October 16, 2010

Bernard, Gyrovagues, and Acedia

Just one more post before I leave my little St. Bernard theme. In Jean Leclercq's classic The Love of Learning and the Desire for God I came across Bernard's commentary on the four kinds of monks from the Rule of St. Benedict.

Here's what Bernard says about one of the bad sorts, the gyrovagues:

Then come the spiritual gyrovagues: their inconstancy carries them from reading to prayer, from prayer to work, preventing them from obtaining the benefits of their undertakings: stability in effort and perseverance in devotion. Victims of acedia, they think it better at one moment to do one thing, and, at another, something else; they begin everything and finish nothing.

As I have continued to puzzle through the mysterious passion of acedia, this is another text that makes me think it might just be one of the primary spiritual dangers of our time when the dissipation of attention through hyper-stimulation, "multi-tasking" and constant connectivity is becoming the norm.

7 comments:

Ad Abolendam said...

Yes, and unfortunately, it's my greatest vice. Pray for me.

GrandmaK said...

I fear you a speaking to me...Cathy

Brother Charles said...

It is the Doctor Mellifluus who speaks to all of us!

Mark in Spokane said...

Well, Bonaventure did a good job describing me!

Michael Hallman said...

This same vice comes up in the Desert Fathers and Mothers. The one I just came across earlier today was from Amma Theodora:

She also said, 'It is good to live in peace, for the wise man practices perpetual prayer. It is truly a great thing for a virgin or a monk to live in peace, especially for the younger ones. However, you should realize that as soon as you intend to live in peace, at one evil comes and weighs down your soul through accidie, faintheartedness, and evil thoughts. It also attacks your body through sickness, debility, weakening of the knees, and all the members. I*t dissipates the strength of soul and body, so that one believes one is ill and no longer able to pray. But if we are vigilant, all these temptations fall away. There was, in fact a monk who was seized by cold and fever every time he began to pray, and he suffered from headaches, too. In this condition, he said to himself, "I am ill, and near to death; so now I will get up before I die and pray." By reasoning this way, he did violence to himself and prayed. When he had finished, the fever abated also. So, by reasoning in this way, the brother resisted, prayed and was able to conquer his thoughts.


From the great Benedicta Ward translation. A whole lot of quote when acedia is only mentioned briefly in the middle, but any opportunity to get great Desert quotes out there is well spent, in my opinion :-)

Brother Charles said...

Amma Theodora has always been one of my favorites.

P.s. Great profile pic!

Michael Hallman said...

Haha, thanks :)