CD 251 Sloth

An examination of conscience I was reading spoke of looking at various ways that we are prone to the seven capital sins. I wondered how much sloth is a problem now that people are so busy.
Sloth is still alive and well, though it causes many people to be neither of those things spiritually. Doctors call high blood pressure the hidden killer. In spiritual terms, that description could be given to sloth. When we examine our conscience, we might indeed dismiss the idea of sloth, thinking that because we are very busy and have lots of work to do, it does not apply to us. Paradoxically sloth can be associated with the stress and overwork that many people experience: we can become averse to all other effort, reluctant to spend our spare time on anything of genuine value, and particularly indifferent to prayer.

The gravity of this sin varies according to the duties that we neglect. It often affects the generosity with which people devote time to their spiritual life. For example, the Rosary takes about fifteen minutes to say, but it is seen as a great chore compared with three hours watching television or aimlessly surfing the internet. This vice is encouraged by the “Have It Your Way” culture in which we are conditioned to think that we should simply do whatever we feel like once we have finished the work that we absolutely have to do.

Hence the spiritual writers teach that a primary remedy for sloth is an intellectual conviction concerning the duty to use our time wisely and well. This forms a motivating foundation for that sustained and intelligent effort by which we sometimes see individuals of ordinary background, means and ability achieve so much. Overcoming sloth does not mean that we have no leisure time; in fact a well-ordered Christian diligence helps us to relax with greater profit. Again, prudence based on a sensible assessment of how we need to be refreshed can help to use that time to the greatest benefit. Undoubtedly the value of giving time generously to prayer is one of the best uses of any time that we have spare.

Catholic Dilemmas column published in the Catholic Herald
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