Monday, November 7, 2011

Knowing God, Knowing Ourselves

I titled this post  Knowing God, Knowing Ourselves because the two walk hand in hand. Sin prevents us from knowing God as much as we should.The more we are purged of sin the more we come to know God and ourselves. We are always being purged and healed, each and every day, provided that we  cooperate with God's graces. However, this cooperation is key. Without it, our souls stagnate and eventually backslide. A person cannot stay in one place spiritually, we either move forward or backward. Responding to the graces God gives us is crucial. He knows the condition of our souls far better than we do and guides us in the areas where we need to progress. And what constitutes progress? Simply this...growth in virtues. If we see this growth we know we are progressing. There's no way to write about these things without a certain amount of bluntness so I'll try to be direct.

Sometimes, I feel as if I have bumped into a "wall" spiritually. What seems to help me get past this is taking a long, hard, look at myself. If done with honesty, under the light of the Holy Spirit, the obstacle usually becomes apparent. For example, after scrutinizing myself last week it became obvious to me that I'm struggling with sloth lately, especially in my spiritual life.  This is an area of weakness for me, maybe more so than the other deadly sins. Except pride, which we all have to work on constantly because, to put it bluntly...we like to make gods of ourselves. Some people may say that this isn't so, but this in itself is a sign of pride. It kind of works along the line of "if you think you are humble... you think too much of yourself ". The entire human race suffers from pride. It's a lot easier for God to work in this area if we accept this as the truth.

Back to sloth. How do I know I am having trouble in this area spiritually? For me (I don't know if this will be helpful to others) the symptoms are fairly clear:
~ I am vaguely "repulsed" by prayer. This means that I have to really force myself to pray.
~ Aridity in prayer
~ Lack of zeal for the things of God
~ Procrastination

For example, I don't really "feel" like praying, reading the Bible, or going to Mass lately. I feel either numb or mildly disgusted during prayer. Just wanting to get it over with so I can move on to something else. I seem to be lacking my usual zeal for God (as embarrassing as it is to admit). St. Padre Pio knew what he was talking about when he said, "Aridity is the fruit of our defects", that's for sure.

Seeing that there are 7 weeks left until Christmas I thought I'd tackle the seven deadly sins by working on one each week. I am starting with sloth since I seem to be so affected by it lately. Another reason I am beginning with sloth is that once this is moved out of the way (at least to a degree) it will be easier to work on the other sins. I am hoping that this will prepare me for Christmas... that Christ will have a clean heart to rest his head upon and that this "house" will have plenty of room for Him.

Each week I will write about the measures I am taking to overcome these sins. Wish me luck!


feel free to join in!


  1. Mary,
    Sloth and pride~ two of the easiest sins to slip into and so many others are attached to them.
    I have bumped into that wall myself and have been feeling that spiritual sloth lately as well (hence my blog break until Advent)
    I am looking forward to your series of posts on the seven deadly sins.
    God bless.

  2. Mary, being repulsed, even vaguely, or disgusted by prayer is not sloth, nor is aridity. Sloth is sorrow for spiritual good. This is really important because feeling repulsed by prayer or experiencing aridity in prayer is something that God allows to work in us in a different way from how He has been working.

    In St. Faustina's diary we learn that when she was, for quite awhile, unable to pray, her novice mistress assigned her many menial duties. This was not as punishment, but for her to be able to pray by doing daily duties. After awhile St. Faustina's problem disappeared.

    Blessed Mother Teresa experienced aridity in spades for almost her whole missionary life. It built up her ability to direct everything towards God.

    We can even lose our emotional zeal for the things of God as you say, but we cannot say we are slothful spiritually unless we give in and stop praying, stop offering up our pain and suffering, stop fulfilling our ordinary obligations, stop performing the corporal and spiritual works of mercy, etc.

    Procrastination is willful and something we can do something about. That is the only thing on your list that I would be concerned about.

    I got a big lecture from a spiritual director once who told me to forget about feelings. Just concentrate on making acts of will because God looks at our will above all. We have control over that.

    The first three things on your list may be a sign that God wants you to love Him in a different way for now.

  3. I love your honesty! I often feel the same way. I may just have to join you on this "challenge".

  4. Hi Karin,
    They sure are easy to fall into :) Thanks for commenting!

  5. Barb,
    I speak more about this in my next post. The symptoms I mention above are often signs of acedia/ sloth. Thomas Aquinas said that sloth is "sluggishness of the mind which neglects to begin good...its evil is in its effect, if it so oppresses man as to draw him away from good deeds".
    Acedia describes the behavior while melancholy suggests the emotion producing it. Sloth was substituted for acedia over time though they mean slightly different things. I am going by the generally accepted meaning of sloth though I do understand your use of the term also ...not to be confused with envy - sorrow for another's good (for those who are following along). The symptoms I mentioned can be signs of spiritual sloth, as can confusion (spiritual) and disorganization. I am following this post up with another more detailed post and I think you'll be able to see where I am going with this.
    I realize that these signs can stem from other things going on in someone's spiritual life also but I am speaking of them in terms of sin here and not as aspects of the prayer life.
    I hope this made sense, lol. Thanks for commenting, Barb. You always have great comments :)

  6. Kathleen,
    I have to use myself as an example because I can't use anyone else ;)Thank you for visiting!

  7. Right ... where do I start?

    Sloth: Laziness. I know what it's like. I'm so lazy that if I fainted I'd need someone to help me to the ground.

    Pride: I'm not proud but I take pride in the fact that I'm too modest.

