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Life is tough. Nuns are tougher.

Friday, January 02, 2009

A Glandular Sin

What is gluttony and why is it a sin? We think of gluttony as just eating like a pig. The end. Eat like a pig and you are a glutton. After you are a glutton you get fat and when you get fat you can't move and when you can't move you get lazy and now you've added another deadly sin, sloth.

Care to join this cat?

But what is the difference between overeating and being a little fat and a little lazy, and gluttony and sloth. I went to the great thinkers of the church for help. I didn't get too far with that. St. Thomas Aquinas is the most often quoted, which is rather ironic, since St. Thomas Aquinas was as big as a house. I've read that maybe he had glandular problems.

I've also read that people who blame their girth on glandular problems are wrong about that 98% of the time.

St. Thomas Aquinas, the expert (in theology), listed six ways to commit gluttony:

  • Praepropere - eating too soon.
  • Laute - eating too expensively (washedly).
  • Nimis - eating too much.
  • Ardenter - eating too eagerly (burningly).
  • Studiose - eating too daintily (keenly).
  • Forente - eating wildly (boringly).

I think if you get a Catholic family of ten around a table for supper on any given day, you probably hit all six before the table is cleared. The six year old grabs for the bread before anyone else has sat down, the fifteen year old has his own bottle of orangina, the eight year old is having a contest with the seven year old to see who can eat the most, Dad is shoveling in the meatloaf, the fourteen year old girl is picking at her potatoes because she read about carbs causing weight gain and the baby is flinging peas.

St. Alphonsus Ligouri cleared things up a little. Here's his comment:

"...it is not a fault to feel pleasure in eating: for it is, generally speaking, impossible to eat without experiencing the delight which food naturally produces. But it is a defect to eat, like beasts, through the sole motive of sensual gratification, and without any reasonable object. Hence, the most delicious meats may be eaten without sin, if the motive be good and worthy of a rational creature; and, in taking the coarsest food through attachment to pleasure, there may be a fault."

I love St. Alphonsus Ligouri. He had arthritis so bad and was so bent over from it that his chin wore a hole in his chest. You can't begrudge a guy like that getting some enjoyment from his food.

We could try to get off easily and say that if we are devoting too much time and energy to food, maybe we are sinning. That doesn't really work either. You might have a job making beautiful cakes. Those beautiful cakes bring people pleasure and are often a way of expressing our love. So is a nicely presented, tasty dinner. Or lunch or breakfast or snack.

Jesus certainly seemed to enjoy a good meal with his friends. He enjoyed a tiny bit of luxury even. Remember the incident with the perfume? So, no help there.

I'd go with this. Eat when you are hungry. Stop eating when you are full, even if the food tastes really great. Save it for later when you are hungry again.

How will you know if you are eating too much? You'll be a little fat. Maybe you'll be a lot fat. That means you're eating too much. Or you are in the 2% that actually have a glandular problem.


Anonymous said...

Sister Mary Martha, i found your blog by accident a few weeks ago and have been totally loving it ever since. i am a sort-of, not really Catholic (aren't they all?) :) i am what i call a PresbyCathopalianLutheran, and TRUST ME - if it's tricky figuring out what the Catholics believe gluttony is, just wait till you ask the PresbyCathopalianLutherans! they'll give you 10,000 different answers, none of which trumps yours: gluttony means you eat too much.


Catherine Lucia said...

Thomas Aquinas walked half the earth (or something equally ridiculous). Dominicans of that day and age couldn't possibly be as big as a house...

Catherine Lucia said...

...or at least I doubt they could.

Anonymous said...

Well, I'm not much of an authority on weight loss. But here's something that might help: a Catholic podcast by a priest who's been trying to get into better shape, called the Healthy Catholic. Fr. Roderick, the host, has some audio and video episodes. You can find it on iTunes, or the SQPN website. He takes email and audio feedback, so you might want to ask him about the gluttony issue.


UniqueNurseGranny said...

To the point..Especially after the holiday feasts.

Unknown said...

I think, Sr. M&M, that weight is a very sensitive issue, especially at this time of the year. I work with overweight people quite a lot, and would love to see a trend towards thinness since I'm the one doing the lifting and the pulling of the comatose and ones.
I don't think for those folks that are considered "morbidly obese" that it's simply a matter of over eating and under exercizing. Wish it were. There are studies looking into a genetic component which seem to be having some success at effective treatments. The only reason I bring this up is because in my experience these men and women feel a huge amount of shame and failure, and it may in fact be not from a lack of will power, but from a genetic/hormonal problem. We don't expect patients to stop being diabetic or hyperthyroid through willpower. For the rest of us who could stand to lose a pound or two diet and exercise will do the trick, but it's not a "one size fits all" solution.

