- Theology teaches us (cf R. Ganigou-Lagrange, op cit, 366) that merit, in the proper sense (de condigno), is that by which a recompense is owed in justice, or at least by virtue of a promise. Thus, in the natural order, the worker merits his salary.
- There is also another kind of merit which is called congruous (de congruo), by which recompense is owed, not in strict justice, or as a consequence of a promise, but for reasons of friendship or esteem, or simply of liberality. Thus, in the natural order, the soldier who has distinguished himself by bravery in battle perhaps merits (de congruo) a decoration. Courage is required of him as a soldier; but if he could have yielded and did not, or if he could have limited himself to fulfilling his basic duty, but made, instead, an extraordinary effort, his Commander would be moved in honour to reward such action in a measure beyond what is normally stipulated.
The works we do each day are meritorious if we do them well and with an upright intention, if we offer them to God at the beginning of the day and in the Holy Mass, when we with a right intention start some task as well as when we finish it. Our works will be especially meritorious if we unite them to the merits of Christ and to those of our Lady. In this way we gain possession of those graces of infinite value which our Lord won for us, principally on the Cross, and which our Lady also won for us, co redeeming with her Son in an exceptional manner. God our Father then sees our works invested with a new and infinite character, for we have become sharers in the merits of Christ. There is yet another thing that can help us carry out our tasks more perfectly. This is the realization that through them we can congruously merit – relying on our friendship with our Lord – the conversion of a son, a brother or a friend, so long as we ourselves are in the state of grace and seek perfectly to carry out our work for God’s glory alone. This was the way of the saints.