At Home and Abroad

The Lord commanded Abram, “Go forth out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and out of thy father’s house, and come into the land which I will show thee. And I will make thee great and bless thee and magnify thy name” (Gn 12:1). Commenting on this, Father Geiermann explains that it is good for a person to withdraw from the world, at least in spirit, from time to time. He writes: “These words the Almighty addressed to Abraham of old. He repeats them to every soul of good will. To be His devoted children we must withdraw at least in spirit from that world which is at enmity with God. We hearken to this invitation of the Lord by cultivating a spirit of retirement. This spirit consists (1) in being indifferent to the follies of the world; (2) in shunning notoriety; (3) in appearing in public only when actuated by some good reason.”

But, a temporary withdrawal for spiritual solitude is no escape from the troubles of life. Father Geiermann notes: “It is impossible to escape all suffering in this valley of tears. Our only choice in the matter is between the patient endurance of the sufferings Providence sends us, or the enforced endurance of the greater sufferings of our own choice. Patient endurance of the sufferings of life (1) gives stability of character; (2) grounds us in self-knowledge; (3) dispels delusions; (4) detaches us from things of earth; (5) broadens our sympathies for struggling mankind; (6) disposes us for the grace of God; and (7) leads to solid virtue and true spiritual progress. Patient endurance in the trials of life is facilitated (1) by not wasting our energies about the past; (2) by not worrying about the future; (3) by not magnifying our present trials; (4) by recalling the sufferings of Christ and His saints; (5) by cultivating conformity to the holy will of God.”

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

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Three Loves

Father Geiermann discusses three types of love: the love between family members, the love between friends, and love for one’s country.

Concerning the love between family members, he writes: “Home life consists of our conduct in the family circle. The qualities that contribute to its happiness are sincerity, charity, cheerfulness, cordiality, patience, and a spirit of sacrifice. There is a profound attachment in every heart for that sacred spot we call Home. . . . Though the lapse of time may have changed our abode, our home is always the place where those dwell whom we love and trust, our safe retreat from an unsympathetic world, the reward of our labor and sacrifice, and the natural source of our energy and strength.”

Concerning the love between friends, he says: “Friends are persons who cherish a mutual attachment and have one another’s welfare at heart.” The wise Sirach offers this advice: “Be at peace with many, but let one of a thousand be thy counselor.” (Sir 6:6) And he observes: “A faithful friend is a strong defense: and he that hath found him, hath found a treasure. Nothing can be compared to a faithful friend, and no weight of gold or silver is able to countervail the goodness of his fidelity. A faithful friend is the medicine of life and immortality; and they that fear the Lord shall find him. He that feareth God shall likewise have good friendship; because according to him shall also his friend be.” (Sir 6:14-17)

Concerning love for one’s country, Father Geiermann writes: “Patriotism is love for one’s native or adopted country. It was implanted in the human heart by God when He made man a social being. Patriotism manifests itself (1) in an esteem of one’s country; (2) in attachment to it; (3) in the observance of its just laws; (4) in furthering the general welfare by one’s influence, especially by a conscientious use of the ballot; (6) in serving one’s country faithfully; and (7) in dying for one’s country if circumstances require it.”

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

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Righting a Wrong

Father Geiermann shows what steps one should take to repair the damage caused by one’s sins. He writes: “Even after the acts of repentance, conversion and purpose of amendment have been formed, certain external effects of sin may remain. They consist in the wrong that was done by sin to God and to our neighbor. These may be removed by works of satisfaction. Works of satisfaction are of three kinds: reparatory, vindictive or penitential, and medicinal or precautionary.”

Reparation is made to God by repairing His honor, and by making up for remissness in His service. Reparation is made to our neighbor by repairing the wrong done him through injustice, lies, detraction, and slander, and by treating him with kindness for any want of attention.”

“The vindictive or penitential works that satisfy for our sins are prayer, as atonement to God; fasting, as a castigation of ourselves; and almsdeeds as reparation to our neighbor. Prayer, fasting, and almsdeeds are here used in their widest application to the practice of religion, self-denial, and the works of mercy.”

“The medicinal or precautionary works of satisfaction are intended to protect us against a lapse, or a relapse into sin. They are acts of self-denial that are usually called ‘Mortification.’ Their importance arises from the evident truth that a prevention is better than a cure.”

“Mortification is the performance or endurance of anything repugnant to our natural inclinations for the purpose of submitting ourselves to the influence of grace and doing God’s holy will. . . . When mortification takes place at our own discretion it is called active; and when it consists in cheerfully enduring the trials sent or permitted by divine Providence it is called passive mortification.”

He cautions: “In the practice of mortification discretion is necessary to avoid the harm resulting from extremes.” On the one hand, excessive rigorism “injures the body and paralyzes the energies of the soul”; but, on the other hand, neglect of interior mortification “fosters inordinate self-love, and suffocates the love of God in our hearts.” Prudence prescribes that “no mortification should interfere with the performance of our duty or the practice of virtue.”

Moreover, he has this to say regarding austerities, which are extraordinary corporal penances, such as being content with the essentials in food, clothing, and accommodations, observing long periods of silence, keeping long vigils, and performing menial tasks: “Ordinarily it would be both presumptuous and rash to inflict penances so severe on ourselves. In fact, as Catholics we should attempt it only when (1) we have a special vocation to such a life; (2) after that vocation has been carefully investigated and positively sanctioned by our spiritual director.”

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

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Responding to Sin

Father Geiermann explains what is happening when a person commits a sin: “When we commit sin we inconsiderately prefer a finite good to God, the infinite Good. If our sin is mortal our minds despise God to that extent that they judge that finite good worthy of being our god, and as such decree it to be the final object of our existence. If our sin is venial our minds scorn the friendship of God to the extent we gratify our self-love.”

