29 October 2008

Spiritual Sloth

Like many people I will be very glad when the campaign season is over and the constant saturation of our lives with political messages and debate has ceased. It has been a constant challenge particularly in what will likely be the most important election for several generations to maintain proper focus on our spiritual lives. I came across the following in the book "The Light of the World" by Benedict Baur O.S.B. which is a book of meditations for Sundays and weekdays of the liturgical year. It deals with Spiritual Sloth and the danger it poses in growing in virtue.

"Brethren: See how you walk circumspectly, not as unwise, but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil." The times are indeed evil, filled with temptations, allurements, and dangers for our unstable supernatural aspirations and efforts. The chief danger and difficulty lie in our natural inclination toward spiritual sloth, which hinders us in our attempts to make use of our time for God and for the cultivation of a deep spirituality. the three chief forms of spiritual sloth are distraction, melancholy or depression of spirit, and occupation with unnecessary things.

Distraction is a state in which we are occupied with things which should not occupy us at the time. It is a "sin without a body." Distractions work in silence and call no attention to themselves. In fact, one of the most dangerous aspects of distractions is the fact that we scarcely notice that we are distracted. They are like a cancerous growth on our spiritual life, which gives birth to many unwholesome conditions, such as dissatisfaction with ourselves, a critical attitude toward others, a restless desire to justify ourselves, and an unhealthy tendency to criticize others. it destroys our recollection in prayer, makes us listless after our Holy Communion, causes us to fulfill our dties without zeal, and fills us with an verpowering distate for mortification. This condition causes us to postpone until later deeds which we should do this very day and moment. We fall into a state of unrest and spiritual sloth, we no longer see God in our duties, but only an intolerable burden. distraction causes us to overburden ourselves with too many oral prayers and too many outward practices of piety.

Spiritual melancholy - No other condition in the spiritual life can lead to so many grievous sins as melancholy. It is opposed to humility, since it makes us quarrelsome and contentious rather than patient. We have lost the courage necessary to break with our faults and imperfections. We inwardly turn to creatures and seek consolation from them. We want to be noticed and recognized, and we think that others ought to know how we feel and how we travail and suffer. It gives the devil power over our soul. It weakens and impedes the effetiveness of the sacraments. it makes sweet things bitter, and causes the salutary instruments of the spiritual life to act like poison. We can no longer find God, and this very difficulty plunges us into a deeper melancholy. (What he is describing here should not be confused with spiritual dryness or the "dark night of the soul" as described by St. John of the Cross.) The chief source of such deep melancholy is the tendency to be less concerned with God and His honor and will than with our own will and what is pleasing to us. [The goal of our spiritual effort should be God's honor and glory, not our own spiritual progress.]

Preoccupation with unnecessary things. There perhaps never was a time when men were so prone to become absorbed in unnecessary things as now. They are tempted on all sides to waste their precious time in an inordinate and excessive preoccupation with lectures, newspapers, radio, movies, sports, etc. In our own age we could add even many more distractions. (It is important to note his qualifier here of inordinate and excessive preoccupation with . . .) This preoccupation impairs our spirit of prayer and recollection, and prevents us from giving ourselves entirely to God.

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