How to Fight the Noonday Devil

How to Fight the Noonday Devil

Guest post by Matt Chicoine

Words matter. This is especially true in our Catholic faith. God is love and He is also Mysterious. He revealed various truths over the course of time. Our understanding of these truths has developed over the centuries. From Jesus' revelation of being the Son and sending of the Paraclete to the realization of God as being Triune (as articulated in the Council of Nicene), precision of words and the meaning they hold is important. While we often think of theological precision in terms of the Incarnation or describing the sacraments, it is also essential to be precise in how we describe our enemies: Satan and all his servants, the evil spirits who prowl about the world seeking the ruin of souls.

I recently learned about one of the seven deadly sins in more precision. I previously understood it only understand the name of "Sloth". This isn't an accurate description as this vice is not limited to laziness. This article will examine the deadly sin of acedia, how to identify it, and ways to combat it in your life.

What is acedia?

According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church paragraph 2094, "acedia or spiritual sloth goes so far as to refuse the joy that comes from God and to be repelled by divine goodness." It is one of the primary ways to sin against the love of God. It goes way beyond mere laziness. It strikes at the heart of divine charity.

Pope Francis referred to this capital sin as, "a very dangerous temptation that one should not mess around with," because it makes a person "feel disgust at everything; their relationship with God becomes boring to them; and even the holiest acts, those that in the past warmed their hearts, now appear entirely useless to them."

A few signs of the Noonday Devil in your life.

The spiritual life is a war and like in physical war, strategy is key in determining the outcome. I know that when I am struggling with vices or am in a certain spiritual battle in life it helps when I pause to reflect on what is going on at a deeper level in my heart. Knowing the warning signs for whether you are plagued by acedia is instrumental in helping you fight the Noonday Devil.

The National Catholic Register published an excellent article: Do You Have Any of These 3 Signs of Acedia? The article is straightforward in detailing the signs of spiritual sloth. Here's a few symptoms of acedia:

  • Loss of joy

  • Lukewarmness of Comfort

  • Indifference to Missionary Efforts

Spiritual weapons to fend off this sin: sacraments and persistence in prayer

When you are amid your battle with acedia you find little comfort in God's love. You can't sense the joy. It is easy to fall further into despair, if you don't treat this sin. The good news is for every vice there is an opposite virtue/spiritual weapon to combat it. Father Dom Jean-Charles Nault author of The Noonday Devil: Acedia, the Unnamed Evil of Our Times provides the remedy: joyful perseverance. How precisely this is done boils down to uniting ourselves to Christ in the sacramental life and staying in constant communication with God through prayer.

I'm reminded of this phrase often attributed to Saint Ignatius of Loyola: "Pray as if everything depended on God and work as if everything depended on you." Continue. Even when you don't feel like praying or working OR both.

By frequenting the sacraments, especially Confession and the Eucharist, you are nourished and strengthened for the journey. At Baptism you are cleansed of Original Sin and adopted as a child of God. This is an identity you can never erase.

When you receive the sacrament of Confirmation you are sealed with the gifts of the Holy Spirit. If you are married or ordained a deacon or priest through Holy Orders you receive additional graces to help you in the journey and throughout your daily life.

Jesus knew how trying this life is. He took on our nature and died a horrific death. The sacraments remind us, and are channels by which we receive, of God's love. Staying connected to God through the sacraments is a powerful way to battle acedia.

Along with receiving God's grace in a formal way through the sacraments it is important to stay in frequent friendship with Him. This is achieved through prayer. Prayer is a two-way communication between yourself and God. God is always going to be there to listen. Sometimes it takes a while for Him to reply, and this is where persistence is important.

Sit down before the Lord in Eucharistic Adoration even when you don’t feel like it. Since I adjusted my work schedule away from overnight shifts, I have made it a point to carve out time in my week to visit Jesus: Thursday afternoons. Between 10 to 30 minutes is my goal. It doesn’t have to be a big-time commitment but the continual showing up at a constant rate is what’s important.

The Devil seeks to distract us and get us off routine. He plants into our head the sin of acedia which cuts at the gratitude and joy we experience from God’s love. Regular prayer life is a shield to ward off the devil and his demon of acedia.

Let's rediscover this ancient demon to better fight it.

The examination of conscience is a powerful form of prayer that prepares you for the Sacrament of Confession, but it’s not limited to sacramental settings. While there’s many versions, I have found the one from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops to be particularly helpful for me. Feel free to use this guide the before you go to confession. Listing and naming your enemy/sins is the first step towards accurately fighting it. Bring up the topic of acedia to your parish priest and ask him to include it in a homily. Read Father Nault’s book to get a more comprehensive strategy to battle the Noonday Devil. And finally, ask the Holy Spirit for the gifts of joy and persistence.

~ Matt Chicoine


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