Work, Sloth, and Leisure

Woman of Leisure, an article recently posted at, reminded me of a book that I like, as well as Fr John’s comments on the importance of “keeping the feast”:

Then, years later — after Lasch’s death and Fox-Genovese’s conversion to the Catholic Faith — I read a book that had long been on my must-do list: Josef Pieper’s Leisure: The Basis of Culture. There I was stunned to learn that, according to St. Thomas Aquinas, sloth was “the sin against the Sabbath,” because it was a violation of the spirit of rest and celebration that the Sabbath is meant to foster. Sloth, as I should have understood from my training in medieval literature long before, is not physical inactivity but spiritual torpor, sluggishness of soul, an inability to take joy in those things that should bring us joy. As such it is not only compatible with what Pieper called a culture of “total work”; It is that culture’s most characteristic vice.

It is also not surprising that the same viruses that infect the culture of narcissism infect the culture of total work. For there is something self-effacing, or rather self-forgetting, about the true feast. When we celebrate, we rejoice precisely in what comes to us as a gift, what is not wholly in our power to provide for ourselves; and that is even the case when reapers clear the fields and lie back in the shade with bread and wine and song, or when fishermen haul their nets ashore and drink deep at the public house. A feast without the divine, says Pieper, is quite simply unknown; and for that same reason, it is impossible to manufacture joy from the raw materials supplied by the self alone, and impossible to manufacture love.

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