Causes for Penance – Part 3 of 5

We continue Father Geiermann’s discussion of the six things that occasion the practice of penance by mentioning the sixth: imperfections. “Imperfections are involuntary defects in the service of God, or material transgressions of His holy law committed without advertence of the mind or consent of the will. As imperfections are committed without malice or guilt, they are not matter for confession. As defects in God’s service they are matter for self-examination and correction, for spiritual direction, and for voluntary penance and mortification.”

“The teaching of St. John of the Cross, that every imperfection is a tendency to one of the capital sins, should prompt us to redouble our vigilance in discovering, and our efforts in overcoming them.” Father Geiermann then shows how St. John’s statement is true with respect to the seven capital sins, which are pride, avarice, lust, gluttony, anger, envy, and sloth.

Concerning imperfections inclining to pride, he writes: “Pride is inordinate self-esteem. The imperfections that tend to foster pride are: (1) to attribute a feeling of devotion to our efforts; (2) to desire to be considered more perfect than those who experience no sensible devotion; (3) to perform acts of devotion to attract the attention of others; (4) to incline to censure others; (5) to attempt to direct the superiors and the confessor in discharging their duties. Inclinations to pride may be overcome by vigilance, and by voluntary acts of humiliation and mortification.”

Concerning imperfections inclining to avarice, he writes: “Avarice is an inordinate solicitude for created things. It may be carnal or spiritual. The imperfections tending to carnal avarice are: (1) an inordinate desire of material things; (2) seeking them for their own sake; (3) hating to part with them; (4) centering our affections on them. The imperfections tending to spiritual avarice are: (1) a desire for an abundance of grace and extraordinary favors with which we will not or can not co-operate; (2) overestimating articles of devotion and pious practices to the detriment of true piety and devotion; (3) to profess great sanctity while neglecting interior mortification.” To counteract these inclinations, “we should (1) use material things to supply our wants and to help our neighbor; (2) guard against all inordinate attachment to them; (3) humbly and gracefully accept the spiritual favors God gives us; (4) seek conversion of the heart and solid virtue; (5) perform our private and public devotions according to the general practice; (6) cultivate a spirit of detachment in all things.”

Quotations from Peter Geiermann, The Narrow Way (New York: Benziger, 1914).

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