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I discovered an article on acedia recently and I was intrigued by the concept – the more I read, the more I recognised the reality of this ancient wisdom, recorded by fourth century monk Evagrius the Solitary.
Acedia is described as listlessness, torpor or not caring about things. It is not depression; it is more subtle and has spiritual overtones – I would say it is most profoundly a spiritual phenomenon.
Looking into it, I clearly identified aspects of it in myself today! It appears to be the most ‘underdiagnosed’ and unacknowledged spiritual illness of this age.
I found that Pope Francis also came across it. Commenting in the context of healing the paralytic by the pool, he said the ‘first illness’ is the one afflicting the paralysed man. He had ‘resigned himself to it,’ the Pope said, ‘perhaps saying to himself: “Life is unfair, others are more fortunate than I am”. There is a plaintive tone in this way of speaking … there is resignation but there is also bitterness.’
He added that it is an attitude reminiscent of ‘many [Christians] who lack enthusiasm and who are bitter’, who repeatedly say to themselves: ‘I go to [church] every Sunday but it is better not to become involved! I believe for my own sake, but I don’t feel the need to give it to others: each one peacefully at his own home.’
These people, the Pope added, also take the attitude that ‘if you do something well in life, they’ll reprove you: so, it’s better not to take the risk’.
Good Friday, Easter Sunday – excellent days to take the risk and resolve to do something well in life, to set sensible goals to be better than I am now. But really, any day is a good day to do that.
Father Tony Wood, St Kieran’s RC Church.