Then, he explains what the sinner experiences after committing a sin: “The human mind is naturally just. . . . The human will necessarily seeks what is good. Hence, as soon as it learns from the mind that it has chosen the greatest possible evil by committing sin, it is filled with grief. When considered in relation to the loss occasioned by sin, this grief is called remorse; when viewed as a pain we endure, it is called compunction; when viewed in its bearing on our sinful transgression, it is called penitence or repentance; and when viewed in its bearing on the future, it is called purpose of amendment.”

“Amendment is the fruit of true repentance—’By their fruits you shall know them.’ To bring forth fruit worthy of repentance we must reduce our purpose of repentance to practice.”

Purpose of amendment “embraces a fivefold determination: (1) the general resolution to avoid evil and to do good; (2) to avoid at least every mortal sin, and every venial sin that we have just confessed; (3) to uproot any bad habit we may have contracted, and to guard against contracting it again; (4) to avoid the proximate, voluntary occasion of every mortal sin, as well as of those venial sins we have just confessed; (5) to use the means of grace necessary to ensure fidelity to our determination.”

“The motives which prompt us to regret our sin, fill us with aversion for it, and spur us on to penance and perseverance are: the fear of the torments of hell, the desire of heaven, and the love of God. These three motive powers of the spiritual life are kept alive within us by frequent reflection on the eternal truths. Hence the Holy Ghost exhorts us: ‘In all thy works remember thy last end and thou shalt never sin’ (Sir 7:36).”

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

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Causes for Penance – Part 5 of 5

Father Geiermann concludes his discussion of inclinations to the capital sins by mentioning the sins of anger, envy, and sloth.

Concerning imperfections inclining to anger, he writes: “We manifest a tendency to anger (1) when through false zeal we grow impatient at the mistakes of others, or take delight in denouncing them; (2) when we grow impatient with ourselves on account of our repeated faults and slow progress in virtue; (3) when we grow sad, discouraged, or impatient because God has seen fit to leave our souls dry, dark, and languid, without sensible consolation. By such conduct we disgrace the spiritual life, scandalize others, and give ignorant persons reason to infer that sanctity is a mixture of haughtiness, temper, and effeminacy. To counteract these tendencies we should (1) concentrate our attention on our duty, and be patient but firm and persevering in our efforts to make progress; (2) pay no attention to the defects of others, and treat them with indulgence when brought to our notice; (3) place our trust in God and make ourselves worthy of His favors by humility, prayer, mortification, and honest effort; (4) be alert to suppress the first impulse to anger when we are specially prone to it; (5) seek the grace to do God’s will and not heavenly consolations in our prayers.”

Concerning imperfections inclining to envy, he explains: “Envy is sadness at another’s welfare in so far as this diminishes one’s own excellence. Its tendencies are: (1) to feel hurt when others are praised or honored; (2) to minimize the reputation of others by disparaging remarks; (3) to be pleased when the defects of others are made known; (4) to rejoice when such defects are criticized by others. To cure imperfections tending to envy we should (1) practise charity; (2) rejoice at the success of others; (3) wish them well; (4) extol their virtues; (5) praise them publicly when circumstances permit.”

And as for imperfections inclining to sloth, he writes: “Sloth is indifference in action. When sloth becomes habitual it is called tepidity or lukewarmness. . . . The tendencies to sloth are: (1) a facility in omitting or curtailing our spiritual exercises; (2) irreverence or voluntary distractions in them; (3) a want of recollection; (4) a want of practical faith in our daily actions. To remedy the imperfections tending to sloth we should (1) cultivate a spirit of recollection; (2) frequently strengthen our good resolution; (3) frequently purify our motives; (4) frequently renew our good intention; (5) cultivate a spirit of prayer.”

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

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Causes for Penance – Part 4 of 5

In the previous post, we read what Father Geiermann has to say about inclinations to the capital sins of pride and avarice. Now we hear what he says about inclinations to the capital sins of lust and gluttony.

Concerning imperfections inclining to lust, he says: “Impure feelings may be aroused without any fault on our part, (1) by our corrupt nature; (2) by the devil; (3) by necessary associations with others, especially with persons of the opposite sex; (4) by innocent familiarity with virtuous persons; (5) by a sympathy between devotion of the heart and sensual inclinations in our pious exercises; (6) by too great or too vivid a fear of impurity itself.” To forestall inclinations to lust, Father Geiermann recommends, among other things, that “we should (1) guard against doing anything in the discharge of our duty that might unnecessarily arouse improper feelings; (2) despise those that arise spontaneously, and not omit our duty to God, to our neighbor, or to ourselves on their account; (3) to abstain from all sentimentality, inordinate familiarity, and carnal friendship; (4) to redouble our prayers; (5) to seek to please God in all things and implicitly to trust in His help; (6) in our mistrust of self not to picture particular temptations to our minds.”

As for imperfections inclining to gluttony, he explains: “The imperfections that tend to gluttony may be carnal or spiritual. Those of a carnal tendency manifest themselves (1) in the pleasure we might take in thinking of food and drink; (2) in speaking unnecessarily of it; (3) in wishing for it out of due season. Those which tend to spiritual gluttony are: (1) to desire spiritual consolations and favors rather than solid piety; (2) to follow one’s own inclination in doing good rather than the will of God; (3) to forget one’s own sinfulness and become too familiar with God; (4) to indulge in extraordinary works of penance for the delusive consolation they may afford. To counteract these tendencies to gluttony we should (1) seek to please God, and not to gratify ourselves; (2) be indifferent to all but the holy will of God, and accept material and spiritual favors with humble gratitude; (3) above all mortify our will by cultivating obedience, purity of heart, and conformity to the divine will; (4) cultivate a special devotion to Christ crucified.”

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

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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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