The Simple Catholic Snapshots:
- Sloth is Lethargy in Regard to Spiritual Growth
- Modern Symptoms of Sloth include Secularism and Relativism
- The Antidote to Sloth is Zeal (Enthusiasm)
- If you Discover God’s Intended Purpose for Your Life, Enthusiastic Spiritual Growth will Naturally Follow
- The 7 Corporal and 7 Spiritual Works of Mercy can help Guide Your Discovery
- Pray; Ask for Help Discerning Your Mission!
The Simple Catholic Truth:
The alarm goes off 45 minutes before the sun arrives. What’s the first thing you do? Of course, you hit the snooze button. That’s what it’s there for right? That’s what we all do!
The big race is three weeks away and you know that a few more sprint intervals will add speed and subtract a few precious seconds. But what do we do? Sometimes we sprint but other times we focus on the burning legs or searing lungs and call it a day. Maybe we convince ourselves that we’re already fast enough. We aren’t lazy by any stretch. No, not many people are out here racing the sunrise, but somehow we get distracted.
Have you ever had a spiritual squirrel moment like Dug the talking dog?
Have you ever been distracted in your spiritual life? Maybe during Mass, or during morning prayers when you catch your mind drifting away? Happens to me all the time. Squirrel!
But I’m not talking about those normal lapses in attention like Dug the talking dog, I’m talking about Sloth, that deliberate willful lack of dedication to the growth of our spiritual lives. It’s like hitting the spiritual snooze button to sleep in, or deciding not to work out anymore. It might be called spiritual boredom, or lethargy, but whatever the label it is a sin and it is deadly. In the modern world we know Sloth by the names of secularism and relativism but the outcome is the same.
So how do we counter this slow walk to indifference? In simple terms, we must rediscover the enthusiasm of our faith. I think many people today have lost sight of the how they fit into the big picture of God’s plan. Caught up in the go-go hassle of daily life, it’s so easy to lose sight of the fact that all the days of creation point to you and me. God created us with a specific role in the world and if we can discover His plan for us then life will be filled with unbelievable zeal. Armed with the knowledge of God’s plan for me, Sloth is unthinkable.
Take a look at the Gospel of Luke 1: 39-45 for example. After Mary is visited by the Angel Gabriel she travels ‘in haste’ to visit her relative Elizabeth. I’ve read that Gospel countess times but never paused to ask why Mary was in such a hurry. As I think about these verses now, I see that during the Annunciation, Mary’s role as the mother of our Lord was revealed. As a devout Jew, I’m sure Mary was aware of the prophecies of the Messiah coming from Nazareth, but only at the Annunciation did her specific role in God’s plan come into perfect focus. In that moment, she knew her position as part of the body of Christ (pardon the pun) and in haste she set off to fulfill it.
Since most of us don’t have the benefit of a personal visit by an Angel, Scripture and Church teaching provide us valuable tools to help discover our own unique role. They are called the Spiritual and Corporal Works of Mercy. I have included a more detailed description of the 7 Spiritual and 7 Corporal Works of Mercy at the end of this post, but for now here is a simple list.
Spiritual Works of Mercy
- Pray for the living and the dead
- Instruct the Ignorant
- Counsel the Doubtful
- Admonish Sinners
- Bear Patiently the Troublesome
- Comfort the Afflicted
- Forgive Offenses
Corporal Works of Mercy:
- Feed the Hungry
- Give Drink to the Thirsty
- Shelter the Homeless
- Visit the Imprisoned
- Care for the Sick
- Clothe the Naked
- Bury the Dead
Take a moment, pray and reflect on these items. Almost like an examination of conscience, see if and where these works are part of your life. Notice that each of these items involve a relationship with another member of the Body of Christ in a manner of giving sacrifice, just like our Lord on the Cross. This list offers us an opportunity to discover our purpose, to imitate Christ and once again become a new creation in His image.
Let’s be honest, it’s tough to face a list like this because the items seem so demanding and impossible, but have no fear. We don’t need to do it all. Actually, individually we are equipped to do very little. But we all have our part and have been given all the gifts we need to get started. When you find your place in creation and discover that person God is calling you to be, then your life will have immeasurable energy and happiness.
Sloth doesn’t even stand a chance when you know your divine purpose.
