Happy Are the Blessed – Part 1 of 4

Father Geiermann has stated that the object of our union with God is our happiness. He shows how we attain various degrees of happiness by practicing the virtues Christ recommended in the Beatitudes. He explains: “The Beatitudes are both the laws of spiritual development and the standard of Christian perfection. . . . Our natural powers can not be merely pent up by negative perfection. They are active, and must attain their perfection along virtuous channels before they can enjoy the full blessings of the Beatitudes. On this account none of the Beatitudes is merely negative, but each places a definite happiness before us which we can possess and enjoy only in proportion to the perfection with which we have practised the corresponding virtues.”

Christ declared: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matt 5:3). Father Geiermann comments: “On the very threshold of life we are tempted by the world in the manner most calculated to turn us from the narrow way. Before we have had experience or developed strength of character, the world invites us on the one hand to a life of indulgence and dissipation, and on the other hand threatens us with its undying enmity. In our day the inventions of science seem to have conspired with the world to enervate us by ministering to our comfort and pleasure. And yet it will ever be true that our contentment consists in having as few wants as possible, and our perfection, as far as the things of this world are concerned, in loving and living the poverty of the lowly Saviour, yes, in actually loving the effects of poverty, such as cold, hunger, thirst, plain clothes, hard labor, and an humble and despised life, as they enter into our daily experience. This utter detachment from earthly things is impossible without a preceding and corresponding attachment to God, especially by perfect hope.”

“The first beatitude, therefore, emphasizes the special happiness, the reward of perfect hope. This flows from that intimate union with God which makes us indifferent to all earthly things, and enables us to conform to His holy will and trust in His aid, even when, humanly speaking, there is no hope. ‘Seek ye therefore first the kingdom of God and His justice, and all these things shall be added unto you’ (Matt 6:33).”

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

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Union with God: Means and Signs

Father Geiermann continues his discussion of the human person’s union with God. He elaborates upon two means to union and then mentions some signs of that union.

“There are two means of union with God; the one divine, the other human. The divine means consists in grace and the special dispensations of Providence which give man the occasion and the power to desire and to do what is pleasing to God. The human means, which is the free will of man, by yielding to the allurements of grace, gives God the opportunity to bring the will of man into conformity with His own. This conformity demands an absolute surrender of ourselves to God. It demands (1) that we will what God wills, because He wills, when He wills, where He wills, and as He wills; (2) that we cling to God alone, and that with all our affections, and obey and please Him in all things; (3) that for God’s sake we accept with equal indifference and promptness whatever is easy or difficult, agreeable or repugnant; (4) and that we persevere in this union with God and keep our wills in absolute subjection to His will.”

He advises: “As Christian perfection on earth consists in the proximate disposition by which we surrender ourselves to God and seek to please Him, let us frequently renew this total surrender of ourselves, that we may acquire facility and promptness in its practice. Let us often pray God to take full possession of us, and to dispose of us entirely according to His good pleasure. . . . . We must cultivate union with God with assiduity and sacrifice, and beg it most earnestly of God.”

As for the signs of our union with God, Father Geiermann writes: “We may judge of our personal union with God by the rule which the Saviour Himself gives us: ‘By their fruits you shall know them’ (Matt 7:16). We manifest our love for God not so much by word as by action. Hence St. John says: ‘Let us not love in word, nor in tongue, but in deed and in truth’ (1 John 3:18). We show our love for God especially (1) by avoiding every deliberate sin and imperfection; (2) by our fervor in our devotions; (3) by our zeal in the practice of humility; (4) by our perfect obedience to our lawful superiors; and (5) especially by the practice of fraternal charity, which our divine Saviour Himself makes the test of our love for God. ‘For he that loveth not his brother, whom he seeth, how can he love God, whom he seeth not’ (1 John 4:20).”

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

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Union with God: Object and Motive

Father Geiermann states that a human person’s union with God is “an active, intelligent, free, personal union.” Moreover, “according to this plan God does not debase Himself to the level of sinful man, but man, aided by God and guided by His Church, rises above himself.” In the following, he discusses the object of our union with God and the motive which impels us to seek that union.

The object of our union with God is our happiness. He writes: “The reason which prompts us to seek an active union with God is happiness. God created us for happiness, and implanted in our hearts a longing for an endless possession of an infinite good. St. Augustine voiced this universal longing of mankind when he said: ‘Thou hast created me for Thee, O God, and my heart will never rest until it rest in Thee.’ The human mind wants truth; in God it finds Truth itself and the Author of all truth. The human will longs for the enjoyment of what is good; in God it finds the infinite Good and the Source of all goodness. The human heart longs to love and to be loved; in God it finds that infinite Love, who has loved us with an everlasting love, and who pleads for our love: ‘My son,’ He says, ‘give Me thy heart’ (Prov 23:26). Lastly, our life is necessarily an onward motion. If we are not to drift aimlessly, we must direct it to a definite end. In God we have the final end of our existence.”

