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Original Grace

Ignatius of Loyola recognized something that many of us have experienced, but might not have considered reflectively. Every so often we have likely received an insight or inspiration that we were certain either came directly from God or was at least unerringly true and wholly dependable. The suddenness and near absolute clarity of such events sets them apart from other significant and brilliant ideas that are the results of our efforts, such as when we carefully reason, test ideas, consult with others and strive by any means available to achieve desirable outcomes. An original grace is a description for an internal illumination that comes without any previous cause. We have no part in making it happen.

One possible response to such gratuitous enlightenment is to accept it with gratitude for the gift that it is. Even if we do not attribute it to God, its existence, however we explain it to ourselves, is quite positive and energizing. Another possible response is to immediately begin thinking of what we might do in order to carry out or make use of our newly received insight or inspiration. Reasonable as such a movement might seem to be, Ignatius learned, and passed on to us, that great care is required in how we respond to an original grace. Once we start running with our own ideas, we can equivalently assume control of a plane that we have never learned to fly. If we do not take a moment to first examine the gift to know what it is, we could be like children who see something beautiful but immediately misuse it and ruin it without ever learning its properties or purpose.

An original grace is always notably positive, eliciting true joy within us. Like an extraordinarily beautiful sunset, we hardly can avoid noticing, but we can move quickly on without pausing and consider its meaning or significance. Unlike a sunset which anyone else could observe, original graces are uniquely directed to us as individuals, and always offer us inner orientations to goodness that are not the same as our experiences of even magnificent beauty. When we pause to consider the content of a wholly gratuitous powerful inspiration we are much more likely to make a decision that will appropriately complement the gift we have received than if we quickly take our own counsel and run off in whatever direction we then choose.

Whether we turn to prayer as a means for determining how best to respond to an original grace, or we ponder within ourselves what might be the worthiest thing for us to do, we give the internal event the proper deliberation it deserves. It is in our best interests to consider with care what we will do with it before we act, just as we would do if someone were to give us a very practical and entirely unexpected gift. We might recognize that rather than taking some action, the gift we received so unexpectedly draws us into a truly graceful perspective on our place in life or on our relationship with God or on our way of viewing reality.

A best practice with original graces is to respect them for what they are, and to take care that any conclusions we draw from them are subject to careful examination as to their concurrence with what we have received.


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Last Updated 5/22/17