None shall be crowned who has not fought well.
------- 2 Tim. 2: 5
Taken from the
of the same title by DOM LORENZO SCUPOLI
$14.50 US $23.26 CDN
CHAPTER TWENTY: HOW TO COMBAT SLOTH
IT IS OF THE GREATEST importance to make war against sloth. This vice is not only an obstacle on our way to perfection, but it delivers us over to the enemies of our salvation. If you desire to fight this vice in earnest, begin by avoiding all curiosity and vain amusements. Withdraw your affections from worldly things and stop all pursuits that are not in harmony with your state of life.
Strive assiduously to comply with the inspirations of Heaven, to execute the orders of your superiors, to do everything at the proper time and in the proper manner. Do not hesitate a moment in the execution of a command. The first delay brings on a second, this a third, and thus we lose ground. For the dread of labor and the love of ease increase in proportion to their indulgence. Labor becomes so distasteful that a lethargic hesitancy in applying oneself to work, or even the total neglect of work, is the result.
It is difficult to shake off the habit of sloth, once it is acquired, unless shame accompanies this indolent life and rouses us to greater diligence and application. Sloth, moreover, is a poison that spreads itself through all the faculties of the soul. It not only infects the will by making work odious to it, but also the understanding by so blinding it that the resolutions of the slothful usually have no effect. What should be done without delay is either neglected or deferred to some other time.
Mere swiftness of action, however, is not enough. Things must be done at the proper time, and in the most perfect manner possible. A precipitous act, which is done with no regard for its proper execution, but only to be rid of the trouble and to enjoy peace again as soon as possible, cannot be called diligent. It is rather an artful, refined sloth.
This disorder springs from a failure to consider the great value of a good work which is done at the proper time and in a correct manner. Such an act overcomes all the obstacles which sloth places before those who enter the battle against their vices.
Reflect frequently, therefore, that a single aspiration, an ejaculation, a genuflection, the least sign of respect for the Divine Majesty, is of greater value than all the treasures of the earth. Every time a person mortifies his inclinations, the Angels present him with a crown of glory as a reward for the victory gained over himself.
On the contrary, God gradually withdraws His graces from those who neglect them, and increases the fervor of the diligent souls until, at length, He introduces them into the joys of Heaven.
You may, at first, find your strength insufficient to undergo all the difficulties and troubles that you will encounter on your road to perfection. Then you must acquire the habit of hiding them from yourself. They will appear more insignificant than the slothful are apt to imagine them to be.
When an act must be repeated many times in order to acquire some particular virtue, and this has to be continued for several days in opposition to countless powerful enemies, begin to do these acts as though a few would suffice and your trouble would soon end. Attack one enemy at a time, as though you had but one to encounter. Be confident that, with God's grace, you will master them all. In this way you will overcome your sloth and acquire the contrary virtue.
Use the same method in regard to prayer. If you are to pray for an hour, and the time seems long, begin as though you were to pray but a quarter of an hour. When that is finished, propose another quarter hour, and the hour will elapse imperceptibly.
If, however, during this period you experience a great repugnance and aversion to prayer, cease praying for a while. In a snort time return again to the prayers that you had interrupted.
This is also true in regard to manual labor. If you feel that you are overwhelmed by the amount of work before you and by the difficulties involved, do not permit indolence to discourage you.
Begin with what demands your immediate attention and do not think of the rest. Be very diligent, for when this is well done, the remainder will follow with much less trouble than you had anticipated.
This is the way to face difficulties. Never hesitate to work. There is good reason to fear lest sloth should so triumph within you that even the first step towards virtue is made impossible, and a horror of work is imprinted on your mind before you have actually experienced the least difficulty in its accomplishment. This is what happens to weak, cowardly souls. They are in continual dread of the enemy, no matter how weak and remote from them he may be. They are ever apprehensive lest more should be laid upon them than they can bear. Consequently, they have no rest even when most at ease.
Realize, then, that in this vice there is a poison which not only chokes the first seeds of virtue, but even destroys those already formed. What the worm does in wood, sloth effects in the spiritual life. It is used very successfully by the devil to draw men into snares, particularly those who seek perfection.
Guard yourself, pray, and do good. Do not defer making your wedding garment until you are called upon to go forth and meet the Heavenly Bridegroom.
Reflect every day on the fact that He Who has granted you the morning has not promised the evening, and, should He grant this, He gives no assurance of the following morning. Spend each day, therefore, as if it were the last; cherish nothing but the will of God, for you will have to render a strict account for every moment.A final observation should be made. Although you have transacted a great deal of business and have undergone many hardships, you may consider the day worthless and your labor unprofitable, unless you have gained many victories over your passions and your own will, unless you have gratefully acknowledged the benefits received from God, particularly His death on the Cross, unless you have accepted as blessings whatever chastisements the Father of infinite mercy has inflicted as an expiation for your many sins.