Grace Overflowed All the More
by Fr. Justin Ramos, O.Praem.
When I first began my studies in Rome, one of the most surprising, shocking, unexpected realities of the Eternal City was to find so much filth in the city streets. After walking to school for only a week, my habit went from white to grey, and that was while wearing the grecca—the overcoat. But what was even more shocking was the moral filth and decay evident in the city streets, passageways, and avenues, even right outside the doors of our house. Yet right on those same city streets you would just as easily come upon churches, chapels, convents, oratories, shrines, or just beautiful religious symbols of our Catholic faith. This marked contrast between sin and grace made me think of St. Paul’s epistle to the Romans: “Where sin increased, grace overflowed all the more,” or as is more commonly quoted, “Where sin abounded, grace abounded all the more.” Things were no different in St. Paul’s time, and the same can be said of every age. God gives more than enough grace to overcome evil in the world and in our own lives. How true this is in Catholicism’s Capitol, the Eternal City, where in every street corner, every crevice and cranny, one finds signs of God’s grace, Christ’s sacrifice, His abiding love for us.
That God’s grace far exceeds our capacity to sin should be no surprise. Since the fall of Adam, God promised us that a woman’s seed would crush the head of the serpent. Christ has not only restored us to grace but has made us children of God and heirs to the kingdom of heaven. His grace superseded Adam’s fall. And though man continues to mess things up, our Lord inspires and raises up men of distinct holiness to straighten things up again and not only restore the damage men cause but make things better than before.
Such is the case with Bl. Jacob Kern, a soldier wounded during the First World War, became a Norbertine precisely to undo the evil caused by another Norbertine from the Czech Abbey of Strahov—Isidore, along with some others, left their abbey and joined a national church schism that broke from Rome. While still pope, St. John Paul II beatified Jacob and said of him, “In this sad event, Jacob Kern discovered his vocation. He desired to be the propitiatory sacrifice for this fallen-away religious. In a manner of speaking, Jacob Kern entered the Norbertine abbey of Geras to replace him in the Order. And God accepted the gift of the ‘substitute.’”
If we wish to follow Christ, we must take up our cross and follow Him. Bl. Jacob, who knew what kind of courage it took to defend one’s homeland, also knew that to defend the Church and spouse of Christ, he would have to take up his cross and be crucified on it for Her.
Years before Jacob entered the abbey of Geras, the soldier-turned-monk St. Martin of Tours is said to have had Satan appear to him in the guise of the Savior himself. St. Martin was ready to fall to his feet and worship this resplendent being of glory and light. Then, suddenly, he looked up into the palms of his hands and asked, “Where are the nail prints?”, whereupon the apparition vanished.
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