Wednesday, April 02, 2014

The Pope on Sloth and Accidia

The Pope preached yesterday on sloth and accidia, it was like many of his sermons, rather than giving hope to those who dwell in this dark pit he just puts the boot in again and again and again, I often get the impression both from the content and delivery of his daily homilies that His Holiness doesn't prepare them as he much as Charity might demand he should.
The slothful and accidic are often builders or the partners in the building of their particular sinful hole but simply pointing out their responsibility, to me, doesn't seem that helpful. It would be a little like Jesus going to the man by the pool, yesterdays Gospel. and simply telling him he was the author of his own misfortune and telling him to 'pull himself together' and get one with life.
Grinding a sinners face in his sin doesn't help, Jesus is always merciful, and more gives hope.
With my parishioners I tend to regard sloth and accidie as being the result of having a particular personality type: a tendency to depression, and a lack of inspirational leadership, often on my part. Between that their lies an inability to grasp the full implications of the Gospel, or often a confusion about what is Christian teaching but the real reason is a loss of hope, and yes a weakness of faith and charity, It comes from a self destructive coldness heart, a failure to appreciate God's love for oneself and to love oneself because God first loves you.
“I think of many Christians, of many Catholics: yes, they are Catholics, but without enthusiasm, even embittered. 'Yes, life is what it is, but the Church – I go to Mass every Sunday, but better not get mixed up in things – I have faith for my health, I do not feel the need to give it to another...’. Each in his own house, the quiet life: but, you do something and then they criticize you: ‘No, leave it alone [It. è meglio così], don’t chance it.’ This is the disease of sloth, the acedia of Christians. This attitude that is crippling the apostolic zeal, which makes Christian people stand still and at ease, but not in the good sense of the word: they do not bother to go out to proclaim the Gospel! They are anesthetized.”
The problem is, often, not the poor sheep's fault but the shepherd's. Frankly I think I am fortunate if I can get people even to the level "formalism", if they are coming to Mass, then maybe, just maybe Christ or the apostles might pass by and heal them.
There was a time when seminaries and convents were full, when many lay people were actively involved in the mission of the Church, the sloth and accidia we see around us seems to be deeply ingrained in the Church of today.

12 comments:

Fr Dickson said...

Thank you for this post, Father.
Today’s accidia and sloth are, I think, the result of taking from the laity the solid apostolate they had for evangelising (in the Legion of Mary) and charity (the SVP), which were made to seem ‘old hat’ when compared to the ‘Councils’ and ‘Committees’ which spring up as a way of making people active in their faith. I venture to say it made the laity activity in the community but somewhat de-activated their faith and its witness in the streets.

Terry Nelson said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anil Wang said...

I think we need to read the Pope's homilies with the following understanding:

(1) He's speaking to a small crowd that he knows to some extent.

(2) The only people outside his small group who really care about his homilies are to a large extent interested Catholics whether they are active dissenters or active faithful.

(3) If the listener is an interested priest, he's alerting them to a problem that needs remedy. As you state, if Catholics only go to Church because it's their habit, then it's the shepherd's responsibility to move them to the next level.

(4) If the listener is an interested lay person, he's bypassing the priest and alerting the faithful to be cautious not to fall into habit and if they do, they need to try to wake up.

You correctly point out that sloth and accidie are aggrevated by (though not caused by) a particular personality type: a tendency to depression. But it is incorrect to say that you can do nothing. You can always pray and offer up your suffering, and those two acts by themselves break you out of sloth and accidie (as long as you are reminded).

It's sort of like the atheist materialist woman in the Brothers Karamazov that could not escape her materialist assumptions. She *was* helpless, but Father Zosima told her to help others. In helping others, her faith that the other was more than a series of atoms would vanish. It's not pulling yourself up from your bootstraps, but it is nurturing that little grain of mustard seed and trusting in God to grow the seed beyond what you are able to.

Jacobi said...

It’s a good thing Father, that the Holy Father is now getting round to Sin, and the deadly ones at that. Sloth is not a bad one to start with.

After all, Lust, about which there is much discussion these days, is not the only one. And, off course there's another five to come!

Andrew Leach said...

I haven't read the whole of Evangelii Gaudium yet, but as the quote appears to be a quote from Chapter 2, perhaps it needs to be read in the context of the whole encyclical? Or at least, of that chapter?

There is an issue with digging the depressive out of accidie, and it's not easy. As well as pastoral support from one's father in the Faith once one is in that position, surely they should be making sure that one does not end up there in the first place?

Mr Grumpy said...

On this topic I would commend "The Catholic Guide to Depression" by Dr Aaron Kheriaty. Dr Kheriaty thinks it is important to distinguish between accidie and depression and has some helpful thoughts on the difference.

Rita said...

Accidie is horrid. I have seen priests crippled by it. I am not recognising the Holy Father's sentiment about it at all. There is a massive difference between sloth and spiritual sloth and it is a matter of desire. When accidie strikes the desire for holiness, the desire for the love of God, is heart breaking. In ordinary sloth one can't be a**ed about anything, it is a polar opposite.

Liam Ronan said...

Mario Palmer was a loyal son of the Church, neither slothful nor given to 'accidia'. I suppose the question is for those who desire to evangelize their brethren: Which Catholic Church are you putting forth as the One your brethren ought enter?
The one whose doctrines and practices stretch back to Jesus and the Apostles, or that which answers every moral dilemma with the Jesuitical: Who am I to judge?
No wonder Catholics are dispirited and hesitant to tout a Church which at any given moment might yank the rug out from beneath their feet.
Sorry, but I cannot swallow this 'sloth' and 'accedia' bunkum.
PS I wonder how many in the papal listening audience actually know what 'accedia' is and what moral defects it is attributed to.

Jewel said...

This is a sin I confess regularly, I'm sad to say. It is crippling. It affects all but one in my family. It is something learned I think. I only realized it was a sin when I became Catholic. It is simply never discussed in Protestantism - which is mostly therapeutic anyway.

Liam Ronan said...

Sorry for the earlier typo...Mario Palmero

Nicolas Bellord said...

When Greg Pope who has supported abortion gets the support of the Bishops Conference against Bishop Egan who is against abortion and suggests people like Greg, i.e. MPs who support abortion, should not receive communion, I begin to give up. Perhaps it is all bunkum; perhaps I will just go to Mass on Sundays and go through the motions but keep my head down, say nothing and try not to understand what is going on.

John Vasc said...

It could be a positive step - and might help to combat any sense of accedia - to write to Bishop Egan and express support, and (if we feel blessed with angelic diplomacy and rhetorical force) to write to Cardinal Nichols and express polite but firm outrage.