Do you know your ruling grace?


I first encountered St. Peter Julian Eymard when I came across his marvelous nine volume set of little books devoted to the Holy Eucharist.

As I began to collect these treasures penned by the French priest who founded the Blessed Sacrament Fathers, I found myself particularly drawn to one, simply titled “Holy Communion.”

My somewhat tattered copy of this little book is heavily highlighted, especially within the chapter named The Grace of Life. In this little chapter, I learned from St. Peter Julian something I had not heard of before….that each soul seeking the way of perfection on the spiritual journey possesses a “ruling grace.”

It is a grace of perfection which demands much more than the mere accomplishment of the law; it is the life, the sanctity of the soul.

….in the supernatural order, there are ruling graces, accessory graces, and complementary graces. Of the ruling graces, a single one is sufficient to lead to perfection. They give life and force to all other graces; they are the seal and impress of a life. (Holy Communion, pp. 170-171)

Did you ever wonder why you may not be especially attracted to fasting and penance, or why you admire those who work intensely with the poor, but you yourself do not seem drawn to do so? Do you struggle to have a constant awareness of Our Lord’s Passion, or become frustrated because you cannot seem to pray the rosary as often as you think you should?

If so, the above virtues and devotions are most likely not your ruling grace…the grace of your life. The “impress” of your life.

The ruling grace of a soul has two effects: first, it points out the path the soul must follow in its spiritual conduct; second, it guides the soul to a special vocation.

This grace of graces will give a special impress to piety, to virtue, to life. It will be the moving force of all actions, so that the soul will make every advance, will do everything from a single impulse.

To embrace all virtues together is beyond the scope of the human spirit. We cannot fix our gaze on all at once; it would be too great a strain and would result in a loss of simplicity and in suffering for us. Our efforts would be scattered instead of converging in unity toward one central object.

Each one must seek inwardly to discover his predominant grace, for upon correspondence with this grace depends the entire spiritual life. (Ibid, pp. 172-173)

And then St. Peter Julian continues on for several pages, writing about his own personal ruling grace, devotion to the Most Holy Sacrament of the altar.

He describes this grace of special love for the Blessed Sacrament to be the sweetest and most excellent of the ruling graces, and also the most frequently given by God.

At the end of this chapter, he warns that, “We must cooperate with this grace with great fidelity; if we are unfaithful to our ruling grace, we shall be unfaithful to all others. ( p.177)

I am grateful to St. Peter Julian Eymard for his teaching on the grace of our life. It gives one peace in orienting prayer and action in the direction one’s soul feels especially drawn. It relieves guilt over not forcing oneself into spiritual practices which do not seem to resonate with the soul.

Most wonderfully, it instills passion and joy into the spiritual journey, so that even when one is wandering in the desert, they still find comfort in clinging to their ruling grace…that special grace which acts like a prism through which they view the mysteries of God.

This teaching of St. Peter Julian does not mean that one is dispensed from seeking perfection through other means, such as penance, Our Lord’s Passion, etc. But the soul who has identified its ruling grace will learn to incorporate this special attraction into every area of their spiritual life.

In the very heart of the tree is the sap, which is its life. Wood and bark protect that life and tend to shield it from the cold of winter.

Ah Well! Your sovereign grace is the sap which gives fertility to every branch of your life. Guard it well; defend it as the heart, as the soul of your supernatural life. ( p. 177)

St. Peter Julian Eymard, pray for us!

(All quotations above in italics are taken from Book II of the Eymard Library, Holy Communion,published by The Eymard League, 1948)

(from the archives, first published August 2, 2012)


17 thoughts on “Do you know your ruling grace?

    • Me too, Maryann. The first time I posted this back in 2012, one lady commented, “Does this mean that I don’t have to say 13 rosaries a day like Johnette’s grandmother?” She was referring to Johnette Benkovic (EWTN) who often mentions how her grandmother prayed a rosary everyday for each of her 13 grandchildren. The comment was tongue in cheek, of course, but it made me smile because I can’t imagine praying 13 rosaries a day! πŸ™‚ I think we instinctively know where our ruling grace is, as we have an attraction to a certain devotion or virtue or service, etc. Thanks so much for commenting! God bless you!

  1. This appeals to me, too. I often feel guilty for not feeling drawn to certain virtues and devotions but the impulse is just not there for me for some of these things. Intriguing! Thanks for the post!

    • Hi Aileen. I know what you mean about the guilt. I’ve been down that road too. Friends I admired were working at the soup kitchen or in prison ministry or involved in CCD and RCIA, etc., but I just never felt drawn to serving in that way. I’m so thankful for St. Therese who taught me long ago that it is just fine to be a little soul who does little, hidden things. St. Peter Julian Eymard puts it all in such a positive light, by encouraging us to discern which ruling grace God has given to us, and to be faithful to it. I’m so happy the post helped you! God bless, and thank you for commenting.

  2. Patricia,

    This is so interesting and helpful. I had thought there was something wrong with me because I don’t feel drawn to some practices other people obviously love. Now I’m pondering my own ruling grace. I will find out more about St. Peter Julian and his writings. Thank you for sharing!