Finally, remember that discovery of our direction in life is not determined solely by human thought or reason. It is God’s plan for us and only thru His divine revelation will this truth be known. Therefore, in humble prayer, we should petition God for a glimpse into His plan. Every morning simply ask ‘Reveal to me your intentions; show me my place; show me where you want me to go.’
When you discover your mission, you won’t be able to contain the enthusiasm. You’ll get up every morning without hitting the snooze button, you’ll be up before the sunrise setting out ‘in haste’ to love and serve the Lord.
The following provided by the
U. S. Conference of Catholic Bishops at: USCCB
The Spiritual Works of Mercy
The Spiritual Works of Mercy have long been a part of the Christian tradition, appearing in the works of theologians and spiritual writers throughout history. Just as Jesus attended to the spiritual well-being of those he ministered to, these Spiritual Works of Mercy guide us to “help our neighbor in their spiritual needs” (USCCA).
The seven Spiritual Works of Mercy are listed below. After each work of mercy there are also suggestions and words of advice for living them out in our daily lives. Have your own suggestions? Let us know @USCCB using the hashtag #mercyinmotion!
COUNSELING THE DOUBTFUL
Everyone has moments of doubt in their faith journey. Nevertheless, we should always remember that Christ is the Way, the Truth, and the Life and turn to him along our way.
- Listen to counsel and receive instruction, that you may eventually become wise” (Prov 19:20)
- The Cross of Christ “the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength” (1 Cor 1:25)
- Has someone asked you for advice? Orient your response to Christ, who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life
- Follow Christ with the witness of your life so that others may see God’s love revealed in your actions
- Accompany a friend who is struggling with believing to join a parish group for service or faith formation, share a book you found useful in dealing with your friend’s faith concern, and worship at Sunday Mass
INSTRUCTING THE IGNORANT
Learn about our faith and be open to talking with others about our beliefs. There is always something more to discover about our faith.
- Go on a service trip or short term mission trip. No time? Donate to support someone on their service trip
- Volunteer to help with religious education programs at your parish
- Invite someone to go to mass with you this weekend
- Know your faith! Read through the USCCA to find out more about the Catholic faith and how to live it
ADMONISHING THE SINNER
Do not judge, but be supportive in helping others find their way and correct their mistakes. Together we can learn to walk more closely with Christ.
- In humility we must strive to create a culture that does not accept sin, while realizing that we all fall at times
- Don’t judge, but guide others towards the path of salvation (see Mt 7:1-2)
- When you correct someone, don’t be arrogant. We are all in need of God’s loving correction.
- We should journey together to a deeper understanding of our shared faith
- “Remove the wooden beam from your eye first; then you will see clearly to remove the splinter from your brother’s eye” (Mt 7:5)
COMFORTING THE SORROWFUL
Be open to listening and comforting those who are dealing with grief. Even if we aren’t sure of the right words to say, our presence can make a big difference.
- Lend a listening ear to those going through a tough time
- Make a home cooked meal for a friend who is facing a difficult time
- Write a letter or send a card to someone who is suffering
- A few moments of your day may make a lifetime of difference to someone who is going through a difficult time
Forgiving others is difficult at times because we do not have God’s limitless mercy and compassion. But Jesus teaches us that we should forgive as God forgives, relying on him to help us show others the mercy of God
- Let go of grudges
- Saying sorry is something we learn as kids, but how often do we really mean it? Forgiveness transforms hearts and lives
- Participate in the Sacrament of Penance
- Pray the Divine Mercy Chaplet
BEARING WRONGS PATIENTLY
Do not be bitter about wrongs done against you. Place your hope in God so that you can endure the troubles of this world and face them with a compassionate spirit.
- Frustrated with someone? Step away from the situation, take a few deep breaths, pray the Our Father, asking God for patience
PRAYING FOR THE LIVING AND THE DEAD
Prayer is one of the most powerful ways we can support others. Joining together in prayer for the living and the dead entrusts us all into God’s care.
- Request a mass intention for a friend or family member who is going through a tough time
- Request a mass intention for a friend or family member who has passed away
- Keep your own book of prayer intentions, writing down the names of those who you are keeping in your prayers
- Ask a friend or family member if there is anything you can pray for them about
- Through prayer, entrust your cares and concerns for those around you to God
The Corporal Works of Mercy
The Corporal Works of Mercy are found in the teachings of Jesus and give us a model for how we should treat all others, as if they were Christ in disguise. They “are charitable actions by which we help our neighbors in their bodily needs” (USCCA). They respond to the basic needs of humanity as we journey together through this life.
