Objects of Self-Examination – Part 2 of 3

Father Geiermann continues his discussion of things to consider when examining one’s spiritual life:

Regarding human imperfections, he writes: “An imperfection may be defined (1) as an act or omission opposed to a mere counsel; (2) as the material transgression of a commandment, that is, as an action which was entirely indeliberate and involuntary both in itself and in its cause, as involuntary distractions in prayer. As counsels do not bind in conscience, and, as actions in general must be deliberate and voluntary to be morally good or bad, an imperfection is no sin in either case. Though imperfections are not matter for confession, they become matter for self-examination, spiritual direction, and amendment.”

Idiosyncrasies are those peculiarities of temperament and character which differentiate the personality of individuals.” Some idiosyncrasies, like innocent hobbies or “traits which constitute the charm of one’s personality” do no harm. But those which are defects of temperament or of character cause us trouble.

A delusion of a wrong principle is “the self-deception which we practise by acting on an erroneous principle which we consider true. . . . Wrong principles are as numerous as the vain pursuits of the world, and naturally lead to one of the following delusions: (1) by magnifying the material they belittle the spiritual order; (2) by emphasizing the temporal they obscure the true perspective of the eternal; (3) by lauding the dignity of man they lower the dignity of God; (4) by championing the liberty of man they rob him of his liberty as a child of God; (5) by emancipating him from subjection to his Maker they degrade him to the slavery of the flesh, the world, and the devil; (6) by extolling the pleasures of earth they belittle the joys of heaven; (7) by laying up treasures that perish they neglect the treasures of grace and merit; (8) by seeking the honors of earth they forfeit the glory of the angels and saints.”

The delusions of self-love prompt us to seek ease and comfort, and to avoid labor. Such delusions “lead us (1) to mistake the vain desire of virtue for actual progress; (2) to mistake passion for virtue; (3) to over-estimate our merit and entitle us to exemption and consideration; and (4) to underrate the value of others. When not discovered and checked in time the delusions of self-love will lead us (1) to relax our vigilance and prayer; (2) to give the credit to ourselves which belongs to God; (3) to be oversecure in temptation and wantonly to enter the occasion of sin.”

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

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