Sunday, October 18, 2015

A Portrait of Sloth - Pt 1

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".


  1. You make very good points here, Mary. Thank you.

    I believe that many people (so-called believers) do not attend Mass or regular services any more because they do not see it as important as a factor in their lives. Many Catholics don't belive, or even understand, the Real Presence in the Host at Communion. So attending Mass becomes just a routine which one gets into; or can easily come out of if there's something more important like football, work or whatever.

    Somehow, many Christians have lost their way, and the devil helps them in this with his tempting road map.

    As for non-believers? Why should the devil bother to tempt them?

    God bless.

  2. Very true, Victor - a lot of Catholics don't believe (or weren't taught) about the Eucharist. This is why it's very important that Catholics know their faith. We can't share the beauty of the Mass if we don't know what the Mass is and Who it is we receive in Communion.

    The vices were spoken about often by the Early Church Fathers - I have a number of these books on my Kindle and I am amazed at how often they spoke about the vices and the virtues. No wonder the vices thrive today with so few practicing the virtues or even understanding what they are in the first place. I wish I had known about them when I was young.

    Thanks for your comment!

  3. We should have our pastors preach about "the sin against the Sabbath" much more often. Of course, those present aren't necessarily the ones who need to hear it, but no doubt they have family members who do need to hear it. If nothing else, the priest can and should spur his flock to pray for everyone not present who should be present. Then we can be assured that God, in His mysterious ways, will answer us, even if we never see that answer.

  4. I am just bowled over by this, Mary. Thank you.

  5. Hi Barb,
    Our pastor does speak about this occasionally - more often lately it seems. I'm sure it's hard for them because they often feel they cannot be blunt about the issue because people get offended. I agree we should all pray about it. I'm sure people prayed for me when I was away from the Church years ago. And it So, I have hope that people will come home!

  6. Hi Nancy,
    Thank you for commenting. I just wish I could have seen this more clearly when I was young. I had no idea how the deadly sins worked and how virtues opposed them. I guess this is why I feel pulled to write about both. When we understand how the enemy works it's easier to protect ourselves from them.

  7. Mary, it was indeed shocking to me to read that sloth is the sin against the Sabbath. To me, the Sabbath is not only Mass, it is everything of God. If sloth is the sin against the Sabbath, then it dries up and kills God in us - whether it is love of our neighbor, mass attendance, Bible reading, caring for the family, sacrificing for others, reaching out to the poor....and when that is done, all that remains is the will of the Self, operating entirely without God?

    It's a scary thought, Mary. Bless you for writing this.

  8. Caitlynne Grace,
    Wow! Great comment! Once again you have given us a "snapshot" of the workings of sloth in our lives and how sloth slowly drains of that which is good and holy in our lives. Along with the other deadly sins - for they rarely work on their own. I guess you could say they open the door for others. I hope to write a post on this "intertwining" of the deadly sins.

  9. And I will wait for the post(s), Mary, because reading them makes me more aware of my present sins, never mind my mad past!