Skip to content
Catholic Online Logo

By Paul Kokoski

10/10/2012 (2 years ago)

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Sloth is an inclination to idleness or at least to aimlessness, to apathy in action

Sloth, often called acedia, is described simply as the sin of laziness. However, while this is part of the manifestation of sloth, the central problem with sloth as a capital sin is spiritual laziness - which leads to lukewarmness.

Highlights

By Paul Kokoski

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

10/10/2012 (2 years ago)

Published in Living Faith

Keywords: sloth, acedia, vice, sin, virtue, holiness, ascetic, ascesis, spirituality, Paul Kokoski


HAMILTON, ONTARIO, CANADA (Catholic Online) - "I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were cold or hot! So, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spew you out of my mouth"(Revelation 3:15-16).

Sloth, often called acedia, is described simply as the sin of laziness. However, while this is part of the manifestation of sloth, the central problem with sloth as a capital sin is spiritual laziness - which leads to lukewarmness.

Sloth is connected with sensuality. It proceeds from a love of pleasure, inasmuch as it inclines us to avoid effort and hardship. There is in all of us a tendency to follow the line of least resistance, which paralyses or lessens our activity.

Sloth is an inclination to idleness or at least to aimlessness, to apathy in action. At times this is a morbid disposition due to poor condition of health. More frequently it is a disease of the will, which fears effort and recoils from it. The slothful person wants to escape all exertion, whatever might interfere with their comfort or involve fatigue. Like the real parasite, they live on others to whatever extent they can, becoming gruff and ill-tempered when one tries to rouse them from their inaction.

There are various degrees of sloth. The indolent person takes up his task reluctantly, and indifferently; what he does, he does badly. The sluggard does not absolutely refuse to work, but he delays and postpones indefinitely the accepted task. The truly lazy person wants to do nothing that proves irksome and shows a distinct aversion to all real work, whether physical or mental. The idea of right living inspires in him not joy but disgust, because of its laboriousness.

When sloth is related to spiritual exercises it is called spiritual sloth. This consists in a certain dislike for things spiritual, which tends to make us negligent in the performance of our exercises of piety (prayer, the sacraments etc.), causes us to shorten them or to omit them altogether for vain excuses.

In order to understand the malice of sloth we have to remember that man was made to work. When God created Adam and Eve he placed them in the garden Eden "to cultivate and care for it" (Gen. 2:15). This is because man is not a perfect being, having many faculties which must act in order to be perfected.

Hence, it is a necessity of man's nature that he should labour to cultivate his powers, to provide for his spiritual and physical wants and thus tend towards his heavenly goal. The law of work, therefore, precedes original sin. But because man sinned, work has become for him not merely a law of nature, but also a punishment, in the sense that work has become burdensome and a means of repairing sin: it is in the sweat of our face that we must get our bread to eat, the food of the mind as well as the body (Gen. 3: 19).

The slothful man sins more or less grievously according to the obligations and duties he neglects. When he shuns matters of importance in regards to his duties of state, or goes so far as to neglect religious duties necessary to his salvation or sanctification, he commits a grievous fault. A venial sin is committed when he fails in civil or religious duties of lesser moment.

Because of its harmful consequences, spiritual sloth constitutes one of the most serious obstacles to perfection. This is because it makes life more or less barren:

"I passed by the field of the slothful man,
by the vineyard of the man without sense;
And behold! It was all overgrown with thistles;
its surface was covered with nettles,
and its stone wall broken down.
And as I gazed at it, I reflected;
I saw and learned the lesson:
A little sleep, a little slumber,
a little folding of the arms to rest -
Then will poverty come upon you like a highwayman,
and want like an armed man" (Prov 24: 30-34).

Indeed. This is what one finds in the soul of the slothful man. Where there should be virtues and charity one finds vices alongside crumbling walls which mortification had raised to protect virtue. As a result, temptation soon becomes more persistent and assailing: "For idleness has taught much evil" (Sirach: 33: 29). It was idleness and pride that destroyed Sodom (Ezech. 16: 49).

Man's heart and mind cannot for long remain inactive. Unless they are engaged by study or other work they are soon filled with a host of fancies, thoughts, desires and emotions. Because of our fallen nature sensual, ambitious, proud and selfish thoughts then gain the upper hand exposing us to sin. St. Thomas tells us that, in addition to drinking, carousing, gambling and taking up with bad company sloth can eventually lead to despair since "sloth is a real sadness that casts the spirit down."

What is ultimately at stake is our eternal salvation. Apart from the sins into which idleness causes us to fall, the mere fact of failing to fulfil important duties incumbent on us is sufficient cause for reprobation. The barren tree, by the mere fact that it bears no fruit, deserves to be cut down and thrown into the fire: "Every tree therefore that doth not yield good fruit, shall be cut down and cast into the fire. (Matt. 3: 10).

To remedy sloth we need first of all to form in ourselves strong convictions concerning the necessity of work; to make ourselves understand that both the rich and the poor come under this law, and that its infringement may involve eternal damnation. This is the lesson given by Our Lord in His parable of the barren fig tree.

If a person is rich and not obliged to work for himself, he must do so for others. And indeed the opportunities are not lacking: how many poor need help, how many ignorant need instruction, how many broken hearts need mending, how many families need rearing to ensure, among other things, that the future of the children will be safeguarded!

Alongside convictions we also need to make sustained and intelligent efforts to train and strengthen the will. Since the slothful man instinctively shrinks from effort it is important to keep in mind that there is no one more wretched than the idle man. Not knowing how to manage his time, the idle man soon becomes a burden to himself and ultimately he becomes wearied of life itself. Is it not preferable to engage in useful work and secure some real contentment by striving to make those around us happy?

