St. Edmund Campion Catechism Group - Series 4 Lesson 9

Theology for Beginners: Chp 9. The supernatural life
Theology for Beginners: All chapters
Penny Catechism: Q130-140
Catechism of the Council of Trent (The Roman Catechism): The Creed Art.1
Sermon: The Supernatural Order
Catholic Encyclopedia: The Supernatural Order, Sanctifying Grace
Aquinas 101: On man's elevation to the supernatural order
Summa Theologica: Prima Secunda Q109-114
Companion to the Summa: Chp 20 Grace

The Supernatural Life


  1. Recap:

    Chapter 1: Why study theology?

    - Theology is wisdom which is the knowledge of all things in relation to their highest cause.

    - Theology is the greatest of all sciences by the sublimity of its object: God; and by the certitude of its conclusions: the certitude of faith.

    - Theology teaches us our finality: the finality of man is the supernatural perfection of all his faculties - the greatest among these are his intellect and will.

    - Theology helps us attain our finality in respect of ourselves by the perfect love of God.

    - Theology helps us attain our finality in respect of our neighbour: if we love God, then we love everything He loves.

    Chapter 2: Spirit

    - A spirit is an immaterial intelligent living being (types: God, the angels and the souls of men)

    - A soul is defined as the first principle of life of those material things which live (plants, animals and men). Plants, animals and men have souls, but only the souls of men are spirits.

    - Properties: a spirit does not change in its being, does not corrupt, does not die (and is therefore eternal), has no mass, no shape, and no place e say that spirits are subsistent, which means that they have all they need to exist - they do not need a body to exist (like a plant or animal soul).

    Acts: to know and love. No material organ is required for these activities.

    Chapter 3: The Infinite Spirit

    God is the Infinite Spirit. 

    - God is all knowing, all loving, all powerful

    - God is His own existence

    - God was not created, He does not change, He has no past and future, God perpeturally in the present.

    - God is naturally everywhere: by His essence (per essentiam), by His power (per potentiam), by His knowing (per scientiam)

    God is Actus Purus, He cannot ever be in potency to doing anything; He is His action.  St. Thomas says that He is Actus Purus – one , simple, infinite and perfect action which is always in the present.

    Chapter 4: The Blessed Trinity

    The Blessed Trinity is the term used to express the central doctrine on the Christian religion: the truth that in the unity of the Godhead there are Three Persons, the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost, these Three Persons being truly distinct from one another. There is one being, with one nature and there are Three Persons. The Blessed Trinity is known only by revelation, but can subsequently be explored by reason.

    Chapter 5: The Three Persons

    In an attempt to understand as much as possible about the Blessed Trinity using revelation and our knowledge of the intellect and being (by the science of metaphysics), St. Thomas, building on theologians before him, makes a best attempt to reconcile the unity of God and the distinction of the Three Persons in God. God has one nature by which the Three Persons operate. The distinction of the Three Persons is discerned in the mutually opposed relations resulting from the act of God knowing Himself and loving Himself. The Persons, are distinguished as the subsistant relations or Paternity, Filiation and Passive Spiration.

    Most of us, however, do not have a sufficient grasp of metaphysics to understand this complex theory and so a simpler one is proposed: In the act of knowing Himself, God generates a mental Word which is identical to the Generator. In the generator we discern the Father, in the generated, we discern the Son. These are Persons Who will naturally love each other, this love being personified in the Holy Ghost

    Chapter 6: Making the doctrine of the Trinity a living and loved reality

    For most people something like that happens when they embrace a mystery of the faith revealed to them by the Church:

     - first there is an intellectual response as they grasp the theological exposition of the mystery

     - then a vital response as the wonder and beauty of the mystery draws the observer in

     - then a loving response as the mystery becomes a light and a power in our lives.

    Chapter 7: Creation

    God created all things from nothing and sustains all things in existence from moment to moment - all for His glory. 

