Temperament

Father Geiermann defines temperament and enumerates the characteristics of four general types of temperament:

“Temperament is the disposition resulting from the combination of man’s mental and physical constitution. . . . It is said there are no two creatures exactly alike in the visible world. . . . The same remark, for example, addressed to several persons, may cause one to laugh, another to weep, a third to grow angry, and make no apparent impression on a fourth.”

“Temperaments are usually divided into four general classes. They are the sanguine, the choleric, the melancholic, and the phlegmatic. There is no fixed boundary between them. They are rather like so many shades blending imperceptibly, though sometimes two or even more temperaments unite in the same individual. . . . Temperaments have their good as well as their bad characteristics.”

“A sanguine person is naturally amiable, generous, sociable, tractable, and happy on the one hand; and frivolous, vain, flighty, distracted, roguish, wanton, and desirous of pleasure on the other.”

“A choleric person is open, magnanimous, generous, sagacious, and noted for force of will; but he is also inclined to be self-willed, proud, presumptuous, obstinate, critical, ambitious, rebellious, hard-hearted, and revengeful.”

“A melancholic person is earnest, patient, methodical, and resigned when in good humor; but inclined to be morose, jealous, envious, irresolute, retiring, and dejected when out of sorts.”

“A phlegmatic person is naturally calm, patient, agreeable, and circumspect; but dull, indolent, unsympathetic, and a lover of ease, comfort, and good cheer.”

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

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The Human Faculties

Father Geiermann gives this succinct description of the human faculties and how they interact:

“Man is the noblest creature in the visible world. He unites in himself the existence of the mineral, the life of the vegetable, and the sense of the animal kingdom, and participates in the spirit-world as well by having a soul that is made to the image and likeness of God. As a spirit the soul is naturally immortal.”

“The faculties of the soul . . . are (1) the nutritive, augmentative, and reproductive faculties of vegetative life; (2) the sensitive, appetitive, and locomotive faculties of animal life; (3) the intelligence, reason, and free-will of a spiritual being.”

“Corresponding to the vegetative and sensitive faculties of the soul are certain members of the body called organs, by means of which these faculties operate. The sensitive faculties together with their organs are called senses.”

“Man has five external senses by which he communicates with the outside world. They are: sight, hearing, taste, smell, and touch.”

“Man has also four internal senses that serve as a medium between the external senses and the intellectual faculties. They are: central sense, instinct, imagination, and memory. The central sense impresses the sensations of the external senses on the imagination and records them in the memory. The instinct apprehends what is fit and what unfit for the needs of animal life and arouses the appetitive faculties accordingly. The imagination forms images of natural impressions and stores them in the memory. The memory retains these images indefinitely.”

“Man also has the appetitive and locomotive faculties common to all members of the animal kingdom. The appetitive faculty reaches out to enjoy, or to seek an attainable good, and to repel, or to escape from a threatening evil. It is aroused by the instinct through the imagination, or directly by the will, causes a corresponding disturbance in man’s physical nature, and easily excites his intellectual faculties. A movement of the appetitive faculty is called a passion, feeling, or emotion. The passions are divided into concupiscible and irascible, according as their object is agreeable or repugnant in itself, or apprehended as subject to some condition of difficulty or danger. There are six of the former and five of the latter. They are: love, hatred, desire, aversion, joy, and sadness; hope, despair, courage, fear, and anger.”

“The locomotive faculty is the power of moving the limbs as well as the entire body from place to place. It is set in operation and directed by the appetitive faculty, or by the power of the will.”

“By his spiritual powers man rises above the material world in which he lives. The intellect abstracts ideas from the impressions made on the imagination and recorded in the memory. Reason perceives and judges what is true, good, and beautiful, and commands the will to act in accordance with its decision. The will consults the reason in regard to the propriety and manner of action, controls the other faculties, and directs them in accordance with the dictates of reason, whenever it is not hampered by the passions.”

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

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To Him We Owe

The Redemptorist Father Peter Geiermann shows why we owe God our reverence, gratitude, holy fear, and love.

“If reverence is the esteem and honor due to excellence, God is deserving of the highest reverence. He is the only being that exists of Himself, and is sufficient unto Himself from eternity to eternity. God is infinitely perfect, present everywhere; He sees and sustains all things. Heaven is His throne and the earth is His footstool. . . . The infinite goodness of God prompted His wisdom to plan and His power to create all things for His honor and glory and the welfare of His creatures. God watches over His creatures with a paternal solicitude, which Jesus compared to the tender love of a mother for her child.”

