Monday, February 1, 2010


“This holy man (Francis of Assisi) insisted that spiritual joy was an infallible remedy against a thousand snares and tricks of the enemy. He used to say: ‘The devil is most delighted when he can steal the joy of spirit from a servant of God. He carries dust which he tries to throw into the tiniest openings of the conscience, to dirty a clear mind and a clean life. But if spiritual joy fills the heart; the serpent casts its poison in vain. The devils cannot harm a servant of Christ when they see him filled with holy cheerfulness. But when the spirit is teary-eyed, feeling abandoned and sad, it will easily be swallowed up in sorrow, or else be carried away toward empty enjoyment.’ The saint therefore always strove to keep a joyful heart, to preserve the anointing of the spirit and the oil of gladness.

He avoided very carefully the dangerous disease of acedia, so that when he felt even a little of it slipping into his heart, he quickly rushed to prayer. For he used to say: ‘When a servant of God gets disturbed about something, as often happens, he must get up at once to pray and remain before the most High Father until he gives back to him the joy of his salvation. But if he delays, staying in sadness, that Babylonian sickness will grow and, unless scrubbed with tears, it will produce in the heart permanent
rust.’” (Chap. LXXXVIII, The Remembrance of the Desire of a Soul by Thomas of Celano)

When I read the above, it was as if it had been addressed to me. Sometimes the trials, stresses, and tribulations of life can get to be too much. One can find prayer dry and unfulfilling. A person can lose focus; find it difficult to read, to write, to blog. I saw myself definitely suffering the symptoms of Acedia.

I found a definition of Acedia as “a type of spiritual discouragement that saddens the soul, it causes a loss of interest in the spiritual life,” (P.329, Francis of Assisi, The Founder). Think of it as spiritual depression. Early Christian spiritual fathers and mothers knew about, wrote about, and how to fight it. Spiritual author Kathleen Norris wrote a book on Acedia, and how it affected her. (I will have to read that one.)

In dealing with Acedia, I think religious have an advantage over lay people, in that, they can fall back on the community’s discipline of prayer and work. This structure gives them the chance to reconnect with God. For us laity, this is harder, because it can be so easy to give up a practice of prayer, of spiritual reading; of closing one’s heart; and at least superficially, feel no lost. It is now that I should listen to the words of Francis, turn to prayer, open myself to the Father, ask for His help, for His light; and trust that He will be there for me.

1 comment:

  1. JJ - Thank you so much for opening your heart to us. Such trust! Whew, you most certainly touched on a subject that at times affects us all and at times we don't even realize. That's the key, to realize what's going on, why, and to 'advance and attack' on the problem. I've felt the affects of acedia many times and only in hindsight, in finding out what it is have I been able to counter the snares of the devil. I'll read this post a couple of times to let it sink in. Thanks again.