Among the slothful there are those who do expend a certain amount of excess activity at play, sports and worldly gatherings. These must be reminded of the serious side of life and that they should turn such activities into more useful and worthier fields of action. Christian marriage with its immediate obligations and duties often proves an excellent remedy for sloth. Parents realize the necessity of working for their offspring and the inadvisability of entrusting to strangers the care of their interests. What we must constantly bear in mind is the end of life: we are here on earth in order to attain, through work and virtue, a place in heaven. God is ever addressing to us: "Why stand you here all the day idle...Go you also into the vineyard" (Matt. 20: 6-7).

-----

Mr. Paul Kokoski is a freelance writer who holds a BA in philosophy from McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario. His articles have been published in several journals including, Homiletic and Pastoral Review, New Oxford Review, Catholic Insight and Challenge Magazine.

---


Pope Francis: end world hunger through 'Prayer and Action'


Copywriter 2015 - Distributed by THE NEWS CONSORTIUM

Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for March 2015
Universal:
Scientists: That those involved in scientific research may serve the well-being of the whole human person.
Evangelization: Contribution of women: That the unique contribution of women to the life of the Church may be recognized always.


Rosaries, Crosses, Prayer Cards and more... by Catholic Shopping .com


Comments


More Living Faith

The Experience of the Resurrected Christ: A Divine Dream Worth Dying For

Image of

By Deacon Frederick Bartels

The dream of God is a dream of unending, divine love. His only Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, sacrificed his human life for this Dream: the redemption of humankind and the gift of eternal life and perfect happiness. Heaven is the divine dream that is not but a dream, it ... continue reading


Pope Francis 'considering' visit to Cuba Watch

Image of A nun waves a Vatican flag while attending Mass with St John Paul II in Havana in 1998.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Pope Francis is said to be considering a trip to Cuba this coming September. The papal visit would tie into his visit to the United States. The gesture could lead to improving relations both between Cuba and the U.S. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Vatican ... continue reading


Could Yoda be a Biblical character? Medieval manuscript features a painted figure resembling the Star Wars hero Watch

Image of

By Talia Ramos (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

In a 14th century book, a green-skinned character was painted, resembling Yoda. Just like the Star Wars icon, the painted character in the old religious documents is donning a white cloak and has spiky, long fingers and the pointed ears sticking out. Although there is ... continue reading


Pope Francis pokes holes in 'gender theory,' saying male, female roles are separate Watch

Image of The Bible, Pope Francis says, shows how

By CNA/EWTN News

Pope Francis has warned against gender theories which seek to eradicate differences between man and woman, saying they perpetuate the very problems they are trying to solve. (CNA/EWTN News) - "Experience teaches us: to know each other well and grow in harmony, ... continue reading


6 types of men Christian women should dismiss for marriage Watch

Image of

By Hannah Raissa Marfil (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Women, and men, should be wary of whom they shall live with for the rest of their lives. Marriage is not a temporary commitment, it lasts for a lifetime no matter how you will put it --- two people still shared the same vows to cherish one another through a sacred ... continue reading


Pope Francis to host major conference on climate change Watch

Image of

By Nikky Andres (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Pope Francis will host a major summit on April 28 entitled "Protect the Earth, Dignify Humanity: The Moral Dimensions of Climate Change and Sustainable Development." MUNTINLUPA, PHILIPPINES (Catholic Online) - The conference will feature famous American economist, ... continue reading


Can Catholics Practice Yoga and Transcendental Meditation?

Image of

By Deacon Ian VanHeusen

Among many Christians who are honestly seeking to deepen their prayer life, there is a genuine concern about erroneous forms of prayer. People should be careful to accept practices which diverge from the faith they have received, whether through the family or in a ... continue reading


Is there a war between feminism and the Catholic Church? American nuns' 'radical feminist themes incompatible with the Catholic faith' Watch

Image of The Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has ended an investigation into radical feminist ideals held by the U.S.'s largest nun group, warning the organization to fall in line with Catholic orthodox stances.

By Matt Waterson (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

The year-long inquiry into American nuns by the Holy See's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has concluded, and will not take any action against the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR), the body that governs around 80 percent of nuns in the ... continue reading


Passionate pastor attempts to fix the missing spiritual link in churches across the U.S. Watch

Image of

By Hannah Raissa Marfil (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Reverend Percy McCray suggests that leaders of faith should undergo in-depth training programs to better deal with cancer-stricken patients and their hurting families. According to McCray, as it stands now, most churches across the United States lack the proper ... continue reading


Dialogue: an essential ingredient for peaceful relationships Watch

Image of

By Tony Magliano

According to the New York Times, during a White House luncheon in 1954 Winston Churchill said, "To jaw-jaw [talk-talk] always is better than to war-war." While clearly not a pacifist, the United Kingdom's World War II prime minister had seen upfront the absolute horror ... continue reading


All Living Faith News

Newsletters

Newsletter Sign Up icon

Stay up to date with the latest news, information, and special offers

Daily Readings

Reading 1, Acts 6:8-15
8 Stephen was filled with grace and power and began ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 119:23-24, 26-27, 29-30
23 Though princes sit plotting against me, your ... Read More

Gospel, John 6:22-29
22 Next day, the crowd that had stayed on the other ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for April 20th, 2015 Image

St. Marian
April 20: When St. Mamertinus was Abbot of the monastery which St. ... Read More

Inform, Inspire & Ignite Logo

Find Catholic Online on Facebook and get updates right in your live feed.

Become a fan of Catholic Online on Facebook


Follow Catholic Online on Twitter and get News and Product updates.

Follow us on Twitter