“Gratitude is the obligation of giving thanks to a benefactor. God is the great benefactor of mankind. He called us into existence when He was infinitely happy, and had no need of us. He made us to His own image and likeness. . . . God has further put us under obligation by destining us for the joys of heaven, and by supplying us with superabundant means of earning the ‘reward exceeding great.’ . . . Our divine Saviour earned our lasting gratitude by freely laying down His life for our salvation, by instituting a divine Church and seven sacraments for our sake, and by sending the Holy Ghost to guide us on the sure way to heaven. . . . God put every one of us under additional obligation to Him by giving us life, health, talents, and opportunities, by giving us the priceless treasure of the true faith, and by continually giving us evidence of His goodness, love, and mercy. He is patient when we are wayward, prompt to help when we invoke His aid, generous in His grace, and paternal in His solicitude. If we appreciate His favors and do His holy will, He extends the special protection of His providence to us, predestines us to glory, and conducts us to eternal happiness.”

“God has given us all we are and have, while the future is entirely in His keeping. He may punish us any moment if we disregard His law and offend against His divine majesty. No evil escapes the Master of life and death. If He does not punish the sinner in this life, God is eternal and can afford to wait. Sooner or later He will summon every one before His judgment by death.”

“Love is attachment to an object on account of its goodness. God is the greatest Good, and as such worthy of man’s best love. . . . This infinite Good is, besides, the author of every created good. If life, health, friends, and earthly possessions are worthy of man’s love, how much more should we form an attachment to God. . . . God has also been very good to man by extending to him the countless blessings of creation, redemption, and sanctification. He has loved us individually with an everlasting love. . . . In creating us God fashioned our hearts in such a way that we necessarily love what is good. Will we then be so foolish, so ungrateful, so disobedient as not to love Him, the infinite Good?”

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

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The Moral Virtue of Temperance – Part 5 of 5

We conclude Father Pegues’ exposition of the virtue of temperance by discussing humility, which is the species of modesty that regulates the desire of one’s own excellence.

The virtue of humility “makes man repress or regulate whatever touches his own worth in such wise that he does not seek more than is in accordance with the degree of his excellence as fixed by God. It follows that man does not esteem anything as due to him considered in himself, but that all he has and is comes from God; for of himself he has nothing at all, except sin; as regards his neighbours, he esteems that their worth is due to them according to the state of perfection in which God has placed them; and as regards the rest of creation, he wishes only that things should have the place and order such as God has disposed.”

The sin opposed to humility is pride, which is “that special and in some sort general sin which, in despisal of God and of the order He has established in His work, strives to dominate all and to make one place oneself before all others by esteeming oneself superior to all.” This “leads man to commit all manner of sins.” Pride is a capital sin and the first of all sins because “there can be no grave sin that does not presuppose the sin of pride. . . . It is pride, by reason of the contempt it implies for God, that completes as it were the essence of other sins in so far as they make man turn away from God.”

The sin of the fallen angels was pride. The first sin of Adam and Eve was not the sin of gluttony, or of disobedience, or of an empty curiosity with regard to knowledge, or of a lack of faith in the word of God; rather, it was the sin of pride, “without which no other sin could exist at all.” The reason why pride was their first sin is because “their state of integrity made all within them to be perfectly under control so long as their mind remained subjected to God; but their mind could only turn away from God for some motive of pride by wishing themselves some excellence which was not their due.”

Quotations from Thomas Pegues, Catechism of the “Summa Theologica” of Saint Thomas Aquinas, trans. Aelred Whitacre (New York: Benziger, 1922).

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The Moral Virtue of Temperance – Part 4 of 5

Continuing Father Pegues’ discussion of virtues associated with temperance, we now discuss modesty and two of its species.

The virtue of modesty “restrains the sensitive appetite in things that are less difficult to regulate than those which are the object of temperance, continence, clemency, and meekness.” These “less difficult” things are “the desire of one’s own excellence; the desire to know; the exterior actions of the body; and lastly, one’s exterior as regards the manner of dress.”

The virtue of external modesty is “that perfection in the sensitive appetite which makes everything in a person’s exterior as regards his movements, gestures, words, the tone of his voice, and of his general attitude, to be what it ought to be according to the status of the person, and this in such way that nothing whatever is offensive in his conduct.” Modesty extends to one’s manner of dress “to the exclusion of unseemly fashion or disorderly negligence. Many sin in that they do not keep a just measure as regards the excesses of what is called fashion, and which may prove an occasion of sin to others. To exceed in this way is against the virtue of modesty and at the same time against the virtue of chastity.” External modesty also extends to amusements and recreation, so that a person “plays, amuses, or recreates himself as it behooves, avoiding both excess and defect.”

The virtue of studiousness “makes man control in conformity with right reason the desire to know and to learn.”