    Chapter 8: The nature of man

    Man is made in the image and likeness of God, possessing an intellect and a will. He is different from the animals because he loves the things he knows whereas animals are attracted to the thing they sense; and he can choose what to love whereas animals are attracted to things by nature. Man is capable of moral good or evil, whereas animals always act according to their nature. The ultimate purpose of man is to know and love God. The ultimate purpose of non-intelligent creatures is to adorn creation for the glory of God.

  2. Man's goal

    2.1 Absolute end of the Christian Life: Gloria Dei

          - Intrinsic Glory: That which he procures Himself in the bosom of the Trinity.

          - Extrinsic Glory: The glorification of God by His creatures (this is man's goal).

    The end of creatures has to be God, because there is no ultimate end possible outside of God (otherwise God would not be God). 

    Do all for the glory of God. (I Cor 10:31)

    Ad majorem Dei gloriam. (St. Ignatius)

    2.2 Subordinate end of the Christian Life : Personal Sanctification

     - Sanctification in the beatific vision: Sanctifying grace + Charity + Light of Glory

            (knowledge of God by lumen gloriae - no faith, no hope, plenitude of grace)

         - Sanctification of the Wayfarer: Sanctifying grace + Charity

            (knowledge of God by faith, confidence by hope, grace is the beginning of glory)

  3. Man's knowledge of things

    For the Wayfarer without grace: Darkly as if in a mirror. Man knows by the intermediary of ideas which are elaborated by information through the senses. From these ideas he abstracts the form of the thing known. An analogy is our knowing someone through a photograph. Knowledge of things (even self) is therefore limited.

    For the Wayfarer with grace: Man still knows by ideas, but he sees more things because of the light of faith which makes him give assent to those things revealed through the Church which are above reason. His capacity to know God, and the way he knows God changes.

    For the blessed in heaven: Man knows God, not through his senses and by ideas, but by direct intuition. God informs the intellect directly by what we call the light of glory (lumen gloriae) so that he sees God.

  4. Man's love of things

    For the Wayfarer: Perfect love of another consists of a perfect union of the wills. Now this is not possible in this world because we do not have perfect knowledge of another's will, or a perfect detachment from creatures. Hence our love of God can never be perfect in this world. Without grace, man loves with a purely natural love.

    For the Wayfarer with grace: Man is given the capaicity to love God with the same love (supernatural love) with which God loves. In effect, man participates in the act of God loving.

    For the blessed in heaven: With perfect knowledge of God by an intuitive vision, to which the will inclines as to the ultimate good, and with the perfect capacity to love by a plenitude of charity, man will is transfixed in perfect union with God's will. No creature can compete with God as an object of love.

  5. Man needs to be equipped for heaven

    To arrive at his ultimate goal, man needs to be equipped for heaven. This begins here below and is effected by sanctifying grace. "Grace is the beginning of glory, glory is the consummation of grace." St. Augutine

  6. Sanctifying grace


    Sanctifying grace is a:

    - supernatural quality (formal cause)

    - inhering in the soul (subject)

    - which gives us a physical and formal participation, although analogous and accidental,             (final cause) in the very nature of God as God.


    - Our participation is physical and formal because it is a share in the "form" or nature of God in such as a way as to really modify our being by raising it to the supernatural order (it is not an ens rationis or a concept, and it is not something in potency);

    - But it does not share in God's nature in the same way as the Father, Son and Holy Ghost share in the divine nature. It shares it in a different way. it is therefore an analogous participation.

  7. Effects of sanctifying grace

    - The first effect of sanctifying is to give us a participation in the divine nature. This is the root and the foundation of all other effects.

    - Preeminenent Effects: The three preeminent effects are given by St. Paul (Rom 8:15-17):

    For you have not received the spirit of bondage again in fear: but you have received the spirit of adoption of sons, whereby we cry: Abba (Father). For the Spirit himself giveth testimony to our spirit that we are the sons of God. And if sons, heirs also; heirs indeed of God and joint heirs with Christ: yet so, if we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified with him.

  8. Comitance of sanctifying grace

    supernatural virtues

    - Gifts of the Holy Ghost