Two Fears

St. Augustine of Hippo (354-430) discusses two kinds of fear in Tractate 43 of his Lectures on the Gospel of St. John.

He begins by citing these texts: “There is no fear in love but perfect love casteth out fear” (1 Jn 4:18), and “The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring for ever” (Ps 19:9). The juxtaposition of these passages raises the question: “How does perfect love cast out fear, if the fear of the Lord, which is clean, endureth for ever?” (5)

To answer this, St. Augustine distinguishes two kinds of fear: “There is a servile fear, and there is a clean [chaste] fear: there is the fear of suffering punishment, there is another fear of losing righteousness.”

Comparing the two, he says: “That fear of suffering punishment is slavish. What great thing is it to fear punishment? The vilest slave and the cruelest robber do so. It is no great thing to fear punishment, but great it is to love righteousness. Has he, then, who loves righteousness no fear? Certainly he has; not of incurring of punishment, but of losing righteousness.”

“My brethren,” he says, “assure yourselves of it, and draw your inference from that which you love. Some one of you is fond of money. Can I find any one, think you, who is not so? Yet from this very thing which he loves he may understand my meaning. He is afraid of loss: why is he so? Because he loves money. In the same measure that he loves money, is he afraid of losing it. So, then, some one is found to be a lover of righteousness, who at heart is much more afraid of its loss, who dreads more being stripped of his righteousness, than thou of thy money. This is the fear that is clean—this [the fear] that endureth for ever. It is not this that love makes away with, or casteth out, but rather embraces it, and keeps it with it, and possesses it as a companion.”

“We come to the Lord that we may see Him face to face. And there it is this pure fear that preserves us; for such a fear as that does not disturb, but reassure.” This pure fear is like that of the chaste wife: “The adulterous woman fears the coming of her husband, and the chaste one fears her husband’s departure.” (7)

Quotations from A Select Library of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, Vol. VII, ed. Philip Schaff (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1886).

Posted in Bible, Catholic, Christianity, Faith, Inspiration, Prayer, Religion | Tagged ,

Sin By Generation

St. Augustine of Hippo (354-430) in Book II of his De nuptiis et concupiscentia (On Marriage and Concupiscence) explains how original sin is transmitted from one generation to the next, beginning with Adam and Eve.

Some would trace the cause of original sin to the infant, or to the institution of marriage, or to the parents. But St. Augustine rejects these notions. As for the infant, he is not mature enough to sin. As for the marriage, it is an institution established by God Himself, not for sin, but for a good purpose, for He said, “Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth” (Gn 1:28). As for the parents who are lawfully joined in the matrimonial bond, they carry out God’s directive for the procreation of children, for the propagation of the human race.

Citing the authority of St. Paul, Augustine writes: “Now, there is an answer for him to all these questions given by the Apostle, who censures neither the infant’s will, which is not yet matured in him for sinning, nor marriage, which, as such, has not only its institution, but its blessing also, from God; nor parents, so far as they are parents, who are united together properly and lawfully for the procreation of children; but he says, ‘By one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men for in him all have sinned’ (Rom 5:12).” That is to say, St. Paul identifies Adam as the cause of original sin, for through his voluntary act of disobedience, sin first entered into our world.

Some incorrectly interpret this verse (Rom 5:12) to mean “that Adam was the first to sin, and that any one who wished afterwards to commit sin found an example for sinning in him; so that sin . . . did not pass from this one upon all men by birth, but by the imitation of this one.” But, St. Augustine explains: “It is certain that if the apostle meant this imitation to be here understood, he would have said that sin had entered into the world and passed upon all men, not by one man, but rather by the devil. For of the devil it is written: ‘They that are on his side do imitate him’ (Wis 2:24). He used the phrase ‘by one man,’ from whom the generation of men, of course, had its beginning, in order to show us that original sin had passed upon all men by generation.” (II, 45)

Quotations from A Select Library of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, Vol. V, ed. Philip Schaff (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1886).

Posted in Bible, Catholic, Christianity, Faith, Inspiration, Prayer, Religion | Tagged , ,

Gratuitous Graces

Father Geiermann discusses the seven gratuitous graces listed in First Corinthians 12:9-10. They are faith, healing, miracles, prophecy, discernment of spirits, tongues, and interpretation of tongues.

“God gives two kinds of grace to man: one to make man pleasing in His sight, the other to aid him in bringing souls to Him. The former we have considered as divided into sanctifying and actual grace. We shall now add a few words of explanation on the latter, which is called ‘grace gratuitously given.'”

