Antidote for sloth?

Q. Do you have any suggestions for a person who is guilty of sloth and laziness? On account of it, I am often sluggish and this keeps me from many of my responsibilities and duties to be a good and prayerful Catholic.

N.W., Baltimore, Md.

A. Here’s a reply from Msgr. Charles Pope: 

Sloth, which is one of the seven capital sins, is sorrow or aversion to the good things that God is offering us. And thus one who has sloth — and hears that God can save them from sins and enable them to do many good works — instead of being happy and eager to embrace these gifts, has a kind of sadness or aversion to them. Perhaps the thought of good works seems burdensome. So, the slothful person becomes avoidant of God and the gifts that he is offering.

While this is often manifest through a kind of a laziness or inattentiveness, sometimes the opposite is true. And thus, some slothful people immerse themselves in worldly activities such as business and career and claim they are far “too busy” to pray, to think about God, or go to church. Therefore, at its heart, sloth is a problem about desire; namely, that we do not ardently desire God and the things he is offering.

Secondly, I would counsel that while praying for greater desire, some small and initial steps be made toward God. Look for something you can reasonably do, which may not be highly desirable at first, but still can be reasonably accomplished. Before I was a priest, I worked in downtown Washington, and I made a Lenten resolution to go to daily Mass at my lunch break.

At first, this seemed difficult and irksome. But gradually, I grew to like it. And when Easter came, I just kept going to Mass almost every day to experience its peace and the nourishment of God’s Word and his body and blood. Often life works like this. We ask for deeper desire and step out on our request by small actions that build.