Sacramental desire and graces

Hi there!

I'm hoping to understand something Catholic more fully.  My pastor (Reformed) has said, regarding the Eucharist:

“Grace is always conferred in the sacrament regardless of the faith of the recipient.”

What he’s meaining to do is show that Catholics believe that you receive grace (ie. salvation, or justification) just because you’re baptised, or that you receive benefits from the Eucharist just because you partake of it. Even if you are in sin or have no faith in God.

In fact, I quizzed him up on this, and gave him 2 written choices, and this is the one he picked to represent what he meant:
“Grace is always conferred to the fullest extent possible regardless of the faith of the recepient.”

The 2 choices were the 2 statements above in “…”

Now, he and I have got in 2 discussions about this. I’ve read some Aquinas on disctinctions of grace, but my pastor doesn’t care about the differences between habitual grace, sacramental grace, and actual grace, and all that. So, that’s out the door. He actually claims to have “official documents” relating to “ex opere operato” I suppose, and the Council of Trent showing that what he says is what the Catholic church teaches.

Here’s what I’ve got for sources so far:

Modern CCC
Catechism of the Council of Trent (great work!!)
 Documents of the Council of Trent (canons and all that)
 Pope Pius XII's "Mediator Dei"

I have been told that St. Augustine’s “Against the Donatists” is a major work where the nature of the Sacraments and Grace was developed quite a bit.

So, what do you have to say? Am I right in thinking my pastor is mistaken. p. 245-248 in my Cat. of. Council of Trent, and Trent Session 13 lead me to believe that he’s mistaken. But I realize that there’s some intricate issues involved there, and perhaps it’s not good to make a “blanket description” of this topic.

Ok, Secondly, and briefly:

When the Council of Trent speaks of the "three-fold manner of communicating" (receiving the Eucharist) namely:
  1. Sacramentally
  2. Spiritually
  3. Both Sacramentally and Spiritually

What exactly is meant by “Spiritually receiving the Eucharist”?

It looks like it means, “I would be able to receive the Eucharist, because I don’t have any unconfessed mortal sin, and I am in communion with my Bishop and in good standing with the Catholic Church, I don’t believe heresy, and I really want to receive Christ in the sacrament to the benefit of my soul, but I can’t right now because I’m not at church, and because I’m 20,000 leagues under the sea on a nuclear submarine and there’s no Catholic priest around.”

Am I right, or am I way off?

Thats the right interpretation. There are a number of formulas for making a spiritual communion. Here’s one "Jesus, since I cannot go to Communion now come spiritually into my soul, and stay with me. I love you and look forward to going to Communion next time.

It’s true enough that the sacraments work “ex opere operato.” But each sacrament has a matter and form which must be in place for the sacrament to be effective.

For example, the proper matter for the Eucharist is bread and wine, the proper form is the words of consecration. The sacrament will really be effected if those things are present. But if you receive the sacrament in the state of mortal sin, no sacramental graces and no sanctifying grace is received because you are not disposed to receive it. In fact, a further sin of sacrilege is commited.

The sacrament of Penance requires confession of sins, repentance for sins, and the words of absolution from the priest.
If you receive the sacrament without repentance (not sorry for your sins), no absolution can take place.

This brings up an interesting point. Each sacrament gives actual graces (supernatural help) specific to the sacrament, (as well as sanctifying grace.)

The sacrament of marriage confers sacramental graces throughout your married life to help you live in the married state. But if one is in a state of mortal sin, the sacramental graces are blocked. Perhaps this is a further reason for the increase in divorce.

Ter,

Thanks for that!

I’m sure that “I don’t feel like getting up and going to church this morning to receive the Eucharist, so Christ, please come spiritually into my soul while I sleep in, dreaming of receiving you when I feel like it” would not be an acceptable spiritual communion (unless you’re sick or something like that). I know, I know, you can go to Saturday night Mass and sleep in on Sunday, but you know what I mean. Your heart would have to meet the desires for communion and having an active faith in order to receive communion in that way.

Your pastor is pointing in the right direction as others have mentioned. There is a nuance however between the valid reception and the fruitful reception of the Sacrament and the graces conferred.

[quote=mercygate]Your pastor is pointing in the right direction as others have mentioned. There is a nuance however between the valid reception and the fruitful reception of the Sacrament and the graces conferred.
[/quote]

What do you mean he’s “pointing in the right direction?”