“Man can become the instrument of his neighbor’s conversion by enlightening his mind on the truth, and by persuading his will to embrace it. To accomplish both successfully he must possess three qualifications: the necessary knowledge, the faculty of communication, and the power of persuasion. In the natural order man can acquire these qualifications by a proper cultivation of his talents.”

“In the supernatural order, besides the stimulating influence of His grace accompanying their words, God always gives His agents the gifts of faith and science to perfect their knowledge, the gifts of understanding and counsel to perfect their faculty of communication, and the gift of wisdom to perfect their power of persuasion. When extraordinary circumstances require it, God perfects the knowledge of His agents by visions, inspirations, and revelations, their faculty of communication by the gift of tongues and the gift of interpretation, and their power of persuasion by the gifts of the discernment of spirits, of prophecy, and of miracles.”

“As nearly every soul that attains a high degree of union with God is instrumental in bringing other souls to God, the saints are usually favored with one or more of these graces.”

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

Posted in Bible, Catholic, Christianity, Faith, Inspiration, Prayer, Religion | Tagged , ,

Conformity in Mind, Will, and Action

Father Geiermann discusses ways in which a person conforms his mind, will, and actions to the mind, will, and plan of God.

Concerning conformity of the intellect, he writes: “Man conforms his mind to the mind of God by viewing all things in a spirit of faith. . . . The opportunity of actually conforming his mind to the mind of God presents itself to a Christian as often as a conflict arises in his mind between the teaching and practice of the world and the teaching and practice of faith.”

Concerning conformity of the will, he explains: “The will of God is made known to us by the voice of parents, pastors, and other lawful superiors, by the laws of God, by the laws of the Church, and by the just laws of our country. Sometimes God makes His will known to us in a special matter by the special dispensation of His Providence, by the inspiration of His grace, and in a doubtful matter by the advice of our spiritual director. The human will must do four things to conform to the will of God: (1) desire the good which God wills; (2) resolve on attaining the good which God wills; (3) set the other faculties in motion to attain the good which God wills; and (4) direct the faculties in the pursuit of the good which God wills, and as He makes it known by the dictates of reason enlightened by faith. Conformity to the Divine Will in these four points constitutes the essence of all sanctity. . . . Providence gives man the opportunity of conforming his will to the will of God, whenever worldly desires, self-will, or tepidity inclines his will to oppose the will of God.”

And, as for conformity in action, he writes: “As prayer, labor, and sacrifice enter equally into the plan of God, perfect conformity demands that we embrace the opportunity for each in the same spirit of faith and with equal generosity and good-will, and perform them with that exactness, thoroughness, and attention to detail which the holy will of God prescribes. Providence gives man the opportunity of conforming his actions to the plan of God by the obligations of his state in life, and by special occasions for prayer and the practice of fraternal charity. When man embraces these opportunities eagerly and co-operates perfectly in them, he may truly say with St. Clement Hofbauer: ‘I will what God wills, because He wills it, when He wills it, where He wills it, and as He wills it.'”

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

Posted in Bible, Catholic, Christianity, Faith, Inspiration, Prayer, Religion | Tagged , , , , ,

Purification of the Mind

Father Geiermann discusses how God purifies the minds of His faithful servants: “The intellectual faculties are the mind and will. Truth is the object of the former, goodness of the latter. As a result of original and actual sin the mind is darkened by ignorance, prejudice, error, and spiritual blindness, in consequence of which it adopts false principles, is fickle, curious, rash, and obstinate. As a result of the same cause the will inclines inordinately to riches, comforts, pleasures, relatives, friends, honors, self-esteem, self-will, and self-love, instead of seeking the Infinite Good in all things. The passive purification of the intellectual faculties consists in the grace of God removing these effects of sin and in uniting the faculties to God, the Eternal Truth and Infinite Good. This is accomplished by the light and strength of actual grace being concentrated on these faculties in a way that enables a sincere mind and good will to rid themselves of their defects.”

Signs of this purification are “(1) the presence of a spiritual sweetness and delight as long as the soul is not conscious of sin or serious imperfection; (2) an ardent desire of spiritual progress, which has protected the soul against deliberate faults for a long time; (3) and a spirit of recollection and love for God.”

Five salutary effects of this purification are “(1) it gives the soul a clear, humble, penitent knowledge of herself; (2) it fosters a continual recollection of God’s presence; (3) it stimulates the soul in eradicating defects and in cultivating virtue; (4) it stimulates her love for God by giving the soul a clearer knowledge of His infinite goodness, and of His condescending love and mercy; (5) it makes the soul self-possessed, quiet, and strong in the service of God.”

