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“Ask a Priest: Can a person lose sanctifying grace?”
Q: I know we get sanctifying grace every time we receive the sacraments. Does this grace stay with you for your whole life or can you lose sanctifying grace? -C.D.
Answered by Fr. Edward McIlmail, LC
A: Most certainly, yes, sanctifying grace can be lost through mortal sin. Without sanctifying grace, we cannot get into heaven.
The Catechism in No. 2000 explains, “Sanctifying grace is an habitual gift, a stable and supernatural disposition that perfects the soul itself to enable it to live with God, to act by his love.” Sanctifying grace has also been defined as the indwelling of the Trinity in our soul.
(For further reading, click here.) When lost through mortal sin, sanctifying grace can be regained through the sacrament of reconciliation.
Your question needs a bit of qualification. It is better to say that we receive sanctifying grace when we receive the sacraments worthily. To receive a sacrament unworthily – for instance, the Eucharist, when we are aware of being in mortal sin – will not do us any good. It would, in fact, add to our sins (sacrilege, in this case).
All this drives home the importance of vigilance and prayer. We can never assume that “once saved, always saved.” No. We need to heed St. Paul’s advice to “work out your salvation with fear and trembling” (Philippians 2:12). Sanctifying grace is a gift of God, and like any gift it can be lost. I pray that it is a gift you always possess.