I take my children to the Dallas Aquarium often. One of the most interesting attractions is their sloth. The animal is so slow. It’s almost unreal. It’s a horrid looking creature and it’s movements seem careful and calculated. However, after you watch it for a while, you realize that it’s not being careful. It’s just being a sloth.
The sloth is named after the capital sin “sloth.” In Latin, the sin is acedia. Sloth is defined as a slowness in life.
Saint Thomas Aquinas defines it as a bearing down on the soul. He sees it as a spiritual problem. Saint John Damascene concurs by saying that is an “oppressive sorrow, which, to wit, so weighs upon man’s mind, that he wants to do nothing” (De Fide Orth. ii, 14).
Sloth is spiritual paralysis. Thomas says that it is a refusal to eat spiritual food.
Whenever I sit down with the family at night to pray the Rosary and I don’t want to and I just want to “get it over” – that’s sloth. My soul is acting like that slow sloth at the Dallas Aquarium. It doesn’t spring upward to God. It’s crawls reluctantly.
How do we overcome this defect in our lives?
Thomas Aquinas says that sloth is opposed to joy. So the answer to overcoming sloth is greater joy and peace in your life. If you can’t pick yourself off the floor spiritually, the solution is an attitude of gratitude. You must begin to recount all the good things in your life and thank God for them. This always uncovers a spring of joy in the soul. Being thankful is the best medicine.
My wife is named Joy – so God gave me a constant reminder of this cure to spiritual sloth. What a blessing!
I can always be grateful for her and thousands of other wonderful things in my life – including being a Catholic and all that goes with it!
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