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SLOTH





NOT the least, if the last, of capital sins is sloth, and it is very
properly placed; for who ever saw the sluggard or victim of this
passion anywhere but after all others, last!

Sloth, of course, is a horror of difficulty, an aversion for labor,
pain and effort, which must be traced to a great love of one's comfort
and ease. Either the lazy fellow does nothing at all--and this is
sloth; or he abstains from doing what he should do while otherwise
busily occupied--and this too, is sloth; or he does it poorly,
negligently, half-heartedly--and this again is sloth. Nature imposes
upon us the law of labor. He who shirks in whole or in part is
slothful.

Here, in the moral realm, we refer properly to the difficulty we find
in the service of God, in fulfiling our obligations as Christians and
Catholics, in avoiding evil and doing good; in a word, to the discharge
of our spiritual duties. But then all human obligations have a
spiritual side, by the fact of their being obligations. Thus, labor is
not, like attendance at mass, a spiritual necessity; but to provide for
those who are dependent upon us is a moral obligation and to shirk it
would be a sin of sloth.

Not that it is necessary, if we would avoid sin, to hate repose
naturally and experience no difficulty or repugnance in working out our
soul's salvation. Sloth is inbred in our nature. There is no one but
would rather avoid than meet difficulties. The service of God is
laborious and painful. The kingdom of God suffers violence. It has
always been true since the time of our ancestor Adam, that vice is
easy, and virtue difficult; that the flesh is weak, and repugnance to
effort, natural because of the burden of the flesh. So that, in this
general case, sloth is an obstacle to overcome rather than a fault of
the will. We may abhor exertion, feel the laziest of mortals; if we
effect our purpose in spite of all that, we can do no sin.

Sometimes sloth takes on an acute form known as aridity or barrenness
in all things that pertain to God. The most virtuous souls are not
always exempt from this. It is a dislike, a distaste that amounts
almost to a disgust for prayer especially, a repugnance that threatens
to overwhelm the soul. That is simply an absence of sensible fervor, a
state of affliction and probation that is as pleasing to God as it is
painful to us. After all where would the merit be in the service of
God, if there were no difficulty?

The type of the spiritually indolent is that fixture known as the
half-baked Catholic--some people call him "a poor stick"--who is too
lazy to meet his obligations with his Maker. He says no prayers,
because he can't; he lies abed Sunday mornings and lets the others go
to mass--he is too tired and needs rest; the effort necessary to prepare
for and to go to confession is quite beyond him. In fine, religion is
altogether too exacting, requires too much of a man.

And, as if to remove all doubt as to the purely spiritual character of
this inactivity, our friend can be seen, without a complaint,
struggling every day to earn the dollar. He will not grumble about
rising at five to go fishing or cycling. He will, after his hard day's
work, sit till twelve at the theatre or dance till two in the morning.
He will spend his energy in any direction save in that which leads to
God.

Others expect virtue to be as easy as it is beautiful. Religion should
conduce to one's comfort. They like incense, but not the smell of
brimstone. They would remain forever content on Tabor, but the dark
frown of Calvary is insupportable. Beautiful churches, artistic music,
eloquent preaching on interesting topics, that is their idea of
religion; that is what they intend religion--their religion--shall be,
and they proceed to cut out whatever jars their finer feelings. This is
fashionable, but it is not Christian: to do anything for God--if it is
easy; and if it is hard,--well, God does not expect so much of us.

You will see at a glance that this sort of a thing is fatal to the
sense of God in the soul; it has for its first, direct and immediate
effect to weaken little by little the faith until it finally kills it
altogether. Sloth is a microbe. It creeps into the soul, sucks in its
substance and causes a spiritual consumption. This is neither an acute
nor a violent malady, but it consumes the patient, dries him up, wears
him out, till life goes out like a lamp without oil.





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