Actual grace is that special help which the Holy Spirit gives us to enlighten our minds and to inspire and guide our wills to do good and to avoid evil in particular situations. It consists in temporary gifts of divine light for our minds and divine powers for our hearts.
St. John tells us that God comes to illumine every man born into this world, and he quotes the words of Christ about the divine call to the mind that must precede any following of the Master. “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day” (John 6:44).
In the Book of Revelation, St. John speaks of actual grace operating on the will: “Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if any one hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me” (Revelation 3:20).
The Corinthians are reminded of the same effect when St. Paul says, “I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth” (1 Corinthians 3:6). Paul and Apollos were only the instruments of
Jesus. But because they cooperated with His actual graces, the Church in Corinth continued to grow in sanctity.
“But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God which is with me. Whether then it was I or they, so we preach and so you believed” (1 Corinthians 15:10-11).
Jesus told His disciples: “Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in me, and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:4-5).
It is the actual grace of Jesus that gives us the light to see what we must do, and the strength of will to do it. Without this help we cannot live a holy life. Therefore, actual grace is a divine help enabling us to obtain, retain, or grow in sanctifying grace and in the life of God.