|Jean-Baptiste Oudry : The Wolf and the Lamb|
Here's a theory I'd like to put forth:
What if the reason so few people attend Mass (or services if you are not Catholic) is because they aren't aware that certain of the Seven Deadly Sins produce a spiritual repulsion (or apathy, a sense of boredom, sleepiness, etc...) at the idea of attending Mass?
I'm not simply suggesting this from the top of my head. There is good reason to believe that this just may be the case. The same goes for reading the Bible.
When I research the Seven Deadly Sins I often come across interesting information that sheds light on how these sins work to deter us from seeking a closer relationship with God. Not only do they deter us, they try to repel us, to repulse us to the point where people "feel" better if they don't go to church. They feel relief if they avoid God. Unfortunately, this feeling doesn't last too long once the deadly sin sinks its roots in.
Did you know that sloth, in Catholic tradition, is considered "the sin against the sabbath"? (St Thomas' Summa Theologica, see Pt II-II - you can find the Summa here.) The reason for this is that one of sloth's first modes of attack is an attempt to "cull the individual sheep from its flock" because if it manages to do this, it knows its chances are greater for inflicting a deadly wound on both the "sheep" and the "little lambs" that follow it.
Yes, sloth attacks families in this manner. A reader commented on my post The Seven Deadly Sins in the Moral Decline of America and I asked her if I could share it. It gives folks a mini "snapshot" of the effects of sloth's "culling skills":
"I certainly never saw sloth from so many angles. And yet, when I look back on my life, my childhood, I see how sloth has marked the family I came from, and how it slowly had God replaced, and ultimately killed the joy of the Lord. I knew it was the work of the devil; just didn't know the name it went by: sloth. I'm glad you posted on it. It is insidious and it creeps up on you. It's certainly something we must watch out for."
I couldn't help but think of how her words encapsulated sloth's manner of operating.
First sloth "marks" a family. It usually does this by attacking one of the parents first. Sloth will offer a temptation such as: "The kids have soccer practice, then a game - we won't have time to attend Mass." Or, "I have to work on a big project for work - I'll just drop the kids off at Mass and pick them up after."
Its next step (in this example) might be to continue offering reasons why "surely it is okay if we don't go to Mass this week with everything else we have on our plate". Eventually, this becomes a pattern and sloth has managed to sink its claws into the fabric of this family. The kids also begin to believe that skipping Mass is just fine because they are following the example of their parents.
Unfortunately, sloth doesn't stop there. What began as an offering of a perceived good (soccer practice and a game in this case) that took precedence over going to Mass, begins to turn into something more. Sloth begins to insert itself into the heart of the family itself. Sacraments fall to the wayside, prayer becomes a burden, Scripture is boring, and on and on the list goes.
"Besides, we can worship God outside of church too, can't we? You know, the world is his altar."
Sloth then begins to suggest that maybe, just maybe, God is not so good. A numbness for the things of God begins to replace the love that was there. Then a mild repulsion sets in.
Soon sloth has succeeded in culling an entire family from the flock of Christ. The family begins to lose its joy and awe, which are the byproduct of a close and loving relationship with the Lord.
Sloth has also left an entry point in which to insert a deeper poison.
And that poison would be "despair".