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)

Movie review….relax by a fire with this one tonight


On this lovely feast of St. Elizabeth Ann Baley Seton, I would like to offer a movie review.

A Time for Miracles is the story of our first native-born American Saint, who was a convert from the Episcopal Church….a married woman, mother of five, and widow.  (I have a special affection for married  saints, since there are so few, and I think marriage should be more highly esteemed as a path to holiness.)

However, back to the movie.  This movie was produced for television shortly after Elizabeth was canonized on September 14, 1975.  Kate Mulgrew, an excellent actress who happens to be Catholic, played the title role.  Included, are scenes from the actual canonization ceremony.

I was impressed by the quality of this movie, its faithfulness to her life story, and its reverence for Catholicism…especially for the Most Blessed Sacrament, to which Elizabeth was irresistibly drawn.  It was her deep love for the Holy Eucharist which was the impetus of her conversion.  This choice caused her much suffering in anti-Catholic New England, and she and her children were virtually abandoned by extended family and friends.  A woman of great courage, Elizabeth continued undaunted in her new Faith, even though she and her children had to live in poverty.

But God had great plans for this beloved daughter of His, and she soon was chosen to found the first Catholic school in the United States, and eventually, the American branch of the Sisters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul

After years of hard work, and losing two of her precious children to illness, Elizabeth died in her forties of tuberculosis..  She is a most lovable Saint, always patient and kind to both her children, and the young women who came to join the Order.

If you have never seen this movie, I highly recommend it.  Most of all, I encourage everyone to get to know this wonderful Saint, who suffered so much during her short life, but whose love for Jesus in the Most Blessed Sacrament consumed her heart, and brought her to ecstasy in His Presence.


Yes, my soul, the moment approaches, the supreme moment of my life; our King comes; our merciful , compassionate Jesus, the King of Glory, the God or our hearts and our portion forever.  He comes not with His thousand thousands attending, but in sweet gentle smiles of peace.  He waits in silence at our door; no pomp of majesty presses round Him, but clothed in the humble veils of His love, He seeks only the repose of a pure and faithful heart.  “Give Me, your heart, My child,” He says, “it is all I ask.”  My King, my God, enter in mine, humble, poor, indeed, but earnestly desirous of pleasing You.
St. Elizabeth Ann Seton

For a truly beautiful, biographical article on St. Elizabeth Seton, visit Vultus Christi.

St. Gemma Galgani pray for us…..

As one who has suffered almost daily with migraines and other headaches for most of my life, I was delighted to find a new friend and intercessor in the seraphic and precious St. Gemma Galgani.  For those who would like to read more about this beautiful young Saint, there is a wonderful website devoted to her:

(Even if you do not suffer from headaches, you will be blessed in reading about the life of Saint Gemma, who was a contemporary of St. Therese.  What joy for the Sacred Heart of Jesus in having both of these saints of love on earth at the same time.  Therese died at age 24, followed six years later by St. Gemma at age 25.  It seems Jesus can scarcely wait to take to Himself those who have spent their lives loving so much…as these two great Saints.)

Patron Saint of headaches and migraines

A Patron Saint for headache and migraine sufferers
Given all the migraines and headaches that she suffered, Saint Gemma can certainly be considered a patron Saint for those who suffer with headaches, along with St Teresa of Avila and a few others. Gemma suffered with severe headaches for three reasons- firstly because she was diagnosed with  spinal meningitis (or possibly spinal tuberculosis), and she developed large tumors along her spine, which lead her to the brink of death in the Spring of 1899, prior to her miraculous cure. Those who are familiar with spinal diseases  know that they can cause severe, debilitating migraines.
Additionally, for various reasons the doctors thought she also had a brain tumor. And thirdly because she was given the mystical grace of receiving the crown of thorns. Because of all of these conditions, St Gemma suffered atrocious headaches. And because her spinal disease was continuously progressing for the worse, she initially could still walk and began wearing an iron back brace, but soon she became bedridden and almost completely paralysed, able only to move her head and arms a bit.  During this time she said to Father Andrew Bartolini:  “See I am crucified. I cannot move.”  Initially her Physician, Doctor Del Prete repeatedly lanced the tumors along her spine, and injected them with glycerine, but as she continually grew worse he consulted with other physicians who together decided to cauterize her spine in 12 places.
Here is how she explained it:
“….but the months passed, and I did not get any better. On January 4th (1899), the doctors tried another remedy. The cauterized me in 12 places on the spine. That was enough. I began to grow worse. Besides the usual pains, on January 28 I began to suffer with an unbearable headache.
The doctor whom they called said that it was very dangerous (he called it a brain tumor). They could not operate because I was suffering with extreme weakness. I grew worse from day to day, and on February 2nd they brought me Holy Viaticum. I made my confession and I was waiting to go and be with Jesus. It seemed that it would be soon. The doctors, thinking that I was no longer conscious, said among themselves that I would not live until midnight. Blessed be Jesus!”

