Self-Denial in Practice

How does one practice self-denial? Father Geiermann notes: “To insure the success of an undertaking we must do three things: (1) concentrate our efforts on what is essential; (2) follow a wise plan in our development; and (3) pay proper attention to the smallest details in due season.”

“In applying these general rules to the work of self-denial the masters of the spiritual life direct us (1) to purify our hearts first from mortal sin, its proximate occasion, and the bad habit it may have engendered; (2) in eradicating venial sin, to concentrate our efforts first on external sins that easily scandalize our neighbor; (3) with the advice of our spiritual director to single out our predominant fault and make it the object of particular examination; (4) to be humble, patient, and persevering in our efforts, and to put our hope of success in Jesus and Mary.”

Father Geiermann offers six counsels: “In the practice of Christian self-denial we should (1) guard against excessive scrupulosity by cultivating that loving confidence in God which is the foundation of interior peace, imparts to us the liberty of brethren of Jesus Christ, and facilitates our perseverance; (2) we should be discreet in our efforts so as not to unbalance our minds, ruin our health, or give us a distaste for spiritual things; (3) we should concentrate our efforts on the present, and trust with the aid of grace to do great things for the love of God; (4) we should never relax our vigilance, our penance, or our prayers; (5) we should ever prepare for greater conflicts, and not judge our victory by the presence of sensible sweetness in our souls—this God gives us in the beginning to draw us on in the spiritual life; (6) we should not despair even if we had the misfortune to fall into mortal sin, but begin anew in all humility.”

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

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