Seven Deadly Sins: Sloth or 'Acedia'
A sin that believes in nothing, cares for nothing, seeks to know nothing, interferes with nothing, enjoys nothing, hates nothing, finds purpose in nothing, lives for nothing, and remains alive because there is nothing for which it will die.
The darkest side of sloth, however, is its distaste for worship and prayer. Sometimes this aversion strikes at a very advanced stage of the spiritual life, but for most of us, it shows itself early on, after the euphoria of conversion or the sweetness of prayer wears off. We avoid God, just when we need Him most.
Dorothy Sayers describes sloth as “a sin that believes in nothing, cares for nothing, seeks to know nothing, interferes with nothing, enjoys nothing, hates nothing, finds purpose in nothing, lives for nothing, and remains alive because there is nothing for which it will die.” Sloth can masquerade as tolerance. It can also be very busy, but the activity of the slothful leads nowhere, simply marking time in a life that has no ultimate purpose. Many of the slothful end up in despair, a hopelessness that is distinct from clinical depression requiring medical attention.
The Catechism describes sloth as a culpable lack of physical or spiritual effort that can actually refuse the joy that comes from God. The slothful person is lukewarm towards, perhaps even repelled by, divine goodness and spiritual practices (Catechism #1866, 2094, 2733). The loss of one’s spiritual moorings manifests itself in flight from God and apathy in the service of one’s neighbor.
How can we overcome this most deadly vice? Mass society engenders a sense of powerlessness, but size need not leave us apathetic. It is possible to carve out a more human scale of life. Begin with your family, your parish, your neighborhood, your child’s school. Get involved. Contribute something,
In the midst of New York City’s millions, for example, a humanly sized community lived in my apartment building. We knew one another, knocked on doors when a neighbor had not been seen for a few days, brought chicken soup when one was sick, and had Christmas parties in the lobby.
The darkest side of sloth, however, is its distaste for worship and prayer. Sometimes this aversion strikes at a very advanced stage of the spiritual life, but for most of us, it shows itself early on, after the euphoria of conversion or the sweetness of prayer wears off. We avoid God, just when we need Him most. This can be a tipping point in our spiritual lives. Either we grow in faith, hope and love, or we collapse into sloth and, perhaps, ultimate loss. What can we do to change this?
Resolve to spend time in prayer, at least a half an hour every day. If you find it distasteful, know that this is the deadly vice of sloth. Pray anyway. St. Jerome said that ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of God. Set aside time for prayerful study of Scripture. If you find this too burdensome, know that this is the deadly vice of sloth. Study anyway. The Cardinal virtue of Fortitude, “the virtue that ensures firmness in difficulties and constancy in the pursuit of the good” (Catechism #1808) is absolutely essential to your spiritual survival, especially when in the deadly grip of sloth.
Above all, do not skip Mass or forsake the Sacrament of Confession. It is precisely these life-giving Sacraments that sloth most tempts us to abandon. Those who attempt to live without them often sink into the despair of doubting whether there is a God, whether He loves them, whether He can forgive them, or whether life has any ultimate meaning.
The spiritual and corporal works of mercy lift us out of ourselves and into the work of God’s Kingdom. They are listed in the Catechism (#2447). Ask God to show you what your personal contribution should be to the work of the Church. Then do it faithfully and let God attend to the outcome.
Finally, the theological virtue of hope dissipates the lassitude of Sloth. In the classic movie Marty, a small group of friends hang out under the street light on Friday nights, each one asking in turn, “What do you want to do?” “I dunno. What do you want to do?” “I dunno.” The conversation, like their lives, is a closed circle turned in on itself, until Marty chooses to break the cycle by seeking the company of a plain young woman with a view to marriage and family life. The gift of self is a powerful act of hope that overturns the futility of milling around on the street corner.
Ultimately, hope in God and in eternal life makes our lives here and now meaningful, filled with purpose and joy. Hope is the preeminent virtue of the pilgrim Church, calling us to participate in God’s work of bringing streams forth in the desert as we make our way to the heavenly city.
Jeri Holladay writes from Wichita, Kansas, where she has been Director of Adult Education at the Spiritual Life Center of the Diocese of Wichita, Associate Professor of Theology, Chairman of the Theology Department and founding Director of the Bishop Eugene Gerber Institute of Catholic Studies at Newman University. She teaches moral theology and church history and is a contributing writer for Catholic Online.
Copywriter 2015 - Distributed by THE NEWS CONSORTIUM
Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for October 2015
Universal: That human trafficking, the modern form of slavery, may be eradicated.
Evangelization: That with a missionary spirit the Christian communities of Asia may announce the Gospel to those who are still awaiting it.
Rate This Article
Leave a Comment
More Lent / Easter News
- Missing The Point of Easter
- The Power of the Resurrection in our Lives: Christ Is Risen; Indeed, He Is Risen!
- Easter: Through the Octave and Beyond!
- The Happy Priest on Easter: He Has Truly Risen, We Are Free From Fear
- Holy Saturday: 'Make Sure He's Dead'
- HOLY SATURDAY: The Whole Earth Keeps Silence
- Good Friday Reflection on the Logic of the Cross
- Good Friday: The Church Born From the Wounded Side of Christ Pauses at the Cross
- Reflection on the Nature of Sin for Good Friday
- Fr. Paul Schenck: Finding Living Faith on Catechetical Sunday
- The Movie Yellow: Incest as 'Normal' and Cassavates's Slides Into the World of Woes
- The Chicago School Teachers Strike Reveals the Need For School Choice
- The Sexual Barbarians and the Dissolution of Culture
- The Happy Priest Challenges Us to Ask: Who is Jesus to Me?
