Merit and reconciliation may be different names for a single reality, the general salvific causality. Yet these two names are not synonyms, for they signify the same reality under different aspects. Therefore we may postulate something of salvific causality as merit, which could not be said of it as reconciliation, and vice versa.
The same is true for the application of salvific causality. Here too we find different names for a single reality, the distribution of graces, and these names are also not synonyms, for they throw light on the same reality from divergent angles. So that, as we can attribute something different to the Passion of our Lord, according as we designate it merit or reconciliation, in the same way we may ascribe something other to the distribution of graces according to whether we call it reconciliation or consummation of merits.
Hence, even if Mary’s mediation of grace, of which we treated in the preceding article, could not take place otherwise than through her powerful intercession, it would still be true that the titles Mediatrix of all graces and Suppliant Omnipotence are no more synonymous than the names co-reconciliation and co-merit, so that they entirely justify separate consideration.
The word prayer may be taken in various senses, but the strictest meaning is: an exposition of our desire in the presence of God, hoping that he will fulfill it (III, 21.1). The point here is a desire of the will, the fulfillment of which is beyond our own reach and which we consequently present to God so that he may do what we ourselves cannot. We are speaking thus of the prayer of petition.
Such a prayer of petition may be explicit, when we give it expression by means of words from our lips or our minds; but it may also be a silent prayer, if we do not put the desire itself into words, but do or say something in which it is implicit. A striking example of a silent prayer was once given by a Rotterdam beggar. He did not want to be caught begging by the police, and for this reason had himself wheeled about in an invalid-chair. But he had hung a placard on his breast which read: “It is most unfortunate to be blind and paralyzed.” The man asked for nothing; he did not even affirm that he was himself blind and paralyzed, and yet everyone saw in it an urgent prayer to give him an alms!
The prayer of petition, whether explicit or silent, made for love of God and in a state of grace, is a good work, and as such has the double property of being meritorious and satisfactory. Meritorious, in so far as it fits us for heaven; satisfactory, in so far as it lessens our culpability in God’s eyes. But besides this, the prayer of petition has this speciality that does not belong to any other form of good work: it has what we call the power of impetration. This is very important, for we can certainly obtain by our prayers much that we do not deserve. After losing sanctifying grace by sin, for instance, we cannot start obtaining it again, but our prayers for mercy may well be heard. In like manner we cannot merit conversion for others, for the principle of merit, sanctifying grace, is immediately directed to our own salvation only, but we can certainly under definite conditions obtain conversion for others, (vide II-II, 83.15 ad sum).
In heaven, the saints no longer have merit or satisfaction at their disposal, but they can certainly pray. They can pray for themselves in so far as anything might be lacking to their own blessedness, but above all their prayer of petition will be intercession for us who are not yet in heaven. There is no possibility of doubting the reality of this intercession, for Holy Church teaches it explicitly (Denzinger 984). Moreover it is also obvious that the saints in heaven, just like us on earth, are bound by the divine virtue of charity to desire heaven for other men and consequently to pray for it.
The impetratory power of their prayers depends on a double foundation: on the one hand, on the free, divine acceptance of these prayers (II-II, 83.11 ad 1um en 83.15), for there is no question here of any kind of right, but of an entreaty. But on the other hand a reason may be given in support of this entreaty, and the merits of the saints may be the reason why their prayers are heard: they can intercede for us, because they merited this during their previous life (III Sent. 18.1.2 ad sum, II-II, 83.11 ad 5um).
The hearing of a prayer, t