Definition for Actual Grace
Actual Grace: (Gratiae Gratis Datae):
While the early Church councils clearly distinguished between the two kinds of sanctifying benefits to the soul, the use of the identifying term “actual” seems to have been used for the first time by the Dominican theologian John Capreolus (1380-1446). Thus, from a theological standpoint, it became necessary to draw a sharper distinction between the two gratia gratum faciens graces (i.e., Sanctifying and Actual). According to Fr. John Hardon, “Terminology is fluid and a variety of synonyms is used for both concepts.”
As a sub-classification of the gratia gratum faciens category, Actual Grace encompasses all grace received that is not a part of the other sub-classification, i.e., Sanctifying grace. An extensive listing of all the various kinds and classifications of Actual Grace would be impossible to compose — they are too numerous and complex to do so comprehensively.
According to Hardon, Actual Grace is a “temporary supernatural intervention by God to enlighten the mind or strengthen the will to perform supernatural actions that lead to heaven.” Remember, Jesus revealed to St. Faustina that the graces he gives to one soul would overflow and radiate out to another soul. I believe we could characterize Jesus’ words this way: a soul that approaches Jesus with trust will receive so many Sanctifying (through the Sacraments) and Gratuitous Graces, that the Gratuitous Graces overflow to another soul, who receives them as external Actual Graces.
Actual Grace is distinct from Sanctifying Grace. Actual Grace is also sanctifying (small ‘s’). To clarify the distinction between the two, recall that Sanctifying Grace is a direct communication between God and the spiritual heart of man. Through this direct communication, the spiritual soul is deified. These small ‘s’ sanctifying graces are God’s communication to the soul (i.e., the lower powers of the spiritual soul) through many different sensual means — e.g., preacher, art, music, geographical landscape, flash of inspiration brought on by our surroundings, etc.
We can appreciate a saying used by many of the saints when they exclaimed, “Blessed be the God of all things [SML] for sanctifying His elect through one another.” There are numerous modes through which this sanctification can occur. The most noticeable modes of sanctification are: 1) purification of the heart and body; 2) illumination of the intellect (as Augustine tells us, you cannot love what you do not know) and; 3) union with God. Let us now turn to the two main sub-types of Actual grace: internal and external.
Internal Actual Grace
The Council of Orange in 529 declared that man is helpless to perform any spiritually worthy act without the illumination and inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Internal Actual grace is defined by Catholic theology as the internal and immediate illumination of the intellect and movement of the will (intellect and will are two faculties of the soul) in response to the Holy Spirit. Important note: the word immediate (used above) does not mean “He dispenses with such external media as preaching, spiritual reading, exhortation or good example. On the contrary, He normally uses such means as the occasion for conferring internal light or strength.” What are these internal Actual Graces? Some examples of the Holy Spirit’s inspirations are as follows: 1) infused ideas and judgments; 2) movements of faith, hope, and charity, and; 3) movements toward other virtues, such as fear of the Lord. This brings us to the subject of external Actual Grace.
External Actual Grace
It is called external (or exterior) grace because it is presented to a person from outside the spiritual intellect and will, as opposed to the cranial brain, the human physical heart, our ears, etc. — all of which are part of our human mouth. External graces alone are not capable of sanctifying, but God often uses them as an occasion for giving internal Actual Graces, which can be sanctifying. An external Actual Grace can be a person, place, or thing. There may be some confusion about the distinction between External Actual Grace and Gratuitous Grace.
A person who receives and acts upon a Gratuitous Grace becomes an instrument through which one person receives an External Actual Grace for the benefit of a different person or persons. As the name implies, external grace occurs when the Holy Spirit works from the outside in, so to speak. Using external instruments experienced through our bodily organs, God causes an influx of Divine causation to inspire movement of the will or mind. Examples of these external instruments include the following: words somebody speaks, miracles, beautiful scenery, beautiful music, ideas communicated and heard, and events.
As St. Peter tells us, “Above all hold unfailing your love for one another, since love covers a multitude of sins. Practice hospitality ungrudgingly to one another. As each has received a gift [of grace – SML], employ it for one another [as an Actual grace – SML], as good stewards of God’s varied grace: whoever speaks, as one who utters oracles of God; whoever renders service, as one who renders it by the strength which God supplies; in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen” (1 Peter 4:8-11).
If I have done my job well, we have gained a better understanding of grace. This acquired understanding should enable us to understand the biblical meaning of the word mouth. When it comes to understanding man’s creation in the image and likeness of God, grace and the mouth go indispensably hand-in-hand.
 John A. Hardon S.J., “History and Theology of Grace: Actual Graces,” The Real Presence Association, http://www.therealpresence.org/archives/Grace/Grace_013.htm: therealpresence.org, 1998 (accessed 05/08/2014). Used with permission from Inter Mirifica.
 Hardon, “History and Theology of Grace: Actual Graces,” The Real Presence Association, http://www.therealpresence.org/archives/Grace/Grace_013.htm: therealpresence.org. Used with permission from Inter Mirifica.
 Hardon, John (2013-06-25). Catholic Dictionary: An Abridged and Updated Edition of Modern Catholic Dictionary (p. 9). The Doubleday Religious Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.
 Hardon, “History and Theology of Grace: Actual Graces,” http://www.therealpresence.org/archives/Grace/Grace_013.htm: therealpresence.org. Used with permission from Inter Mirifica.
 cf. Ibid.
 cf. Ibid.
 Fr. John A. Hardon S.J., “History and Theology of Grace: Grace Considered Extensively,” The Real Presence Association, http://www.therealpresence.org/archives/Grace/Grace_002.htm#05: Inter Mirifica, 1998 (accessed 06/23/2014).
 Hardon, “History and Theology of Grace: Actual Graces,” The Real Presence Association, http://www.therealpresence.org/archives/Grace/Grace_013.htm: therealpresence.org.