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'


© 2014 - Distributed by THE NEWS CONSORTIUM

Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for January 2015
General Intention:
That those from diverse religious traditions and all people of good will may work together for peace.
Missionary Intention: That in this year dedicated to consecrated life, religious men and women may rediscover the joy of following Christ and strive to serve the poor with zeal.



Comments


More Living Faith

St Francis DeSales Challenges Us to Live a Life of True Devotion Watch

Image of Today in our Liturgical calendar in the Latin Rite of the Catholic Church, we remember St Francis DeSales (1567-1610). The Saints are all given as examples to emulate. They are our companions on the journey, men and women like us who responded to God's invitation to become like Jesus. They pray for us because we are joined with them in the eternal communion of love. They also put legs on the Gospel, showing us what holiness looks like.

By Deacon Keith Fournier

I say that devotion must be practiced in different ways by the nobleman and by the working man, by the servant and by the prince, by the widow, by the unmarried girl and by the married woman. But even this distinction is not sufficient; for the practice of ... continue reading


Hey Main Stream Media - Do Your Job! Media Bias on March for Life Watch

Image of The hundreds of thousands who gatherred in Washington, DC were virtually ignored by the mainstream media because they gave a voice to children in the womb intentionally killed by procured abortion

By Catherine Contreras

What do you get when over 500,000 people attend the March for Life in Washington DC? Yup. A biased main stream media barely covering it, again. OAKLAND, CA (Catholic Online) - On the 42nd Anniversary of Roe v Wade, the Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion in ... continue reading


Arlington Diocesan teachers provide English Language Learners with special support Watch

Image of Fourth-grade students work on personalized language arts activities at St. Thomas More Cathedral School in Arlington. (Christine Stoddard, The Arlington Catholic Herald)

By Christine Stoddard, The Arlington Catholic Herald

Step into Sarah Conrad's pre-kindergarten classroom at St. Thomas More Cathedral School in Arlington and you'll see the usual suspects: tiny furniture, storybooks, brightly colored posters and educational toys. But you'll also notice that laminated labels abound. ... continue reading


'Self righteousness is not going to change peoples' attitudes and save babies,' Cardinal says Watch

Image of Cardinal Sean O'Malley says that the abortion issue in the United States is a call for those of all faiths to action.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

In delivering his homily at the March for Life vigil in Washington D.C., Cardinal Sean O'Malley said that indifference is the "greatest enemy" of the pro-life movement, adding that "to change people's hearts we must love them." Speaking at the Basilica of the ... continue reading


Eighth Annual Stand Up 4 Life Rally|Walk in Oakland, California! Watch

Image of Walk for Life in California

By Catherine Contreras

"If Black lives matter, they have to matter in the womb first. Because if Black lives don't matter in the womb, they don't matter anywhere else. So join us and help us speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves." - Walter B. Hoye II, Founder and President of ... continue reading


Papal Nuncio to Join Walk for Life West Coast! Watch

Image of Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigaṇ

By Catherine Contreras

The Walk for Life West Coast is honored to announce that Archbishop Carlo Maria ViganĂ², the Holy Father's Ambassador to the United States, will be attending the 11th Annual Walk for Life West Coast in San Francisco, on January 24, 2015. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic ... continue reading


Build a Culture of Life! A Rally Cry Was Heard In Los Angeles!

Image of Pro-lifers marched in One Life LA on January 17, 2015.

By Catherine Contreras

 A Rally Cry Was Heard in Los Angeles, California, "Build a Culture of Life! A Culture That Loves Life and That Defends Life!" The Mission of OneLifeLA is to unite communities and inspire positive action through an annual event that promotes the beauty and ... continue reading


Catholics fail to practice 'responsible parenthood' when they have too many children, Pope Francis says Watch

Image of

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Pope Francis recently praised Blessed Paul VI for defending Catholic teaching against contraception. At the same time, "this does not mean a Christian must make children one after another," the Pope added. In fact, Catholics fail to practice "responsible ... continue reading


Pope Francis confirms stops in Washington, D.C., New York City and Philadelphia in upcoming U.S. visit Watch

Image of The papal itinerary remains in the planning stages. Organizers are already talking about appearances at the White House, the United Nations and Ground Zero, and even a Mass at Madison Square Garden.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Pope Francis has confirmed that his trip to the United States this fall will include stops in Washington, D.C. and New York City, in addition to Philadelphia. Francis told the press that he wishes he could enter the U.S. through the Mexican border "as a sign of ... continue reading


Announcing Ignatius Press books at Catholic Shopping .com - Start your Catholic library today!

Image of Catholic Shopping .com is proud to announce, that we are now carrying a wide selection of Ignatius Press's most popular books.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Discriminating Catholic readers will be excited to know Catholic Shopping .com now carries a wide selection of the best books from Ignatius Press. LOS ANGELES, CA - The story of Ignatius Press is one that began over thirty years ago, and a story that has not ended ... 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, Hebrews 10:1-10
1 So, since the Law contains no more than a ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 40:2, 4, 7-8, 10, 11
2 He pulled me up from the seething chasm, from the ... Read More

Gospel, Mark 3:31-35
31 Now his mother and his brothers arrived and, ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for January 27th, 2015 Image

St. Angela Merici
January 27: When she was 56, Angela Merici said "No" to the Pope. She was ... 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