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)