Delusions and Purification

Father Geiermann continues his discussion of sensible devotion by pointing out two dangers that appear at this stage in one’s spiritual journey. These dangers are delusions of pride and inordinate self-love.

Concerning pride, he says of the soul: “Unless she be humble and strong in faith she will easily be deceived regarding the nature of her power and the cause of her spiritual progress. By taking the credit of her change of mind and heart to herself instead of giving due honor to God she is puffed up with pride; and when she does this, even unconsciously, she puts herself at variance with God. For ‘God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble’ (Jas 4:6). Thus her momentary advancement may become the occasion of her greater fall. Besides, as pride begets a false sense of security and self-sufficiency, she may disregard the danger of temptation and neglect the means of grace, and by so doing fall into many other sins. How many have said to the Master with St. Peter: ‘Yea, though I should die with Thee, I will not deny Thee’ (Mt 26:35), and have gone foolishly into the voluntary occasion of sin and fallen miserably.”

Concerning inordinate self-love, he remarks: “This is a species of idolatry that keeps the soul from knowing her real self. . . . Instead of being actuated by love of God or charity towards their neighbor the slaves of self-love seek their own will in all things, and thereby class themselves among those of whom the Saviour says: ‘Amen I say to you, they have received their reward’ (Mt 6:5).”

God helps a person overcome these delusions by purifying his sensitive and intellectual faculties. Father Geiermann explains: “In the beginning a mother nurses her infant with the tenderest affection, but grows less demonstrative in her devotion as it advances in age; so, in the beginning of a soul’s conversion, God fills her with the sweetness of sensible devotion, but changes His treatment when she learns to walk by faith. Precisely because the mother is truly devoted to the child does she gradually feed it on a more nourishing diet and teach it to stand and walk alone. For the same reason God changes His treatment of the soul as she advances in the life of grace. To preserve her from the delusions of pride and self-love and to encourage her to walk steadfastly by faith, He withdraws the light and sweetness of sensible devotion from time to time and subjects her to various trials. For, as the winds and storms of Spring stimulate vegetation and cause it to send its roots deep into the ground, so the trials which Providence sends or permits ground the soul in humility and attach her intimately to God.”

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

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Sayings of Catholic saints and sages: spiritual food for meditation and reflection.
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