Skip to content
Catholic Online Logo

By Paul Kokoski

10/10/2012 (3 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 (3 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'


Copyright 2016 - Distributed by THE CALIFORNIA NETWORK

Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for May 2016
Universal:
Respect for Women: That in every country of the world, women may be honored and respected and that their essential contribution to society may be highly esteemed.
Evangelization: Holy Rosary: That families, communities, and groups may pray the Holy Rosary for evangelization and peace.



Comments


More Living Faith

'We have done little for women...': Pope Francis dedicates May prayer video to the dignity of women Watch

Image of Pope Francis asks the world to respect women (Pinterest).

By Elise Harris (CNA/EWTN News)

In his May prayer video Pope Francis issued a global petition that women in all countries would be respected and valued, asking rhetorically if the mere recognition of their role is enough, or if more can be done. Vatican City, Rome (CNA/EWTN News) - "The contribution ... continue reading


Religious freedoms endangered around the world Watch

Image of Religious freedoms started their rapid decline in 2015 (Pinterest).

By Matt Hadro (CNA/EWTN News)

The right to exercise religion came under sustained assault around the world in 2015, according to a new report from a bipartisan United States commission, affecting Christians, Muslims, Jews, among others. Washington D.C. (CNA/EWTN News) - "By any measure, religious ... continue reading


HAPPENING NOW: Incredible 90-hour Bible Reading Marathon outside U.S. Capitol Watch

Image of The 90-hour Bible Reading Marathon started May 1, 2016 (Faith & Action).

By Kenya Sinclair (CALIFORNIA NETWORK)

The 27th annual 90-hour Bible Reading Marathon at the U.S. Capitol began Sunday evening and will continue through May fifth. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - The event was launched with a hymn and prayer, then Reverend Rob Schenck, the president of the National ... continue reading


Catholic Bishop abducted, attacked and assaulted before release Watch

Image of Bishop Prasad Gallela was abducted on his way home from mass (CNS).

By Kenya Sinclair (CALIFORNIA NETWORK)

Catholic bishop Prasad Gallela was on his way home from Mass on April 25, when two vehicles pulled up to him. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Bishop Gallela concluded Mass at Karunagiri Shrine in southern India then headed home.When the vehicles stopped, ... continue reading


Quick! What is the most quoted book of the Bible? This celeb knows! Watch

Image of Bono with Eugene Peterson have teamed up to make a short documentary about the Psalms.

By Marshall Connolly, Catholic Online (CALIFORNIA NETWORK)

What is the most popular book of the Bible? There's one book that people enjoy more than any other and it's also the most frequently referenced in our culture. Now, Fuller Theological Seminary has asked two very famous people to help spread the word about this ... continue reading


Pope Francis spreads words of love Watch

Image of Pope Francis speaks of reconciling with God (Pinterest).

By Elise Harris (CNA/EWTN News)

Reconciliation is an essential aspect of God's mercy, Pope Francis said Saturday, explaining that when we distance ourselves from the Lord through sin, it takes much more than our own effort to get back to him. Vatican City, Rome (CNA/EWTN News) - Referencing St. ... continue reading


5 tips for Catholics to stay positive Watch

Image of Stay positive by following five simple tips (WikiMedia Commons).

By Kenya Sinclair (CALIFORNIA NETWORK)

Do you - or someone you know - struggle with maintaining a positive attitude? Are people less inclined to spend time with you due to your poor attitude? Are you tired of wallowing in negativity? Try these simple tips to change the course of your life forever! LOS ... continue reading


Why are these transparent wires being put up in cities around the world? Watch

Image of Eruv lines are set up in cities around the world to make life easier for Orthodox Jews.

By Marshall Connolly (CALIFORNIA NETWORK)

Members of an ultra-conservative religious denomination are stringing transparent wires around many urban neighborhoods, all for religious reasons. These nearly invisible wires form webs in cities such as New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles. What are these wires and ... continue reading


'[D]on't ignore us:' Pope Francis explains the difference between knowledge and real love Watch

Image of Knowing about God is not the same as loving Him (Vanvick/Wordpress).

By Elise Harris (CNA/EWTN News)

On Wednesday Pope Francis said that just because someone is an expert in God's law and a strict adherent to the rules doesn't necessarily mean they know how to love and serve others. Vatican City, Rome (CNA/EWTN News) - "It's not automatic that whoever frequents the ... continue reading


Miracle in the Philippines: Tribe converted to Christianity after hearing Gospel and watching 'Passion of the Christ' Watch

Image of Manobo tribe embraces Jesus (tikbo).

By Kenya Sinclair (CALIFORNIA NETWORK)

The Manobo tribe of the Philippines were taught the Gospel and viewed Mel Gibson's "Passion of the Christ" film, which led several to convert to Christianity. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - According to missionaries from Christian Aid Mission, nearly the entire ... continue reading


All Living Faith News

Newsletters

Newsletter Sign Up icon

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

Subscribe to Catholic OnlineYouTube Channel

the FEED
by Catholic Online

  • Top 10 mothers from the Bible
  • Fatima Prayer HD Video
  • Daily Readings for Thursday, May 05, 2016
  • Too little too late: $75.5 million anti-Trump ads not enough
  • St. Mary Magdalene HD Video
  • Scientists play God in controversial move to revive the dead
  • St. Hilary of Arles: Saint of the Day for Thursday, May 05, 2016

Daily Readings

Reading 1, Acts 17:15, 22--18:1
15 Paul's escort took him as far as Athens, and went back with ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 148:1-2, 11-12, 13, 14
1 Alleluia! Praise Yahweh from the heavens, praise him in the ... Read More

Gospel, John 16:12-15
12 I still have many things to say to you but they would be too much for ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for May 4th, 2016 Image

St. Florian
May 4: The St. Florian commemorated in the Roman ... Read More