07 November 2014

Signal Graces: What Are They?

St. Augustine de Hippo, by Phillippe de Champaigne
What are "signal graces"?  

First of all, let's talk about what they are not.   Signal graces are not a "sign" in the sense of when a prayer is answered, well, not necessarily.  Strictly speaking, that is not what they are and especially they are not something created, but actually grace.  Grace is the indwelling of God moving the soul. We know about actual graces and sanctifying grace, for example.  They are not in the natural order, so simply an answered prayer is usually not a signal grace.

Signal graces are extraordinary graces that move the soul by the intellect and will in such a way that the reception of the grace --- to a certain degree --- can even be detected by others -- or less commonly, even in ourselves.

So I guess they can be a "sign" of God's mercy, but we should know that all grace is God's mercy whether or not it is detectable.  Most grace, afterall, is not able to be detected.

A lot of times, God grants signal graces when He desires not just the conversion of a soul, but a conversion that will take the soul to a whole different level of faithfulness, preparing them for the person's new phase in life.  The best examples of these are in "conversions" that are very noticeable and abruptly life changing. The conversions of saints like St. Augustine of Hippo and St. Mary Magdalene are great examples of persons who have received signal graces.  They received extraordinary graces that changed their hearts and minds to such a degree that they changed their lives entirely to live only for Jesus Christ.   Other times, God is preparing the soul for death, but really, in call cases, that is always one of "4 Last Things".  

St. Mary Magdalene, by Carlo Dolci

One personal account of signal graces was of a situation with a little girl that I knew.  This little girl was blind, and never really dealt well with her situation.  She was "high-maintenance" and often complained about many things.  This made her a challenge to help socialize with other children.   After several months, of working with her, abruptly, she stopped complaining, except for one thing she finally admitted to having recently been bearing:  she had just started suffering from a stomach ailment.  Meanwhile, she was having no problem putting every other child ahead of her needs and wants, and looked to encourage others around her as if she forgot herself completely.   There was only one person she started mentioning quite frequently:  the Blessed Virgin Mother.  This young girl of 15 years began asking all sorts of questions regarding devotions to this Blessed Mother and especially questions regarding the Brown Scapular.   It was arranged by a woman who had been volunteering to assist this young girl along with other blind children, that this child be invested in the Brown Scapular.   The child began to wear the Scapular with great devotion.  Soon after, there was a woman who witnessed that this child had a literal glow to her and a peace of heart that was not of this world.  There was one concern:  she kept her forearm over her belly, as if to be in some pain.  While she had been preparing for a trip with her friends, one of the volunteers asked the girl if she was ok, and the girl only gently then mentioned that she had a stomach ache.  

The volunteer was a practicing Catholic, and had been noticing that all these changes that happened with this girl were sudden and very much "signal graces" --- where they were given in an extraordinary degree all at once.  So the question was, "What big phase was the child about to undergo?"   The mysterious stomach ache suddenly took on an extra, spiritual dimension.   It was obvious then to that woman that this child was being prepared for a holy death.  Perhaps this understanding was also a signal grace within the woman who noted these graces in such abundance, but it was said that the stomach problem was not deadly.  However, only a few months later, the child succumbed to a cancer that had not been disclosed to anyone outside of the family.  

Just before this little girl of only 15 years' had passed, there was an interesting battle among certain family members over the wearing of the Brown Scapular.  Those closest to her in her family were against her wearing the scapular.  The young girl insisted she wear it in the hospital, until her final rest.  +
The battle had been won, by the grace of God.

May He be praised in all things.


For more information, please also read about "The Four Last Things" and "The 7 Gifts of the Holy Ghost".