Her severe headaches lasted for months, until her miraculous cure on March 3, 1899. Immediately after her cure she said: “When I was alone in the room afterwards I was able to raise myself to a sitting position, though I could not yet stand up. But, I felt very well because I no longer had any more pain in my head.”
But this was not the end of her head pain and migraines–now she was to suffer tortuous headaches stemming from a mystical grace- the Crown of Thorns. The severe migraines stemming from her spinal meningitis and brain tumour were only a precursor of the violent headaches and head pain that she was soon to suffer.
The Crown of Thorns -Sufferings of a victim soul
After her miraculous cure God called Saint Gemma to be a “victim soul”, that is, she was especially called to suffer in body and spirit for the conversion of sinners, and in reparation for sins. In other words, she was called to help Jesus for the salvation of souls. To accomplish this mission, God would give her a share in the innumerable sufferings of Christ, beginning particularly on Thursday evenings until Friday afternoon. It was the Passion renewed, in a lesser degree, in the body and spirit of the young virgin Gemma. In this mission of suffering in union with Jesus for the redemption of sinners she was given the Stigmata, along with the Crown of Thorns. It is this latter, and the atrocious head pain that it caused, which we will now focus on for this article.
Concerning the Crown of Thorns and the accompanying head pain Gemma writes: Thursday, August 30, 1900 “A little strength, a little courage comes to me when I feel Jesus at the hour when he places the crown of thorns on me and makes me suffer until Friday evening, because this I offer for sinful souls, especially my own. This is how things went yesterday evening, Thursday; I thought Jesus would do like usual that evening: He placed the crown of thorns on my head, the cause of so much pain for my beloved Jesus, and left it there for several hours….How He was afflicted! And the cause: for the many sins committed, and the many ungrateful souls whom He assists, only to receive in return exactly the opposite. Of this ingratitude how much I feel guilty myself! For sure, Jesus must have spoken of me. As usual, that night I cannot sleep because I am united with Jesus, united more closely than usual, and also because my head aches a bit; I kept vigil together with my beloved Angel.”
Elsewhere in her diary she writes: Friday, July 27, 1900 “This Friday I suffered even more, because I had to do some chores and at every moment I thought I would die. Indeed, my aunt had commanded me to fetch water: I felt so exhausted I thought the thorns went into my brain…and a drop of blood began to appear at my temple. I hurriedly cleaned up so she barely noticed it…”
and again: Thursday, August 2, 1900 “I be­gan my prayers and immediately collected myself. For a while I had been feeling ill. I stayed all alone; when I was suffering Jesus wasn’t there and I suffered only in my head. My confessor asked me this morning if I had had the signs, [Stigmata -editor] and I said no. They hurt a lot but not compared to my head.”
and again: Thursday, August 23 “Tonight Jesus placed his crown on my head at about 10:00, after I had been collected for a little while. My suffering, which in no way equals Je­sus’, was very strong: even all my teeth hurt; any movement brought a sharp pain; I thought I could not resist but instead I did, everything went well.I offered those little penances for sinners and in particular for my poor soul. I begged Him to return soon…”
Writing to her spiritual director, Father Germanus Gemma says: “On Saturday evening, I went to make a visit to the most holy crucifix. There came upon me an ardent longing for suffering, and with all my heart I implored of Jesus to satisfy me. And, since that evening, He has granted me a cease­less pain in my head, but such a violent pain! And I am almost always crying through fear of not being able to bear it.”
And in a letter to her Confessor, Monsignor Giovanni Volpi, Gemma writes: “Saturday I went to make a visit to Jesus Crucified. There came to me a strong desire to suffer and with all my heart, I asked it of Jesus. And Jesus that evening made me have a very violent pain in the head, and blood almost came; but I was almost overcome and afraid that I would not be able to endure it. Tonight I suffered all night; I asked Jesus if I might have a little peace; and He gave it to me. I do not know whether Signora Cecelia saw me at this time; since yesterday evening I have been with her at her home, as you know.
If you think it wise, should I ask Jesus to alleviate a little the pain in my head?
Tonight I told Jesus that I really could not bear it any more, and He replied to me: “My daughter neither am I able to endure any longer the evil that is done Me; this is indeed a time of wickedness [it was carnival time] which I am no longer able to tolerate. You with your suffering bear the punishment which My Father has pre­pared for so many poor sinners. Will you not do it will­ingly?” I said yes, but I was afraid of not being able to stand it. He said: “Do not be afraid, I will make you suffer, but I will give you the strength to endure it.” Now I am satisfied and even stronger. I ask for your blessing and pray to Jesus for poor Gemma”

And concerning these pains in the head, what does Ms. Cecilia Giannini, the primary eyewitness to these matters have to say?:
Cecilia Giannini writing to Father Germanus in June, 1900: “Today is Thursday and this evening she prepared her­self for suffering as one prepares for a feast. I am alone here. If only it were possible for you to be here, there are so many things that you could understand and that you could explain to me who understand so little …. Jesus on Thursday evening gives her His crown of thorns and presses it a little and then there flow little fountains of blood, so that it pours over her face and pillow; and sue suffers thus for an hour. Then Jesus blesses her and the members of the Sacred College and leaves her; how­ever He does not take away the crown. He leaves it until Friday. During the day no blood is seen, except a little when He takes the crown away, which is around three or four o’clock on Friday. During all this time she suffers great pain in the head, but no one knows it but myself. Enough of this: I am afraid I have said too much, but you will form your own judgment.”
And so, given all the headaches and pains that she suffered, we can see that those who suffer with headaches and migraines have a compassionate and understanding heavenly friend in Saint Gemma, for she certainly can sympathise with those who have such sufferings. And those who suffer such pain should recall Jesus words to Gemma: “Do not be afraid, I will make you suffer, but I will give you the strength to endure it.” Or, in the words of the spiritual classic “The Imitation of Christ”: “Nothing is small that comes from the hand of God. If He sends us affliction or suffering, we should accept it with gratitude; for whatever He permits to happen to us is always for our salvation.” -“The Imitation of Christ”, Book 2, Chapter 10
So whether our suffering comes from the Permissive will of God, such as in Gemma’s meningitis and brain tumor (that is indirectly, just as in most of our illnesses), or the Ordained will of God, that is directly, such as in Gemma’s Crown of Thorns, God always gives us the strength to endure it, and even more so when we ask Him in loving prayer. ~St Gemma Galgani, pray for us! _______________________________
“Jesus is an irresistible and adorable lover. The mercy of Jesus enchants me. How could one not love Jesus will all one’s heart and soul?” -St Gemma Galgani