The seven Corporal Works of Mercy are listed below. After each work of mercy there are also suggestions and words of advice for living them out in our daily lives. Have your own suggestions? Let us know @USCCB and use the hashtag #mercyinmotion.
FEED THE HUNGRY
There are many people in this world who go without food. When so much of our food goes to waste, consider how good stewardship practices of your own food habits can benefit others who do not have those same resources.
- Having delicious food at Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner? Donate to a Thanksgiving or Christmas food drive so everyone can have something to eat.
- Research, identify and contribute financially to organizations that serve the hungry.
- The next time you make a recipe that can be easily frozen, make a double batch and donate one to your local food pantry or soup kitchen.
- Try not to purchase more food than you are able to eat. If you notice that you end up throwing groceries away each week, purchasing less groceries would eliminate waste and allow you to donate the savings to those in need.
GIVE DRINK TO THE THIRSTY
Many of our brothers and sisters in Christ do not have access to clean water and suffer from the lack of this basic necessity. We should support the efforts of those working towards greater accessibility of this essential resource.
- We take it for granted that we have access to clean water. Donate. . . to help build wells for water for those in need
- Organize a group of children involved on a sports team (e.g. soccer) or a summer camp. Invite them to collect bottled water to distribute at a shelter for families. If parents can be involved, ask them to accompany their children in delivering the water to the families.
- Do the same for youth and young adult groups.
- Make an effort not to waste water. Remembering to turn off the water faucet when you are brushing your teeth or washing dishes can help, especially in regions suffering from drought.
SHELTER THE HOMELESS
There are many circumstances that could lead to someone becoming a person without a home. Christ encourages us to go out and meet those without homes, affirming their worth and helping them seek a resolution to the challenges they face.
- See if your parish or diocese is involved with a local homeless shelter and volunteer some time.
- Donate time or money to organizations that build homes for those who need shelter.
- Many homeless shelters need warm blankets for their beds. If you can knit or sew that would be an extra loving gift.
- There are millions of children and families who are on the move, fleeing from war, illness, hunger and impossible living conditions, and searching for peace and safety. Engage parish groups of children, youth, young adults, and families in doing some research on the causes and challenges that these families face to survive. Contact Catholic Social Services, or diocesan offices of peace and justice for help with your research. Seek ways to provide shelter for the homeless locally, regionally, nationally or internationally.
VISIT THE SICK
Those who are sick are often forgotten or avoided. In spite of their illness, these individuals still have much to offer to those who take the time to visit and comfort them.
- Give blood
- Spend time volunteering at a nursing home – Get creative and make use of your talents (e.g. sing, read, paint, call Bingo, etc.)!
- Take time on a Saturday to stop and visit with an elderly neighbor.
- Offer to assist caregivers of chronically sick family members on a one-time or periodic basis. Give caregivers time off from their caregiving responsibilities so they can rest, complete personal chores, or enjoy a relaxing break.
- Next time you make a meal that can be easily frozen, make a double batch and give it to a family in your parish who has a sick loved one.
VISIT THE PRISONERS
People in prison are still people, made in the image and likeness of God. No matter what someone has done, they deserve the opportunity to hear the Word of God and find the Truth of the message of Christ.
- See if your parish, or a nearby parish, has a prison ministry and if so, get involved.
- Volunteer to help out or donate to charities that give Christmas presents to children whose parents are in prison.
BURY THE DEAD
Funerals give us the opportunity to grieve and show others support during difficult times. Through our prayers and actions during these times we show our respect for life, which is always a gift from God, and comfort to those who mourn.
- Send a card to someone who has recently lost a loved one. Make your own card and use some of these prayers.
- Visit the cemetery and pray for those you have lost.
- Spend time planning your own funeral mass, read through the Order of Christian Funerals and find our hope in the Resurrection.
GIVE ALMS TO THE POOR
Donate money to organizations that have the ability to provide support and services for those in need. Do research and find organizations that put people in need first, rather than profit.
- Skip the morning latte and put that money in the collection basket at church.
- Find a charity that is meaningful to you and volunteer your time or donate.
- This Lent, give up eating out at restaurants. Pack you meals and donate the extra money to charities.
- Participate in Operation Rice Bowl. . .