Purification of the Sensitive Nature

God graciously helps people seeking spiritual perfection by purifying them in both their sensitive and intellectual faculties. Father Geiermann writes: “When a soul experiences the absence of sensible devotion and is unconscious of any infidelity to grace through pride or tepidity, and is otherwise in normal health, she may reasonably infer that God is sending her this first trial in the spiritual life.”

He mentions three signs which indicate that the purification of one’s sensitive nature is underway: (1) the soul has lost relish for, and consolation in, the service of God; (2) some affectionate memory of God remains in the soul; and (3) God withdraws His aid in that person’s accustomed mental prayer.

“By leading the soul to communicate more directly with Him through her mind and will, her imagination and memory become less operative and cause her some difficulty in adjusting herself to the designs of God. But where this aridity arises from merely natural causes, it is only temporary and will vanish with the removal of the cause.”

Some effects of this purification are that it removes imperfections by which the soul tends to the seven capital sins; it frees the soul from delusions of pride; it gives the soul a more accurate knowledge of herself and her natural powers; it subjugates the sensitive nature to the intellectual powers; it brings about a clearer knowledge of God and of self; it grounds the soul in humility, a virtue most necessary in the spiritual life; it makes the soul poor in spirit by giving her a holy indifference for material things; it establishes the soul in patience, perseverance, and conformity to the divine will; it brings the soul more intimately into the presence of God and prompts her to serve Him with a sincere mind and a pure heart; it brings peace and tranquillity of mind; and it makes one prompt in practicing the infused theological and moral virtues.

To persons undergoing the ordeal of purification, Father Geiermann says: “Be faithful to your ordinary pious practices. . . . Rest assured that your merit is greatest when conforming to God’s will in adversity. . . . As long as a soul is not conscious of infidelity to grace she should consider the withdrawal of sensible devotion as a reward of her fidelity to prepare her for greater favors, and not lament it as a punishment for her sins.” He cites the Psalm: “They that sow in tears shall reap in joy. Going they went and wept, casting their seeds. But coming they shall come with joyfulness, carrying their sheaves” (Ps 125:5-6).

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

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