Anonymous said...

To all those who are vowing to lose weight this year, from me who after years of over eating, poor choice eating, dieting, losing, gaining back, I did finally get it and have kept the weight off for five years now.

#1) Eat anything that is a real food.
That means don't pretend potato chips have any nutritional potato left.

#2) Eat all food in it's most natural form.
Baked, not fried. Don't add a bunch of sauces and junk.

#3) Move.
Walk everyday for at least 45 minutes.

Things to NEVER eat

#1) High fructose corn syrup.
It blocks the brain from telling you that you are full so you keep eating way after full.

#2) Hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated ANYTHING.
You MUST read labels. If you read the above things listed in the ingredients DO NOT EAT.

I eat real butter, I eat beef, pork, chicken and real sour cream. I never count calories. Once you really feed your body nutrition you stop feeling hungry.

A small candy is still candy- junk that makes your body scream "Please Feed Me".

Jade Dunlop said...

Speaking of cats and things that are as big as a house...


She makes that orange cat on the couch look like Kate Moss!

Anonymous said...

Gluttony is not necessarily attached to eating exclusively. Rather, it is in letting your desire for some enjoyment control you. A man is a glutton just as much if he is a slave to his one perfect slice of dry rye toast as if he eats like Diamond Jim Brady ... or if he's the sort who absolutely MUST have the exactly right specific fountain pen, THE specific ink, and THE specific stationery for each and every note he dashes off.

Kim Caro said...

that cat totally cracked me up!

DaveW said...

Arkanabar has it I believe. Though commonly understood to be related directly to food gluttony is taking more than you need of anything. It isn't just food related.

Driving a very low mileage car could be gluttony. Or having 300 pair of shoes.

That's what I've been taught anyway.

They ran a special on the seven deadly sins on the History Channel over the last couple weeks and I thought it was especially weak on gluttony.

Anonymous said...

Well done sister.

eastmoormom said...

if widowed young and unable to have more children....is a marriage for companionship, security and father for existing children looked upon with favor? question comes after reading this weeks' bulletin statement on Marriage and its sexual implications...

i guess what i'm really asking is..can i get remarried to have sex even if it is not to create new life?

Anonymous said...

To Dave W----Don't mess with a womans shoes.

DaveW said...

Anon- who said anything about women? ;)

Claudia said...

I guess you have to figure out if you eat to live or live to eat.

Diet advice: cut you portions in half and go for a walk everyday.

I find it difficult to start my own advice, but it looks good in print.

Anonymous said...

Now Dave W---I don't know any men with 300 pair of shoes. I know men who have collected 10 or more pair of cowboy boots, but 300 pair of shoes would imply a woman to me. I also consider every pair of my shoes a necessity. ;)

Anonymous said...

Arkanbar is dead on about the totality of gluttony.

But when it comes to eating, what people especially need to remember is to mind their own beeswax. The current obsession about food and diet and body-size make it nearly impossible for anyone who doesn't look like a size 8 or less to just eat what she wants, when she wants, until she's done. The current obsession makes it impossible for anyone to just relax.

Just because a person is fat doesn't mean that person is a glutton. Some people are very efficient storers of fat and would handily survive a famine; other people are not and will be the first to starve to death. The biggest problem with current attitudes about body fat and nutrition is no one wants to allow for individual variation.

Consider Oprah. The girl loses and the girl gains back. The lesson that ought to be learned is that Oprah an efficient storer of fat and will survive a famine. What also ought to be learned is that Oprah's yo-yo dieting is doing her way more harm than just being one weight.

If measures of health such as blood pressure and, well, drawing a blank on others, resting pulse, etc. - anyway, if those measures are all good, the amount of fat a person carries around should go without comment from anyone because that person is healthy.

But mostly, in spite of my apparently contradictory comments about Oprah, people should mind their own business.

Kristina said...

Sr. Mary Martha, I am curious how you would answer the question posed by eastmoormom. I, too, am a young widow and may not be able to have more children. I have some thoughts on this issue, but would love to read what you think. Thanks

Anonymous said...


there's nothing wrong with marriage fulfilling the needs you mention. Further, sexual relations are a normal part of marriage, and should be part of any marriage you enter. If God /circumstances /whatever has closed the marital act to new life, that is no reason to abstain.

It's very different from you and/or your husband using artifice to prevent conception. If you plan to enter marriage and use contraceptive technology, you are lining up to commit sin that is at least grave and quite possibly mortal.

mel said...

heh..that description of the family around the table...are you a fly on my wall or what? :)

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