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Am I experiencing intellectual gluttony? – Part II of III

October 29, 2012 by  
Filed under Capital Sins, Faith, Fr. Bartunek, Gluttony, Sin, Spiritual Life

Dear Father John, there is just too much to read! I feel like I should be reading more GluttonyGeorgEmanuelOpitzDerVoller1804about my faith and the spiritual life, because I want to grow more. But I am so frustrated, because even if I would spend all day reading, I feel like I would barely be scratching the surface. So I get tense, confused, and then I don’t do anything. What’s going on with me, and what I should I do about this?

In our first post, we discussed the passionate desire to grow in faith and how to “Christianize our minds” by addressing three functions of our intellect.


Too Much of a Good Thing?

Second, the spiritual gluttony factor. Your frustration comes across loud and clear in your question! You wish you had more time to learn – to learn everything! But that’s impossible! And you know it’s impossible. So, I need to ask you, why are you frustrated? Frustration is always a function of expectations. If you are expecting yourself to be able to do the impossible, of course you will be frustrated. But what would happen to that frustration if you changed your expectations? How would you feel if you fully, truly accepted the real limitations that your human nature places upon the possibilities for your intellectual development? In that case, you would maintain your eagerness to continue learning about God and his plan for your life, but that eagerness would bring you peace and joy instead of frustration and tension.

Have you ever asked yourself why you haven’t accepted the real limits of your human condition in this arena? I would venture to say that a contributing factor in this scenario is the ancient enemy, the devil himself. You are too in love with God to be exceptionally vulnerable to temptations of material excess. So the devil has to change tactics in order to impede your spiritual progress. Enter spiritual and intellectual gluttony. If your spiritual and intellectual eyes get bigger than your stomach, and you act on that, you will experience some spiritual indigestion, and that will become a nice ally in the devil’s efforts to slow your progress along the path of Christian maturity.

Navigating Pleasure

You experience pleasure in learning about the God you love. This is a good thing – all pleasures, in their proper settings, are good things. God created both our capacity for pleasure and the objects that stimulate those pleasures. The devil can’t change that. But he can twist it around a bit, and get us to be more and more attached to the pleasure, to the point that we begin preferring – in practice if not in theory – the pleasure itself to the God who created it.

We understand this clearly in the material realm – the physical pleasures associated with gluttony, lust, and sloth are obvious. We are less aware of the spiritualized forms of these capital sins. If your eagerness to learn about God and the faith he has given you is stirring up anxiety, tension, frustration, instead of contentment and joyful enthusiasm, some intellectual gluttony may be creeping in. Nip it in the bud. Accept the truth that you know: you will never be able to learn everything about God and the spiritual life; your journey to Christian maturity will continually present you with new vistas and discoveries, and you don’t have to try to exhaust them. That leads us to the third thought.

In our next and last post on this topic, we will discuss options of finding healthy ways to obtain greater knowledge of our faith through spiritual reading, setting goals, and attitude management.

Art:  Der Völler [The Full One], Georg Emanuel Opitz, 1804, PD, Wikimedia Commons.

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About Fr. John Bartunek, LC

Fr. John Bartunek, LC, S.Th.D, received his BA in History from Stanford University in 1990. He comes from an evangelical Christian background and became a member of the Catholic Church in 1991. After college he worked as a high school history teacher, drama director, and baseball coach. He then spent a year as a professional actor in Chicago before entering the religious Congregation of the Legionaries of Christ in 1993. He was ordained a Catholic priest in 2003 and earned his doctorate in moral theology in 2010. He provided spiritual support on the set of Mel Gibson’s "The Passion of the Christ" while researching the 2005 Catholic best seller "Inside the Passion"--the only authorized, behind-the-scene explanation of the film. Fr. John has contributed news commentary regarding religious issues on NBC, CNN, Fox, and the BBC. He also served as the English-language press liaison for the Vatican’s 2005 Synod of Bishops on the Eucharist. His most widely known book is called: "The Better Part: A Christ-Centered Resource for Personal Prayer". He has also published three other titles: Answers: Catholic Advice for Your Spiritual Questions, "Meditations for Mothers" and "A Guide to Christian Meditation". Fr. John currently splits his time between Rome and Rhode Island, where he teaches theology as an adjunct professor at the Pontifical Athenaeum Regina Apostolorum and at Mater Ecclesia College. He is also continuing his writing apostolate with online retreats at www.RCSpirituality.org and questions and answers on the spiritual life at www.RCSpiritualDirection.com. FATHER JOHN'S BOOKS include: "The Better Part: A Christ-Centered Resource for Personal Prayer", Inside the Passion--The Only Authorized Insiders View of Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ, Meditations for Mothers, and A Guide to Christian Meditation.

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