Some temptations during this purification come from human nature, which tempts the soul to slacken its pace. Other temptations come from the devil, for God allows most of His elect to be tempted in order to purify them and increase their merit. Additionally, God may prolong the trial by depriving the intellectual faculties of consolation and permitting them to continue in aridity, anxiety, and darkness. “Though the soul is intimately united to God by His grace, like the Saviour on the cross, she receives no perceptible light or strength from this union.” St. Bernard advises such to rest assured that “God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that which you are able: but will make also with temptation issue, that you may be able to bear it” (1 Cor 10:13).

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

Posted in Bible, Catholic, Christianity, Faith, Inspiration, Prayer, Religion | Tagged , , , , , ,

Purification by Temporal Losses

Father Geiermann writes: “As human affections are more easily centered on temporal than on spiritual goods, the purification of sensitive nature is usually perfected by temporal losses.” These may be of four kinds:

1. “God may deprive man of goods that are external and independent of man, as material possessions, relatives, and friends. Their loss is often felt most keenly. Holy Job gives us an admirable example of resignation when thus afflicted. ‘The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away: as it hath pleased the Lord so it is done: blessed be the name of the Lord’ (Jb 1:21).”

2. “This purification is sometimes accomplished by the loss of honor and power. Honor is the esteem of men, power the influence we have over them. Ambition, or the desire of honor, may be inordinate in three ways: by desiring undue honor, by desiring honors for self without reference to God, and by desiring honors without intending to use them for the good of others.”

3. “The purification of the sensitive nature is often perfected by bodily infirmity. . . . How many have turned to God in sickness, who had no time for Him before? And how many have been sanctified on a bed of pain in an incredibly short period?”

4. “This purification is usually perfected by the privation of spiritual consolation. The apostles became sad when they heard that their beloved Master was about to leave them. But He said to them: ‘It is expedient to you that I go: for if I go not, the Paraclete will not come to you’ (Jn 16:7). . . . Like the apostles, that soul must be disposed for higher graces by the loss of sensible devotion before she can receive and profit by them.”

As regards the more profligate sinners, he adds: “Besides the punishment which the indifferent and lukewarm inflict on themselves by their sins, God sometimes chastises souls to effect their conversion. . . . These chastisements consist of temporal misfortunes united with the invitation of grace to be converted while time, grace, and opportunity are at hand. They indicate God’s willingness to show mercy on earth and to spare the soul in eternity. When received with a contrite and humble heart divine chastisements lead to sincere conversion, and often mark the beginning of a holy life.”

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

Posted in Bible, Catholic, Christianity, Faith, Inspiration, Prayer, Religion | Tagged , , ,

Purification of the Sensitive Nature

God graciously helps people seeking spiritual perfection by purifying them in both their sensitive and intellectual faculties. Father Geiermann writes: “When a soul experiences the absence of sensible devotion and is unconscious of any infidelity to grace through pride or tepidity, and is otherwise in normal health, she may reasonably infer that God is sending her this first trial in the spiritual life.”

He mentions three signs which indicate that the purification of one’s sensitive nature is underway: (1) the soul has lost relish for, and consolation in, the service of God; (2) some affectionate memory of God remains in the soul; and (3) God withdraws His aid in that person’s accustomed mental prayer.

“By leading the soul to communicate more directly with Him through her mind and will, her imagination and memory become less operative and cause her some difficulty in adjusting herself to the designs of God. But where this aridity arises from merely natural causes, it is only temporary and will vanish with the removal of the cause.”

Some effects of this purification are that it removes imperfections by which the soul tends to the seven capital sins; it frees the soul from delusions of pride; it gives the soul a more accurate knowledge of herself and her natural powers; it subjugates the sensitive nature to the intellectual powers; it brings about a clearer knowledge of God and of self; it grounds the soul in humility, a virtue most necessary in the spiritual life; it makes the soul poor in spirit by giving her a holy indifference for material things; it establishes the soul in patience, perseverance, and conformity to the divine will; it brings the soul more intimately into the presence of God and prompts her to serve Him with a sincere mind and a pure heart; it brings peace and tranquillity of mind; and it makes one prompt in practicing the infused theological and moral virtues.

To persons undergoing the ordeal of purification, Father Geiermann says: “Be faithful to your ordinary pious practices. . . . Rest assured that your merit is greatest when conforming to God’s will in adversity. . . . As long as a soul is not conscious of infidelity to grace she should consider the withdrawal of sensible devotion as a reward of her fidelity to prepare her for greater favors, and not lament it as a punishment for her sins.” He cites the Psalm: “They that sow in tears shall reap in joy. Going they went and wept, casting their seeds. But coming they shall come with joyfulness, carrying their sheaves” (Ps 125:5-6).

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

Posted in Bible, Catholic, Christianity, Faith, Inspiration, Prayer, Religion | Tagged , , , , , ,