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The Pope Speaks on ACEDIA

(TAKEN FROM THE HOLY FATHER’S CATECHESIS ON VICES AND VIRTUES AT THE WEDNESDAY GENERAL AUDIENCE, STARTING IN DECEMBER, 2023.)

In our reflections on the vices and virtues, we now consider acedia or sloth, which, although associated in English with laziness, is above all a deep spiritual apathy, manifested by discontent and aversion to attentive prayer and growth in our relationship with God. In reality, laziness is more an effect than a cause. When people are idle, indolent, apathetic, we say they are lazy. But as the wisdom of the ancient Desert Fathers teaches us, the root of this laziness is often acedia, which literally means “lack of care”, in Greek.

It is a very dangerous temptation, which one must not joke about. It is as though those who fall victim to it are crushed by a desire for death: they feel disgust at everything. Their relationship with God becomes boring to them, and even the holiest acts, those that used to warm their hearts in the past, now appear entirely useless to them.

According to the monastic tradition, this “noonday devil” is best overcome by the patience of faith. This includes accepting the poverty or dark night of faith, which then enables us, by God’s grace, to sense the divine presence and to continue to reach out to God. The saints themselves show us that perseverance in time of temptation leads us to set practical goals, however small, for our daily life and moves us to lean on Jesus, who always remains with us.

Faith, tormented by the test of acedia, does not lose its value. On the contrary, it is the true faith, the very human faith, which despite everything, despite the darkness that blinds it, still humbly believes. It is that faith that remains in the heart, like embers beneath the ashes. It always remains. And if one of us falls prey to this vice, or to the temptation of acedia, try to look within and fan the embers of faith; that is how we keep going.