The sin opposed to studiousness is the sort of curiosity that is an “inordinate desire to know what one has no right to know, or to know what may prove a source of danger to virtue owing to one’s weakness.” This curiosity is committed both “as regards knowledge in general, or as regards that knowledge which effects the senses and the passions.”

Quotations from Thomas Pegues, Catechism of the “Summa Theologica” of Saint Thomas Aquinas, trans. Aelred Whitacre (New York: Benziger, 1922).

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The Moral Virtue of Temperance – Part 3 of 5

In his exposition of the virtue of temperance, Father Pegues discusses virtues associated with temperance. These are continence, clemency, meekness, and modesty.

The virtue of continence consists in “choosing not to follow the violent movements of passion, and this for some motive of reason.” The sin opposed to continence is incontinence, which consists in this: “that man gives way to the violence of passion and becomes its slave.”

The virtue of clemency “moderates the degree of external punishment to be meted out to someone so that it does not exceed the right limits of reason.”

The virtue of meekness “controls the interior movement of the passion which is called anger.”

Three sins opposed to clemency and meekness are the sinful type of anger, cruelty, and savagery. Sinful anger is “a movement of the irascible appetite which seeks unjust avengement, or an avengement which is just but which is sought with too much temper.” There are three species of this sort of anger: “the anger of those who are fretful and who become angry at the slightest cause; the anger of those who are bitter, who forget with difficulty an injury done to them; and the anger of those who are revengeful, who without ceasing seek the punishment of those by whom they have been wronged.” This sort of anger is a capital sin because “men are particularly borne towards the seeking of revenge in satisfaction for an injury done them.” The offspring of sinful anger are “indignation, excitement of the mind, contumely, clamour, blasphemy, and quarrelling.” There is also a sin opposed to anger; it is “the lack of anger when reason demands it, for there is a just anger which is the result of the right will to punish when punishment is due.”

The type of cruelty that is opposed to clemency is “a kind of crudity or rawness of soul owing to which one seeks to increase punishment beyond the just limits fixed by reason.” Savageness is “something absolutely inhuman which delights in the infliction of punishment, taking pleasure therein merely because it is an evil. Savageness is directly opposed to the gift of piety.”

Quotations from Thomas Pegues, Catechism of the “Summa Theologica” of Saint Thomas Aquinas, trans. Aelred Whitacre (New York: Benziger, 1922).

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The Moral Virtue of Temperance – Part 2 of 5

Father Pegues continues his exposition of the virtue of temperance by discussing two species of temperance: chastity and virginity.

The virtue of chastity is “that perfection of the sensitive appetite which makes man master of all the impulses that bear him towards the things of marriage.” A special form of chastity is the virtue of virginity, which is “the firm and absolute purpose, made holy by a vow, of renouncing for ever the pleasures of marriage.”

The sin opposed to chastity is voluptuousness. This consists in “using things on account of the pleasure attached thereunto which nature has ordained for the conservation of the human species, whether this be by deed, or desire, or thought willed, in which pleasure is taken; for this is contrary to the natural order whose office it is to control the use of such things.” This sin has many forms, such as fornication, the sin against nature, adultery, incest, rape, sexual abuse, and sacrilege by abusing a person consecrated to God. Fornication is “directly opposed to the good order of the things of marriage as regards the end of marriage, which is the welfare and the education of offspring.” The sin against nature is “opposed directly and wholly to the first and essential end of marriage, which is the birth of offspring.” Voluptuousness is a capital sin which “carries men away by its extreme vehemence.” The offspring of voluptuousness are “blindness of mind, rashness, unmindfulness, inconstancy, self-love, hatred of God, cleaving to the present life, and horror of the world to come.” All these sins have in common, although in varying degrees, that “the mind is absorbed by the flesh.”

Father Pegues mentions that the gift of fear of the Lord, which is a gift of the Holy Spirit, corresponds to both the moral virtue of temperance and the theological virtue of hope, but to each under different aspects. “The gift of fear corresponds to the theological virtue of hope in so far as man reveres God directly by reason of His infinite greatness and avoids offending Him; and it corresponds to the virtue of temperance in so far as the respect that it inspires with regard to God’s greatness makes man avoid those things which are more offensive to God, and these are the pleasures of the senses.” The gift of fear of the Lord is more excellent than the virtue of temperance because “temperance puts these things aside only in that measure of which man is able of himself by the light of reason or of faith; whereas the gift of fear makes him avoid them according to the personal action of the Holy Ghost.”

Finally, Father Pegues notes that two precepts of the Decalogue refer to temperance: “Thou shalt not commit adultery” and “Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s wife.”

Quotations from Thomas Pegues, Catechism of the “Summa Theologica” of Saint Thomas Aquinas, trans. Aelred Whitacre (New York: Benziger, 1922).

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