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).