvation because it is the supernatural life, which alone enables us to attain the supernatural happiness of heaven.

116. Is actual grace necessary for all those who have attained the use of reason?
Actual grace is necessary for all who have attained the use of reason, because without it we can not long resist the power of temptation or perform other actions which merit a reward in heaven.

117. What are the principal ways of obtaining grace?
The principal ways of obtaining grace are prayer and the sacraments, especially, the Holy Eucharist.

118. 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 a state of grace.


In short, sanctifying grace is Life (a sharing in God’s life), intending to abide permanently in our soul.

Actual grace is Help, given as and when needed.

Sanctifying grace is a supernatural gift, which is a sharing in God’s own supernatural life. When one commits a mortal sin, it is completely taken away from the soul. It can be restored by the sacraments of Baptism and Penance. It can be increased by the rest of the sacraments.

Actual grace is a temporary grace, which doesn’t stay with us as sanctifying grace does. God will give it to us to help us through a situation, for instance, and then He may take it away when we no longer need it. :slight_smile:

Thank you! :slight_smile:


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