Irascible Passions – Part 1 of 2

Father Geiermann discusses the five irascible passions: hope, despair, courage, fear, and anger.

“As a passion hope is a longing of the sensitive appetite for something difficult but possible to attain. Hope is begotten by love, derives its confidence from experience, is sustained by desire, and rewarded by enjoyment. To elevate the passion of hope to the supernatural plane we must (1) not be inordinately solicitous about ‘what we shall eat; or what we shall drink, or wherewith we shall be clothed’ (Mt 6:31); (2) ‘seek the kingdom of God and His justice’ (Mt 6:33); (3) ‘confide in the Lord rather than have confidence in man’ (Ps 117:8); (4) center our affections in God; (5) look to God alone for appreciation and reward.”

Despair is the turning away of the sensitive appetite from a desirable object that is considered unattainable. It is founded on desire, and opposed to hope.” Father Geiermann suggests that the passion of despair may be moderated, for example, by putting our trust in God, appreciating the grace He gives us, and serving Him with a generous spirit.

Courage is the passion which repels a serious threatening evil.” To spiritualize the passion of courage, Father Geiermann suggests that we be courageous in conquering our faults, that we allow the virtue of prudence to regulate our courage, that we realize that we are under the protection of Divine Providence, and that we trust in God’s assistance to help us perform our duties well. And, in temptations against purity, he declares that courage consists in immediate flight.

Fear is the prostration of the sensitive appetite caused by a threatening evil. Fear manifests itself in six ways: (1) as laziness or fear of work; (2) as bashful deportment; (3) as evidence of a guilty conscience; (4) in wonder, when in the presence of overwhelming evil; (5) in stupor, when in the presence of an extraordinary danger; (6) in agony at the sudden and unexpected appearance of a great danger. Fear collects our energies for resistance and makes us conciliatory and cautious in adopting the proper means to attain our end. In moderating it we must (1) ever make the fear of the Lord outweigh the combined influence of human respect and mundane fear; (2) fear the greater evils most; (3) practise resignation to God’s will; (4) trust in His never-failing aid; (5) never excuse ourselves from doing good under the pretext of humility; (6) guard against presumption and despair, and so walk steadfastly in the fear of the Lord. ‘The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom’ (Prv 1:7).”

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

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