He is, as far as I’m aware, unaware of the threefold manner of communicating. That was a question of mine apart from his anti-Catholic polemic.

Do you mean that he’s right in understanding ex-opere operato in the way he understands it? Because if he’s right, he’s told me he’s going to “bring the heat on me” for accusing him of mis-representing the Catholic teaching. I’m fairly certain that he’s wrong, at least misleading in what he’s said, and so I’m wanting to know exactly how to prove to him that he’s wrong. My Catholic friend Jay said “he’s got it all mixed up, he doesn’t understand sanctifying grace and the sacraments” so I’m on good grounds here, and Trent seems to oppose what my pastor stated.

[quote=Reformed Rob]What do you mean he’s “pointing in the right direction?”

Do you mean that he’s right in understanding ex-opere operato in the way he understands it?
[/quote]

I did mean “pointing in the right direction” – not all the way home. You’re a lot farther down the road. Go with Trent and the new CCC. Sorry to muddy the waters unnecessarily; you’re doing fine.

“To attribute the efficacy of prayers or of sacramental signs to their mere external performance, apart from the interior dispositions that they demand, is to fall into superstition” (Catechism 2111).

Does that shed any light?

Mercygate,

Thanks for clearing that up. I am aware now that my Pastor’s criticisms have led me to search deeper in order to understand more clearly what the Church teaches.

Sherlock,
That reference is helpful. I’ll look it and it’s context up tonight.

OK, now, that some groundwork has been laid, how about some more information on this and ex opere operato specifically.

Also, anybody have any idea how someone could misunderstand the Church’s teaching on this, or misrepresent it?

I’m sure we can all see how the Tridentine anathemas are very helpful in pointing out “errors.” I had to put the “”'s there so I wouldn’t appear to be a convinced Catholic.

Reformed Rob,

My understanding of ex opere operato is in its relation to the priest, the one conferring the Sacrament. Thus, even if your priest is a dissenter or in a state of sin, if the matter is correct (for example, having the proper wine and not grape Koolaid) and he intends to do what the Church intends (i.e., change the bread and wine to the Body and Blood of Christ), then the Sacrament is valid.

I will double check this to see if this is accurate.

Ok, here’s what I’m wanting to know more about that I’m not too up on:

If I'm in mortal sin, and I receive the Eucharist (assuming I was Catholic, which I'm not) would I receive ANY kind or amount of grace?  If so, what and how/why?  Assume it's a valid sacrament.  

That would be only “sacramental” receiving.

BTW, I’m reading up on this. I’m not just asking yall and leaving it at that. I’m just not finding much on the types of grace in relation to this question.

[quote=Reformed Rob]Ok, here’s what I’m wanting to know more about that I’m not too up on:

If I’m in mortal sin, and I receive the Eucharist (assuming I was Catholic, which I’m not) would I receive ANY kind or amount of grace? If so, what and how/why? Assume it’s a valid sacrament.

That would be only “sacramental” receiving.

BTW, I’m reading up on this. I’m not just asking yall and leaving it at that. I’m just not finding much on the types of grace in relation to this question.
[/quote]

JimG in post #4 answered this very well. If you’re not in the state of grace (i.e., not repentent of mortal sin), then no amount of “sign” (sacraments) will do you any good.

[quote=davidv]JimG in post #4 answered this very well. If you’re not in the state of grace (i.e., not repentent of mortal sin), then no amount of “sign” (sacraments) will do you any good.
[/quote]

Ok, thanks. I saw that, but wanted to be sure.

Is there a council or Father or Encyclical I can find that stated in. For example, Trent may be misinterpreted or misunderstood by some:

Session 7, Canon 6
If any one saith, that the sacraments of the New Law do not contain the grace which they signify, or, that** they do not confer that grace on those who do not place an obstacle thereunto**; as though they were merely signs of grace or justice received through faith, and certain marks of the Christion profession, whereby believers are distinguished amongst men from unbelievers; let him be anathema

Ok, that one seems to support what we’re saying, you present an obstacle, you don’t receive grace.

Session 7, Canon 7
If any one saith, that grace, as far as God’s part is concerned, is not given through the said sacraments, always, and to all men, even though they receive them rightly, but only sometimes, and to some persons; let him be anathema.

