Sloth and its Antidote

Yesterday, UST Law School welcomed Michael Schutt, director of the Christian Legal Society’s Law School Ministries. I have known and admired Mike for a number of years and so was delighted when he told me he would be in town and would have time for come for a lunchtime conversation with our students. His theme was Law, Calling and the Drudgery of Law School.

During his talk, Mike identified four challenges or difficulties we face as Christians in the legal profession (and in training for that profession) and their antidotes. The one with the most (at least initially) counter-intuitive antidote was sloth.

We tend to think of sloth as akin to laziness – sitting on the couch flipping the remote rather than doing our work. But the more dangerous sloth, Michael suggested is a spiritual sloth, which he described as recognizing the good and virtuous and ignoring it because we are so wrapped up in our work that that which we recognize as the good gets put aside. What Mike was describing was captured well in a comment made to me recently by someone I admire a great deal: he observed that he found himself of late attending to the immediate more often than the important. We can get so caught up in our business that we lose sight of where our attention ought to be placed.

Hence, said Mike, as strange as it may sound, the antidote to sloth is Sabbath – taking time in contemplation, stopping our activity. Describing something like the Ignatian examen, he suggested the students take at least ten minutes each evening where they completely “unplug” and sit and do nothing. He suggested the contemplate the events of the day, looking at where was the good, the virtuous, and where the good was lost sight of. As someone who frequently recommends to people that they engage in a daily examen, I was happy to have the students hear this advice from him as well.

Thanks for being with us today, Mike.