ACEDIA - SPRITUAL SLOTH AND HOW TO COMBAT IT
4 Tips from St. Thomas Aquinas for combating ‘acedia’.
I just don’t care anymore. Acedia. A spiritual sloth often referred to as ‘the noonday devil’. Meaning in life is lost leading to lukewarmness and even despair. It cuts us off from the focus on God. The result is a personal opposition to faith, hope, and joy. What for? Everything is absurd!
Here are four tips from St. Thomas Aquinas for combating ‘acedia’ in both its forms of evil.
1. Reorder your thoughts. Do not attach your thoughts to worldly things. Focus on God with daily prayer. Passions toward worldly things are not in and of themselves worthy of blame or praise, Aquinas notes. It is disordered passions that are the danger. Begin your day with a breath of thanks for the gift of life, family, and faith; end your day with a short examination of conscience. Be mindful and honest in simply naming the good.
2. Take care of the body. The needs of our bodies can tempt us to sin. The cure here is to give the body what it needs — no more, and no less. Dress yourself each day. Drink enough water. Get enough sleep. Get enough exercise - daily stretch, swim, walk, jog. Eat nutritious food.
3. Rejoice in God’s gifts. This is Aquinas’ strike against the sin of false humility. It is very easy for us to compare ourselves unfairly to everyone else’s holiness, material wealth or status. It is also very easy to feel sorrow over our sins and then right into contempt for ourselves and our lives because of it. This is a false humility. Do not let this false humility turn you from the great spiritual fruit that is present in your own life.
4. Be steadfast in your resistance. Aquinas teaches that some sins are overcome by avoidance, but others like acedia can only be overcome by a spiritual perseverance. The more you practice resistance to sin and contemplate spiritual goods, the stronger your will becomes and the more pleasing those goods seem to you. The words of Philippians 4:8 are helpful here: “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”
Even amid the storms and turmoil of our earthly life, even when we are physically separated from Christ and his Church, contemplation of what is good and holy can be a powerful weapon against the spiritual sloth of acedia. So, how can you turn your face firmly back toward the good?
To defeat acedia, one must live in the moment, mindful, attentive and focused. It furthers our efforts to encounter the Lord in our everyday lives. It enhances our communication with both God and our environment and we can respond with alertness. By then calling to mind the presence of God, we can then surrender it to him and ‘pray, hope and don’t worry’ as in the words of Saint Padre Pio.
Source and Recommended Reading
Kreeft, Peter. Editor. Summa of the Summa: The Essential Philosophical Passages of St. Thomas Aquinas’ Summa Theologica. Ignatius Press.