That would perhaps support what we’re saying. Note, DavidV, I’m wanting to be in agreement with you and JimG, but I’m wanting to be at least reasonably sure. My pastor’s gonna “bring da heat” on me if I’m wrong, or rather, if he’s convinced he’s right.

I can perhaps see an underlying issue that these canons are addressing. That would be the Reformer’s doctrine of the invisible/visible church distinction. Like, even if you receive the sacrament “rightly”, some Reformers may have taught that if you weren’t elect (in the invisible church) then you don’t have true faith, and therefore you don’t receive grace from the sacrament. A Catholic would disagree wholeheartedly with that, and Trent is making the teaching clear.

[quote=Reformed Rob] If I’m in mortal sin, and I receive the Eucharist (assuming I was Catholic, which I’m not) would I receive ANY kind or amount of grace? If so, what and how/why? Assume it’s a valid sacrament.

[/quote]

No, you wouldn’t receive any grace whatsoever, since you were not properly disposed for the sacrament of the Eucharist. You would commit a further sin by receiving it.

Note, however, that you could go to the sacramen of Penance for the forgiveness of sins, since confession of sin is part of the “matter” of the sacrament. (If you had no sins, you couldn’t receive the sacrament of Penance, as there would be nothing to forgive. But that never happens; we all have at least venial sins.)

Reformed Rob,

You asked, “If I’m in mortal sin, and I receive the Eucharist (assuming I was Catholic, which I’m not) would I receive ANY kind or amount of grace? If so, what and how/why? Assume it’s a valid sacrament.”

I would echo what others have said—NO! And you would be committing further sin if you did that in full knowledge.

You also asked: “Is there a council or Father or Encyclical I can find that stated in?”

You don’t even need any council documents, but can look right in Scripture. At Catholic.co, there is an article on Christ in the Eucharist: catholic.com/library/Christ_in_the_Eucharist.asp

Here’s a paragraph from that article which contains some pretty strong passages from Paul:

Paul wrote to the Corinthians: “The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ?” (1 Cor. 10:16). So when we receive Communion, we actually participate in the body and blood of Christ, not just eat symbols of them. Paul also said, “Therefore whoever eats the bread and drinks the cup of the Lord unworthily will have to answer for the body and blood of the Lord. . . . For any one who eats and drinks without discerning the body, eats and drinks judgment on himself” (1 Cor. 11:27, 29). “To answer for the body and blood” of someone meant to be guilty of a crime as serious as homicide. How could eating mere bread and wine “unworthily” be so serious? Paul’s comment makes sense only if the bread and wine became the real body and blood of Christ.

Hope that helps.

and i quoted “catholics believe that jesus is really present in the consecrated host. this is the only way to explain adequately paul’s assumptions in (1 corinthians 11;23-32) : whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the lord in an unworthy matter will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the lord. a man ought to examine himself before he eats of the bread and drinks of the cup. for anyone who eats and drinks withoutrecognizing the body of the lord he eats and drinks judgment on himself”. thank you mr currie for this…:slight_smile: dios les bendiga. amen

Ok,

Thanks everyone. Truly, I am appreciative of the comments. This doesn’t have the “feel” of a normal thread since nobody has got upset or argumentative at anyone else. Anyways, I suppose that’s ok.

Continuing peacefully (this is probably the end of my inquiring about this here), I must ask about *ex opere operato, *and it’s relationship to the person receiving the sacrament. I’ve not been able to find anything relating to this, though I understand that ex opere operato basically means:

The imparting of grace is
*Dependant only on the “proper performance” of the sacrament
*It does not depend on the godliness of the minister or the faith of the recipient. All that is required of the minister and the recipient is:
–The minister must have the proper intention
– The recipient must set up no obstacles to receiving grace

Ok, that last part is obviously hammering in on what we’re comfortable with concluding. But, apparently there is some criticism about ex opere operato, and the criticism is that the grace is conferred because of what the sacrament is, not based on the merits of the minister or the recipient, so any recipient absolutely will receive grace. Can you see any validity to that criticism? I don’t. Based on what ex opere operato means, and it doesn’t seem to necessitate that the mortally sinful recipient receives grace.