The motive of our union with God is love. “As the fear of the Lord is the principal motive power in self-denial, and the hope of reward in the practice of virtue, so love for God is the motive which impels us to union with Him. By love we embrace Him as the infinite Good or sum-total of all perfection. This love is nourished by contemplating God’s perfections in themselves and His goodness, love, and mercy, towards us. It prompts us (1) to learn God more and more that we may esteem Him adequately; (2) to cling to Him as the greatest good; (3) to do His holy will in all things; (4) to seek our spiritual advancement to please Him and to become like to Him; (5) to endure all things for love of Him; (6) and to do all we can to make God known and loved by all mankind.”

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

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Cardinal Moral Virtues – Part 3 of 3

Father Geiermann continues his discussion of the moral virtues by elaborating upon the cardinal virtues of temperance and fortitude.

Temperance is the virtue which moderates our desires according to right reason. It establishes order and moderation in all we say and do.”

St. Prosper of Aquitaine says of temperance: “It bridles our passions, moderates our affections, multiplies our holy desires, and chastises our evil ones.” St. Bonaventure observes: “Temperance is to the Christian what the bridle is to the horse.” And St. Bede notes: “Temperance makes us acceptable to God and man.”

Father Geiermann says that the acts of temperance are: (1) abstaining from illicit pleasures; (2) moderating licit ones; and (3) abstaining from lawful pleasures in due season. Specific virtues of temperance are abstinence, sobriety, chastity, and modesty. Temperance also includes the following: humility, continence, meekness, clemency, application, modesty, and urbanity. And the principal vices opposed to temperance are insensibility, intemperance, gluttony, lust, immodesty, incontinence, pride, anger, cruelty, curiosity, negligence, and scurrility.

Fortitude is the virtue which teaches us to meet danger and to perform our duty faithfully. Fortitude conducts us unscathed through adversity, and keeps us unperturbed in time of a crisis. . . . The fortitude of the world usually springs from cupidity, while Christian fortitude derives its strength from the love of God.”

“In actual life humility must be the companion of true fortitude. Humility will teach us to strengthen our fortitude by prayer in time of temptation, and to flee in time of temptations to impurity. . . . Magnanimity gives us courage to face danger, while patience restrains our temper and enables us to endure misfortune with an even mind. Confidence prepares us to meet a difficulty, and constancy to overcome it. Magnificence, finally, prompts us to incur the necessary expense to attain our end.”

Some of the acts of fortitude listed by Father Geiermann are these: being generous and constant in self-discipline; persevering in prayer; enduring temptation; resisting pride in prosperity and dejection in adversity; bravely facing danger in defense of virtue and religion; maintaining tranquillity of mind in time of trial; prudently undertaking difficult tasks, strengthened by confidence in God; and calmly avoiding dangers that exceed our strength. Vices opposed to fortitude are audacity, timidity, presumption, worldly ambition, pusillanimity, impatience, insensibility, parsimony, prodigality, pertinacity, and inconstancy.

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

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Cardinal Moral Virtues – Part 2 of 3

Father Geiermann continues his discussion of the moral virtues by elaborating upon the cardinal virtue of justice and upon the virtue of religion, which is a type of justice.

Justice is the virtue which renders to every one his due. It is very comprehensive in its application, as it defines our duties to God, our neighbor, and ourselves. Justice is the great moral virtue of a good will. ‘We love justice’ remarks St. Augustine, ‘in proportion as we hate iniquity.'”

Father Geiermann suggests the following rules of conduct for the practice of justice: “(1) do unto others as you would wish them to do unto you; (2) pay your honest debts to God and man; (3) be honorable in all your actions; (4) redeem your promise; (5) injure no one; repair an unintentional wrong; (6) promote the welfare of others; (7) be humble, modest, and charitable.”

The virtue of religion is a type of justice. Father Geiermann explains: “Man’s principal obligation to God is religion. As a virtue religion consists in honoring God as the supreme Lord and Master. Some of the acts of religion are internal, others external. The principal external act of religion is to worship God through the adorable sacrifice of the Mass. The principal internal acts of religion are prayer and devotion.”

“As an act devotion is a pious inclination of the will to God; as a habit it is promptitude in His service. Devotion results on the one hand from a stimulation of the affections by meditating on the teaching of faith, on the other hand from the allurement of God’s grace.”

