Our Lady’s birthday was observed this past week with fitting liturgical ceremonial here while I was in far away Ohio offering Mass for a bus load or two of pilgrims visiting a Marian Shrine. In the Archdiocese of Detroit our parish is the equivalent of a local Marian shrine, having a long history of Marian devotion, especially at our outdoor Grotto.
My thoughts today turn to the consideration of a topic I treated once before, but with a slightly different twist. I had written then about acedia, a spiritual malignancy that afflicts many people who have a spiritual bent alright, but who lack the motivation to carry-through on any lasting course of spiritual resolve.
The condition I write about today is the want of spiritual get-up-and-go, and indifference to things of faith, not in theory or doctrinal acquiescence, but in carry-through in effective action. It’s a listlessness which can’t get one going to be zealous in religious observances. For those thus afflicted, everything suffers: the moral life (commandments are not kept), prayer (just can’t get motivated to do it), spiritual reading and engagement of spiritual conversation, retreat making, holy hours with the Blessed Sacrament, the daily rosary, Mass attentiveness…the list could be extended. I want to say from outset that this is a condition that results from sensuality. The readiness to jump in eagerly to sensual delights – eating, drinking, socializing, recreational activities, movies, music, sports, etc., let along outright sinful and reverse pleasures – these things paralyze the spiritual faculties, rendering them incapable of deriving satisfaction of a non-sensual kind of religious things. One does not get into such a state of lethargy innocently. Rather it’s the product of sensual indulgence. As such, it is utterly distinct from that form of aridity experienced by those who have achieved a certain level of spiritual proficiency, the so-called “dark night.” No, this is a much more basic level of torpidity which turns away from religious activities because they don’t give the ‘buzz’ of excitement that sensual things do – I might add: “of necessity!”
As a result of this unfortunate state, sufferers of this malady get into moral ruts and never make spiritual progress. The devil keeps them firmly held in a position where their half-hearted attempts of freedom from this misery become impossible. Such a one, held in deadlock, becomes sad, depressed, grumpy and ashamed of himself… until something sensually exciting comes along to distract him from feeling the sting of his spiritual wretchedness. The pleasure having passed, the cycle repeats, over and over again. The end of the line for such a person is despair and final impenitence – the assured prelude to hell.
If what I have written about here applies to you, it’s not because I have been spying on you particularly. This affliction is rampant, in varying degrees, for people of this time in western countries. We have lost our “early love” (as the Book of Revelation calls our love and loyalty for Christ) and are left to our own devices, living joylessly apart from God who is the final end of the spiritual life.
We have come to expect in our day easy fixes for our pains: a tablet, a therapy, a quick exit from spiritual tensions and physical pains. For this disorder, however, I know of only one effective remedy. It will shock you. Violence to oneself. (How utterly impolitic and incorrect!) Christianity’s strength has always been its asceticism, it’s strictness, the austerity which is part and parcel of the Gospel of Christ. Our Lord said quite plainly that we must hate ourselves. This is a recognition that the most formidable enemy we have to eternal life is dear Self. I know of no other way to subdue the intemperate demands of self-love than the aforementioned ‘violence’ to oneself. I know this must sound to modern ears schooled in the tenets of modern psychology which justifies all self-indulgence, as an exhortation to masochism. But that’s because we’ve grown overly much fond of self-esteem and entirely intolerant and indignant of anything smacking of self-discipline and self-restraint. Read the lives of the saints and search-in vain-for any one of them who has not inflicted on himself this said violence against himself. Such a saint has never existed.
Wonder no longer about backsliding, inertia, repeated sins, and unhappiness. Unless the cause be manifestly otherwise (and there surely are other reasons possible for emotional disorders) you are the likely victim of your own doing. How supremely ironic it is that to be happy one must practice penances. Our Lord’s manner of speaking the same: “he who loves his life will lose it, whereas he who hates his life in this world preserves it for life eternal.”
Categories: Fr. Perrone