External Senses – Part 2 of 3

Continuing his discussion on bringing the five external senses under the control of reason, Father Geiermann addresses the sense of hearing. He writes: “If we do not wish to be imbued with false principles and desire to preserve our hearts undefiled, we must turn away from (1) all irreligious and immodest conversation; (2) from all uncharitable remarks and criticism; (3) from all idle gossip, especially with persons of the opposite sex; and (4) from all sensational rumors and idle reports.”

Instead, Father Geiermann advises us to hear the wisdom of the saints. St. Thomas Aquinas suggested that the listener do four things: listen patiently, weigh wisely, report the good, and forget the rest. St. Anthony said that three things defile the ears: boastful words, detracting remarks, and vain flattery. And St. Bernard advised that we willingly hear, devoutly receive, and carefully preserve whatever pertains to the salvation of our souls.

Since much of what reaches the ear comes from the tongue, Father Geiermann has this to say about the proper use of speech: “A right use of the tongue is made (1) in honoring God by prayer and divine praise; (2) in communicating with a neighbor in justice and kindness on business, social, and charitable affairs; (3) especially by consoling the unfortunate, in speaking well of all, in conversing on edifying subjects. But a wrong use of the tongue is made by all irreverent, disrespectful, uncharitable, and indelicate remarks.”

The Psalmist prayed that the Lord set a watch before his mouth and a door around his lips that his heart may not incline to evil words (Ps 140:3-4). Father Geiermann writes: “We exercise a custody over the tongue (1) by always thinking well of all; (2) by always wishing well to all; (3) by repressing all impetuosity to speak; (4) by weighing what we are about to say, so that we speak in season and offend not against modesty, charity, justice, or truth.”

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

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