    • Sue, there is definitely nothing wrong with you πŸ™‚ You are such an inspiration to me! I do find the ruling grace concept helpful as well….it gave me peace from not having some of the attractions of others…like to great penances! May God reveal your ruling grace to you. I think He places a special attraction in our hearts for one particular Divine mystery, or devotion or service, etc. It shouldn’t be too hard to discern. πŸ™‚ ❀

  3. Patricia, And yet another book for the collection at the table I hope to share with you in Heaven one day! The ‘dream library’ : ) Accepting, embracing and being at peace with who you are in Christ.. I’m always in need of that grace. Hugs and blessings always +

    • Hugs to you, dear Caroline! I miss you! So happy you stopped by, but apologize for being so late in responding to comments. Yes, our library table in Heaven. I will be bringing all the books I currently have which I will never have time to read in this life, since I continue to buy more. Kindle is so dangerous with all those $.99 spiritual classics, and then the FREE jewels available to download online. I love the ones from a couple of centuries back…so thorough and classic. Yes, being who we are in Christ….what a blessing! It’s always a joy to see you here! xoxoxo

  4. This is very interesting, and it does answer some questions I have. So thanks for sharing!
    Before I knew about the actual term of “ruling grace”, I sort of figured it out by looking at the type of saints I can relate to the most. I found out that I’m most attracted to intellectual saints like St. Thomas Aquinas and “royal” saints like St. Elizabeth of Hungary, who were rich and noble and they used their wealth to aid the poor. The ones that I’m least attracted to are those who actually leave all their belongings behind and live out radical poverty (St. Francis of Assisi, for example). I do admire them but I don’t think that it is my particular calling.

    • Hi Anne, thanks so much for commenting. I’m so happy you found some confirmation in this post…seems like you were already on the right track. It really helped me when I was trying to be “all things,” and my heart kept drawing me to one particular “grace.” Yes, radical poverty is definitely not my ruling grace either πŸ™‚ I find that as I move through life, I am at one time or another drawn to various accessory graces, but always that ruling grace is central, and I can look back to childhood and realize it was always what drew me. I hope you will comment again sometime, and share how your attraction to what you mentioned above has helped you in your spiritual life. Blessings always, Patricia

  5. Hi Patricia
    I ve been reading your blog for some time now and I’m quite captivated by the love you have for God. I do envy the fact that you express your love for God so freely(a holy envy if I should put it that way, lol).
    Anyway I just started my journey with God recently, its actually been a year this month since God’s grace sought me out, and I started taking my spiritual life seriously. I’m 25 and struggling with scrupulousity. To be honest I can’t even think about God the way you do because I have this obsession with spiritual pride. I’m constantly suppressing every thought about my spiritual life that sends a warm chill down my spine for fear that it is sinful. I can’t even measure my progress in keeping God’s law for fear it is the sin of spiritual pride, and sometimes I get frustrated and envy those who express their love for him. I’m a perfectionist as well so I think that is a contributing factor.
    Sorry for the long post. If it’s not too much to ask, please remember me in prayers whenever you have the chance so that I can experience freedom in my spiritual life.
    God bless you always!

    • Chinonye, I was 25 when I started taking my spiritual life seriously as well πŸ™‚ I understand your struggles. Most of us go through similar ones along the way. Even the great Saints stuggled with spiritual pride. It takes time to allow God to do His wonders in our souls. I will be happy to e-mail you a more detailed response, but I wanted to quickly assure you that you are not alone….or unique in what you are experiencing. God usually blesses us with many consolations at the start of our spiritual life….to attract us to Him and away from the world. They can make us feel pretty special. I remember those days πŸ™‚ No worries. He loves you so much and is so very patient. He will tenderly and gradually weed out those problems you are noticing. The key is to love Him and to pray daily and to do your best not to offend so loving a God. He really does the rest. Please comment anytime, and feel free to ask questions and I will try to help you….not that I’m an expert, just a lot older! πŸ™‚ You are on a wonderful journey now…the greatest adventure of life. If you can find a good confessor, he could help you with that scupulosity. I hope that you stay in touch, and I’m delighted that you are reading my blog. How wonderful that you still have your whole life ahead to grow in love for God and to do much good. Yes, I will be praying for you. I suspect God is very pleased with you ❀

  6. Hi Patricia,
    Thank you so much for your kind words. True to my scrupulous nature, I tried suppressing feelings of pride when I read where you wrote that you suspect God is very pleased with me.
    Nevertheless it made me feel special and I ve read that part a million times,lol.
    I put my trust in God that he will gradually pull me out from a place of fear and distrust to a place of greater confidence and love! Thanks.

  7. Hi Patricia
    I’m having a hard time discerning what my ruling grace might be. Is it only one grace or several graces? I love the Rosary, I pray for souls in purgatory everyday( actually it took the death of Michael Jackson to spark up interest in purgatory) and I love reading about saints who had mystical encounters with Jesus like St. Gemma Galgani, St Benigna Consolata, St. Gabriella Bossis etc. I love how sweet, tender and somewhat romantic Jesus appeared in his interactions with them, how he poured out his heart to them concerning his deep love for us, how he called St. Benigna what appears to be pet names, like” my queen”,” my benjamin” etc. I do get jealous sometimes, lol.
    I also love the subject of mystical marriages, spiritual betrothals etc. They seem romantic to me, lol. I never knew that part of Jesus existed because he had seemed distant to me. Its like a breath of fresh air reading about his great love for me. Sorry for the long post. So what do you think? Thanks!

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