Virtue in Practice

Christ said, “If any man will come after Me let him deny himself and take up his cross daily, and follow Me” (Lk 9:23). Father Geiermann writes: “By self-denial we clear the ground, by prayer we accept the plan of God for our spiritual edifice and obtain His aid, and by the practice of virtue we co-operate with God in the work of our sanctification.”

The object of practicing virtue is spiritual growth: “As a gardener, who has laboriously prepared the soil and planted the seed, tills his plants with great care that they may produce much fruit, so the Christian applies himself to the practice of virtue that he may grow in the spiritual life. Every supernatural virtue has a divine and a human element. The divine element is the grace of God, the human, our co-operation with it. Grace is the efficient cause, the Christian’s good will in the practice of virtue the proximate disposing cause of his spiritual progress. To practise virtue and grow in the spiritual life we must (1) prevent the weeds of vice from sprouting in the garden of our hearts; (2) keep the soil pulverized by voluntary mortification; (3) nourish the plants of virtue by prayer and tears of penance; (4) work sedulously by availing ourselves of every opportunity of doing faithfully the little good we can.”

Christ said, “Behold your reward is great in heaven” (Lk 6:23). Father Geiermann writes: “God holds out the hope of reward to spur on the Christian in the practice of virtue. Time is short. Life passes like a vapor. We brought nothing with us into the world, and we shall take only our works with us into eternity. In this world there is nothing that can satiate the human heart. ‘Vanity of vanities, and all is vanity’ (Eccl 1:2). The Saviour therefore exhorts us to lay up ‘treasures in heaven, where neither the rust nor the moth doth consume, and where thieves do not break through nor steal’ (Mt 6:20). We lay up treasures in heaven by the practice of virtue. There even the most trivial act of Christian virtue will receive an eternal reward according to the assurance of the Saviour: ‘whosoever shall give a cup of cold water in my name shall not lose his reward’ (Mk 9:41).”

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

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