Truly, I’m not trying to draw this out indefinitely. You gotta believe me here. I’m trying to hone in to the very issue that I’m wanting to defend the Catholic church in, in response to my pastor. If I bring up texts of Scripture in defense of the Church, he will say, “see there, that’s what God says, and this is what the Catholic church says” and imply opposition.

Does this mean I’m really close to becoming Catholic? Not necessarily. But… it sure doesn’t help when ordained preachers can’t make valid criticisms.

I understand from Trent (and from Pope Pius XII’s Mediator Dei) that the lack of faith of the recipient does not undo Transubstantiation. They still “receive” the Sacrament, but not the benefit of it. Also, though private masses are not encouraged, all that is required is a valid minister, the hosts, and there is a canonical requirement that a server be present to answer the prayers. That way, it’s obvious that the focus of the Mass is on Christ as the Victim, and not on the “brotherhood of the recipients”.

Also, what sacraments operate ex opere operato?

Reformed Rob,

I’m away from my books (on vacation), and just checking the computer once and a while.

My understanding is that Sacraments are like prayers. Liturgical prayers instituted by Christ with matter and form, but nonetheless, they are prayers. Sacraments without faith are as non-effective as prayers without faith.

*Ex oper operato *is to be understood as contrary to those that would contend that faith alone, apart from the Divine prayer called the Sacraments sufficient for obtaining grace.

This, to a Catholic, is just as absurd as asserting that prayer is not needed, and prayer does not in itself, confer grace. God wants us to pray. He knows what we need already, yet for some mystical reason he wants us to pray nonetheless. For Catholics, the most profound way that we pray as a community, is Sacramentally. This is important to us because it was the traditions passed on to us by Christ himself, and he did it for theological reasons that we are still attempting to understand. We believe the Sacraments are the way Christ intended for us to somehow mystically participate, body and soul, in the heavenly liturgy while still on earth.

From the Council of Trent: “If anyone say that grace is not conferred by the sacraments ex opere operato but that faith in God’s promises is alone sufficient for obtaining grace, let him be anathema” (can. viii; cf. can.iv, v, vii).

Sacraments are prayers with matter and form. Without faith, we don’t expect these prayers to be answered.

Reformed Rob,

Yet, there is a difference between prayers and Sacraments. Prayers are *ex opere operantis, *“by virtue of the agent”. While Sacraments are ex opere operato,“by virtue of the action. Both require faith as a condition of grace, not a cause of grace.

how about some more information on this and ex opere operato specifically.

Ex opere operato explanation from the Catholic Encyclopedia article on “Sacraments”…
newadvent.org/cathen/13295a.htm

The phrase “ex opere operato”, for which there is no equivalent in English, probably was used for the first time by Peter of Poitiers (D. 1205), and afterwards by Innocent III (d. 1216; de myst. missae, III, v), and by St. Thomas (d. 1274; IV Sent., dist. 1, Q.i, a.5). It was happily invented to express a truth that had always been taught and had been introduced without objection. It is not an elegant formula but, as St. Augustine remarks (In Ps. cxxxviii): It is better that grammarians should object than that the people should not understand. “Ex opere operato”, i.e. by virtue of the action, means that the efficacy of the action of the sacraments does not depend on anything human, but solely on the will of God as expressed by Christ’s institution and promise. “Ex opere operantis”, i.e. by reason of the agent, would mean that the action of the sacraments depended on the worthiness either of the minister or of the recipient (see Pourrat, “Theology of the Sacraments”, tr. St. Louis, 1910, 162 sqq.). Protestants cannot in good faith object to the phrase as if it meant that the mere outward ceremony, apart from God’s action, causes grace. It is well known that Catholics teach that the sacraments are only the instrumental, not the principal, causes of grace. Neither can it be claimed that the phrase adopted by the council does away with all dispositions necessary on the part of the recipient, the sacraments acting like infallible charms causing grace in those who are ill-disposed or in grievous sin. The fathers of the council were careful to note that there must be no obstacle to grace on the part of the recipients, who must receive them rite, i.e. rightly and worthily; and they declare it a calumny to assert that they require no previous dispositions (Sess. XIV, de poenit., cap.4). Dispositions are required to prepare the subject, but they are a condition (conditio sine qua non), not the causes, of the grace conferred. In this case the sacraments differ from the sacramentals, which may cause grace ex opere operantis, i.e. by reason of the prayers of the Church or the good, pious sentiments of those who use them.

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