I found a website a few years ago and unearthed it in order to straighten out questions in my mind about Grace. This website (www.fisheaters.com) is invaluable, as it details both Protestant and Catholic understanding of the Faith.The book that was the catalyst for my investigation about Grace was written by a Protestant Christian, and I had difficulty reconciling what I ‘d read in the book with what I know as a Catholic Christian, so this website provided the balance I needed to iron out questions I had about the author’s perspective on Grace.
The bottom line: all salvation comes from the grace of Christ’s Sacrifice and only from the grace of His Sacrifice. Salvation is a free gift — a gift that is not “owed” to us, that God didn’t have to offer us, and that we could never “earn” on our own — that we accept by faith and works. Christ doesn’t have to give us this gift of salvation; we don’t “deserve” this gift, we can’t “earn” it; but He, in His endless Love for us, offers it nonetheless. We have to believe this gift exists (have faith) and then open our hands to receive it (obey, inspired by the grace given to us).
An analogy: there is a train called “Grace” that is the one and only route to Heaven and which is fueled by Christ’s Passion, Resurrection, and Ascension alone. Some Protestants seem to believe that all one has to do is believe the train exists and all will be well. They accuse Catholics of thinking that belief in the train is unnecessary, that we can give out free soup in the train station and, thereby, bypass the train altogether. But what Catholics actually believe is that the train — Grace — is the only way to Heaven, that it is the only means by which we are saved, that we can’t take another route and can do nothing about getting to Heaven without that train. But we also teach that we have to believe in the train’s existence and board it through repentance and obedience to what Christ teaches. God is the Conductor of the train, completely Sovereign, and can go off the tracks if need be to pick up those who are truly and invincibly ignorant of the train’s existence but who are of good will, obey the natural law, and whom He deigns to save. If, when, and how He might do such a thing is completely up to Him and not for us to bicker about. It is to us to do what He has taught us: to believe, repent, love God and neighbor, and preach the Gospel.