- Michael Coren on Canadian Public Schools: Teachers, leave those kids alone
- We Cannot Ignore Our Consciences: Cardinal Dolan On Religious Liberty
- In the Face of Danger, Successor of Peter Travels to Lebanon as a Messenger of Peace
- Reflections on the Dignity and Vocation of Women: Who or What?
More Easter / Lent
'So it is written that the Christ would suffer and on the third day rise from the dead' - Luke 24:46
Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of the Season of Lent. It is a season of penance, reflection, and fasting which prepares us for Christ's Resurrection on Easter Sunday, through which we attain redemption. continue reading
Palm Sunday, the Sunday before Easter, commemorates Jesus' triumphal entry into Jerusalem, an event mentioned in all four canonical Gospels. (Mark 11:1.11, Matthew 21:1.11, Luke 19:28.44, and John 12:12.19) ... continue reading
On Palm Sunday, we celebrate the first joy of the season, as we celebrate Our Lord's triumphant entrance into Jerusalem where he was welcomed by crowds worshiping him and laying down palm leaves before him. It also marks the beginning of Holy Week... continue reading
HOLY THURSDAY is the most complex and profound of all religious observances. It celebrates his last supper with the disciples, a celebration of Passover ... continue reading
On Good Friday, each member of the Church tries to understand at what cost Christ has won our redemption. In the solemn ceremonies of Holy Week we unite ourselves to our Savior, and we contemplate our own death to sin in the Death of our Lord ... continue reading
Easter is the principal feast of the ecclesiastical year. Leo I (Sermo xlvii in Exodum) calls it the greatest feast (festum festorum), and says that Christmas is celebrated only in preparation for Easter. It is the centre of the greater part of the ecclesiastical year ... continue reading
For most people the easiest practice to consistently fulfill will be the traditional one, to abstain from meat on all Fridays of the year. During Lent abstinence from meat on Fridays is obligatory in the United States as elsewhere. Christ Himself said that His disciples would fast once He had departed (Lk. 5:35). continue reading
Everything answered from when does lent end, ashes, giving something up, stations of the cross and blessed palms. The key to understanding the meaning of Lent is simple: Baptism... continue reading
Stations of the Cross refers to the depiction of the final hours (or Passion) of Jesus, and the devotion commemorating the Passion. First Station: Jesus is condemned to death... pray the stations now
What did you give up for Lent?
From the humorous to the bizarre, people have had interesting Lenten experiences. Tell us about what you are going to give up for this Lenten Year.
What others gave up »
Alex Basile - Catholic Online, 4/10/2015
Author Alex Basile reflects of the true meaning of the Resurrection of Christ and how many Christians overlook the real joy of Easter. In the haziness of the first Easter morning, Mary Magdalene made ...Continue Reading
Fr. James Farfaglia - Catholic Online, 4/6/2015
With the resurrection of Jesus, the physical is exalted. When we truly believe in Jesus, we are resurrected in this life because we are freed from the fear and worry that are characteristic of ...Continue Reading
Randy Sly - Catholic Online, 4/6/2015
While Easter is a Solemnity and an Octave Feast, it is also a 50-day journey until Pentecost. We continue to remember his resurrection with special devotion. Saint Augustine shares this ...Continue Reading
F. K. Bartels - Catholic Online, 4/6/2015
There is great cause for belief in the Resurrection. One of the most wonderful tenets of Catholicism and the true Christian religion the Church transmits, is that the Resurrection is a historical ...Continue Reading
On Good Friday, the entire Church fixes her gaze on the Cross at Calvary. Each member of the Church tries to understand at what cost Christ has won our redemption.
In the symbol of the Cross we can see the magnitude of the human tragedy, the ravages of original sin, and the infinite love of God. Learn More
Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of the Season of Lent. It is a season of penance, reflection, and fasting which prepares us for Christ's Resurrection on Easter Sunday, through which we attain redemption.
The ashes are made from the blessed palms used in the Palm Sunday celebration of the previous year. The ashes are christened with Holy Water and are scented by exposure to incense. Learn More
Stations of the Cross refers to the depiction of the final hours (or Passion) of Jesus, and the devotion commemorating the Passion.
ACT OF CONTRITION. O my God, my Redeemer, behold me here at Thy feet. From the bottom of my heart... Pray the Stations
'Christ Himself said that His disciples would fast once He had departed' Lk. 5:35
Abstinence. The law of abstinence requires a Catholic 14 years of age until death to abstain from eating meat on Fridays in honor of the Passion of Jesus on Good Friday. Salt and freshwater species of fish, amphibians, reptiles and shellfish are permitted.
Fasting. The law of fasting requires a Catholic from the 18th Birthday (Canon 97) to the 59th Birthday (i.e. the beginning of the 60th year, a year which will be completed on the 60th birthday) to reduce the amount of food eaten from normal. The Church defines this as one meal a day, and two smaller meals which if added together would not exceed the main meal.
Learn More »