“There is a substantial and an accidental part to be considered in devotion. The substantial part is intrinsic and arises from our meditation on the infinite goodness, love, and mercy of God towards us, who are so unworthy of Him. Accidental devotion results from the allurement of grace, and consists in a pious affection, which sweetens all our hardships in God’s service. Sometimes this accidental devotion becomes so intense that it affects the nervous system and manifests itself exteriorly by tears and the like; it is then called sensible devotion. God gives this sensible devotion as a rule in the beginning of our conversion to encourage us in His service.”

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

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Cardinal Moral Virtues – Part 1 of 3

St. Bonaventure teaches: “Let prudence guide your reason, let fortitude govern your temper, let temperance govern your desires, and let justice rule all your actions.” Father Geiermann writes: “All the moral virtues are subordinated to the four principal ones which are called cardinal. These four are prudence, justice, temperance, and fortitude. Each teaches a fourfold lesson. Prudence teaches us to profit by the experience of the past, to adapt ourselves to the circumstances of the present, to provide for the future, and to pause sufficiently in perplexity to clear away our doubts. Justice leads us to weigh our judgments maturely, to live lives of integrity, to respect the rights of others, and to render to every one his due. Temperance admonishes us to dispense with superfluities, to have but few wants, to avoid whatever is forbidden, and to spurn vain-glory. And fortitude warns us against pride and vain-glory in prosperity, against dejection in adversity, against taking revenge for injuries received, and against seeking a pleasant and easy life.”

Father Geiermann discusses the moral virtue of prudence in detail: “Prudence is the virtue which finds and follows the right rule of action. It judges whether a concrete action harmonizes with wisdom or truth. Though primarily a virtue of the mind, prudence not only judges of the integrity of an action, but also directs the will in avoiding evil and doing good, and so becomes the most potent of the moral virtues.” St. Bonaventure calls prudence “the guide of all virtues.” St. Augustine notes that “it teaches us to meet the present emergency, to profit by past experience, and to prepare for future contingencies.”

“The acts of prudence are: (1) avoiding sin and its voluntary occasions; (2) doing what we would advise others to do in our circumstances; (3) patient endurance of adversity; (4) maintaining self-control when suddenly placed in a critical position; (5) praying for resignation to God’s will.”

“We may fail against prudence by negligence, inconstancy, inconsiderateness, and precipitation on the one hand, and by astuteness, fraud, deception, and worldly wisdom on the other.” Father Geiermann adds: “We should use prudence in guarding against pride,” for, as St. Justin says, “He who is proud of his prudence will despise a friend and his advice and become his own enemy.”

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

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Theological Virtues

St. Paul said: “Now there remain faith, hope, and charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity” (1 Cor 13:13). Father Geiermann writes: “By uniting us directly to God each of the theological virtues exercises a fourfold influence in the spiritual life. Faith nourishes the mind, produces rectitude of life, prompts us in the service of God, and rewards us with eternal life. Hope imparts serenity of mind and gladness of heart, lightens our labors, and puts off old age. Charity prompts us to reverence God, to love our neighbor, to correct the erring, and to relieve the needy and the poor.”

Faith is defined as the virtue whereby we accept all that God has revealed and the Catholic Church teaches. . . . Our faith should be founded on the bedrock of humility, firmly grasped by the mind, cherished by the heart, and resolutely practised by the will.”

Hope is the virtue by which we trust to receive life everlasting and the means necessary to attain it. ‘Hope,’ says St. Lawrence Justinian, ‘is the column which sustains our spiritual edifice.’ Our hope at attaining eternal happiness rests primarily on the mercy, power and promises of God and the merits of our Saviour, secondarily on the intercessory power of the Blessed Virgin and of the angels and saints.”

Charity is the virtue by which we love God above all, and ourselves and our neighbor for the love of Him. It animates all the moral virtues and gives value to their actions. Hence St. Dionysius calls it the bond of perfection.”

Father Geiermann suggests some ways to manifest this charity: by delighting in the infinite goodness of God, by desiring that He be glorified by all mankind, by giving glory to God through our works, by striving to make God known and loved, by grieving over our sins and the sins of the world, by desiring perfection, by desiring heaven, by loving our neighbor in word and deed, by speaking of God with affection, by conversing with Him in prayer, by seeking to please Him, by enduring adversity for His sake, and by praying daily for an increase of charity.

He then mentions four effects of charity: “(1) it justifies us in the sight of God; (2) it establishes a bond of friendship between us and God; (3) it makes all our acts of Christian virtue meritorious for heaven; (4) it renders the yoke of the Lord sweet and His burden light.”

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

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