    Humble; I find it hard to be humble when I'm perfect in every way. (Check out the Mac Davis song).

    Prayer: Let's be serious for a moment.

    I know what it's like to rush prayers, and wanting to do something else instead. We all tend to do that and God knows it too well. I find it especially difficult with repetitive prayers - like the Rosary.

    But what does God want?

    I believe He wants honesty above all else. I doubt that He wants repetitive ongoing prayers for hours on end. St Peter will not check whether we have callous knees before he allows us into Heaven.

    God wants honesty. A short prayer saying "Thank you" "Please help" or whatever else we have on our mind will suffice as long as it is honest. Even if we say: "God I'm too tired to pray. But I love you all the same and thank you for all you do for me." Honest, and to the point.

    When we visit friends and relatives they wish us above all to be open and honest. God is no different in that respect. And He knows our inner heart and silent prayers even before we utter them.

    God bless you.

  8. Oh ... I forgot procrastination.

    I have resolved to stop procrastinating starting tomorrow.

  9. I'm new to your blog, and I really have enjoyed reading some of your posts. I'm following along.
    I was a cradle Catholic, left, and now I'm on fire for God because He called me back home to the Church!

  10. Oh you're funny, Victor! I like your thoughts on the Deadly Sins :)
    As for prayer, I bring up the quantity versus quality in my next post. Definitely, honesty rules, though, for me, the Rosary always produces results for some reason. I'll go so far as to say that many of my spiritual battles have been conquered through the Rosary. I know not everybody is drawn to it though. I especially like to pray it before Mass and in groups. It seems to bring light to my heart and mind.
    Ugh! Procrastination is a horrible fault of mine. Maybe I'll start working on it soon...

  11. Welcome home, Rayanne :) Your blog is beautiful! Thanks for visiting and commenting here!

  12. Wonderful, thoughtful post Mary! I love Victor's explanations and his wise-cracks. A priest told me that whenever we suffer from aridity and the lack of desire to pray that we should keep doing it anyway, sort of fake it until you feel it again. The most important thing is to continue prayer no matter how you feel, and those prayers offered when your desire to pray is absent are often the ones that God appreciates the most because He understands how difficult they were for you to offer to Him.

    I look forward to your future posts on these difficult and deadly subjects! Many prayers for you Mary, as always!

  13. Mary, I have been praying for you in this and knowing you are praying for me too about this specific area has been so encouraging... I actually have had a couple of good days! Thank you thank you thank you! Praise God!

    Joining in with you.... not sure how much I'll get written about it, but I certainly look forward to your encouraging posts and will be praying for you. Thank you for your friendship :)

  14. Anne,
    Good advice! I don't think it helps if a person totally stops praying, especially someone like me who suffers from sloth! That would simply be adding fuel to the fire. It would be deadly.

    I've been praying for you too, Anne. Thank you for praying for me :)

    Victor is funny! I loved his wisecracks too!

  15. Thank you too, Kathryn! I am feeling better already! Let's continue to pray for one another about this because I think it's helping :) I found the article you linked to very helpful, you know. It's very clear to me that I've been backsliding in this area.

  16. Hi Mary! Great post! Boy, do I relate. I am like Scarlett O'Hara: "Tomorrow is another day.."

    I used to think I was humble, because I don't like the limelight and am quiet, and really don't even envy those who do shine. But then I read about a secret kind of pride which sort of hides oneself because of fear of failure. So, this type of person is careful not to show too much to others, lest they not meet with disapproval, etc. Hmm,no escaping that pride!

    I know sloth too, although Barbara made good points that we can often confuse it with stages on the spiritual journey which draw us into aridity. I think you mentioned the "key" in your post. We are making progress if we are growing in virtue.

    Really looking foward to your seven week soul "makeover." Were you inspired by your recent fall housecleaning? : )

    Hope we all show up for Christmas shining much brighter!

    Love you Mary,

  17. Fascinating post and replies...

    I also struggle with you think it has something to do with the coming of Christmas? Maybe a sort of spiritual warfare to halt what could be some very powerful prayer?

  18. Patricia,
    I have had the same problem with pride! I laughed when I read your comment because it described me all to well. I'm going to bring this hidden aspect of pride when I post on it I think.

    Hmm...maybe the housecleaning did inspire this post. Lol!


  19. Hi Colleen,
    You have a good point could be. Christmas can be a grace-filled time and no doubt we are attacked a lot during this period.

    I hope you are doing well, my friend! As mothers of children with future vocations we need to stick together ;)Lol!

  20. Vocations to the religious life I mean! Hee! Hee!

  21. Great post and I look forward to more!

  22. Thanks Colleen! I'm glad you liked it!

  23. Hi Mary:
    Good post! Lots of food for thought here. I never thought about prayer and sloth the way you wrote about. I guess we all know that it is when we are feeling like this is when we should be praying even harder. My biggest obstacle is pride. Yup. I really would like to tackle this deadly sin before Advent begins. Thanks so much!

  24. Hi Esther,
    Look on the bright side (Is there a bright side?):
    Everyone struggles with this so you are not alone! I'm already embarrassed thinking about what I might have to admit when I get to pride ;) Yuck!

    If I'm being completely honest, blogging affects my prayer life unless I am very firm with myself (which I am often not). It's a struggle sometimes.

    Thanks for commenting! The book on the Eucharist I mention in the second post is one of the ones I will be sending to you. I think you'll like it (if you haven't read it yet). God bless!