ASCETICAL THEOLOGY
Catholic Encyclopedia 
AUTHOR:  FRANZ X. MUTZ
Ascetics, as a branch of theology, may be briefly defined as the 
scientific exposition of Christian asceticism. Asceticism (askesis, 
askein), taken in its literal signification, means a polishing, a 
smoothing or refining. The Greeks used the word to designate the 
exercises of the athletes, whereby the powers dormant in the body were 
developed and the body itself was trained to its full natural beauty. 
The end for which these gymnastic exercises were undertaken was the 
laurel-wreath bestowed on the victor in the public games. Now the life 
of the Christian is, as Christ assures us, a struggle for the kingdom 
of heaven (Matt., xi, 12). To give his readers an object-lesson of this 
spiritual battle and moral endeavour, St. Paul, who had been trained in 
the Greek fashion, uses the picture of the Greek pentathlon (I Cor., 
ix, 24). The exercises to be assumed in this combat tend to develop and 
strengthen the moral stamina, while their aim is Christian perfection 
leading up to man's ultimate end, union with God. Human nature having 
been weakened by original sin and ever inclining toward what is evil, 
this end cannot be reached except at the price of overcoming, with 
God's grace, many and serious obstacles. The moral struggle then 
consists first of all in attacking and removing the obstacles, that is 
the evil concupiscences (concupiscence of the flesh, concupiscence of 
the eyes, and pride of life), which effects of original sin serve to 
try and test man (Trid., Sess. V, De peccato originali). This first 
duty is called by the Apostle Paul the putting off of "the old man" 
(Eph., IV, 22). The second duty, in the words of the same Apostle, is 
to "put on the new man" according to the image of God (Eph., IV, 24). 
The new man is Christ. It is our duty then to strive to become like 
unto Christ, seeing that He is "the way, and the truth, and the life" 
(John, XIV, 6), but this endeavour is based on the supernatural order 
and, therefore, cannot be accomplished without Divine grace. Its 
foundation is laid in baptism, whereby we are adopted as sons of God 
through the imparting of sanctifying grace. Thenceforth, it must be 
perfected by the supernatural virtues, the gifts of the Holy Ghost, and 
actual grace. Since, then, ascetics is the systematic treatise of the 
striving after Christian perfection, it may be defined as the 
scientific guide to the acquisition of Christian perfection, which 
consists in expressing within ourselves, with the help of Divine grace, 
the image of Christ, by practising the Christian virtues, and applying 
the means given for overcoming the obstacles. Let us subject the 
various elements of this definition to a closer examination. 
A. Nature of Christian Perfection 
(1)    To begin with, we must reject the false conception of the 
Protestants who fancy that Christian perfection, as understood by 
Catholics, is essentially negative asceticism (cf. Seberg in 
Herzog-Hauck, "Realencyklopädie für prot. Theologie", III, 138), 
and that the correct notion of asceticism was discovered by the 
Reformers. There can be no doubt as to the Catholic position, if 
we but hearken to the clear voices of St. Thomas and St. 
Bonaventure. For these masters of Catholic theology who never 
tired of repeating that the ideal of asceticism upheld by them 
was the ideal of the Catholic past, of the Fathers, of Christ 
Himself, emphatically state that bodily asceticism has not an 
absolute, but only a relative, value. St. Thomas calls it a 
"means to an end", to be used with discretion. St. Bonaventure 
says that bodily austerities "prepare, foster, and preserve 
perfection" (ad perfectionem præparans et ipsam promovens et 
conservans; "Apolog. pauperum", V, c. viii). In proof of his 
thesis, he shows that to put an absolute value on bodily 
asceticism would lead to Manichæism. He also points to Christ, 
the ideal of Christian perfection, who was less austere in 
fasting than John the Baptist, and to the founders of religious 
orders, who prescribed fewer ascetic exercises for their communities 
than they themselves practised (cf. J. Zahn, "Vollkommenheitsideal" in 
"Moralprobleme", Freiburg, 1911, p. 126 sqq.). On the other hand, 
Catholics do not deny the importance of ascetic practices for acquiring 
Christian perfection. Considering the actual condition of human nature, 
they declare these necessary for the removal of obstacles and for the 
liberation of man's moral forces, thus claiming for asceticism a 
positive character. A like value is put upon those exercises which 
restrain and guide the powers of the soul. Consequently, Catholics 
actually fulfill and always have fulfilled what Harnack sets down as a 
demand of the Gospel and what he pretends to have looked for in vain 
among Catholics; for they do "wage battle against mammon, care, and 
selfishness, and practise that charity which loves to serve and to 
sacrifice itself" (Harnack, "Essence of Christianity"). The Catholic 
ideal, then, is by no means confined to the negative element of 
asceticism, but is of a positive nature. 
(2)    The essence of Christian perfection is love. St. Thomas (Opusc. 
de perfectione christ., c. ii) calls that perfect which is conformable 
to its end (quod attingit ad finem ejus). Now, the end of man is God, 
and what unites him, even on earth, most closely with God is love (I 
Cor., vi, 17; I John, iv, 16). All the other virtues are subservient to 
love or are its natural prerequisites, as faith and hope; Love seizes 
man's whole soul (intellect, will), sanctifies it, and fuses new life 
into it. Love lives in all things and all things live in love and 
through love. Love imparts to all things the right measure and directs 
them all to the last end. "Love is thus the principle of unity, no 
matter how diversified are the particular states, vocations, and 
labours. There are many provinces, but they constitute one realm. The 
organs are many, but the organism is one" (Zahn, l. c., p. 146). Love 
has, therefore, rightly been called "the bond of perfection" (Col., 
iii, 14) and the fulfillment of the law (Rom., xiii, 8). That Christian 
perfection consists in love has ever been the teaching of Catholic 
ascetical writers. A few testimonies may suffice. Writing to the 
Corinthians, Clement of Rome says (Ep. I Cor., xlix, 1): "It was love 
that made all the elect perfect; without love nothing is acceptable to 
God" (en te agape ateleiothesanpantes oi eklektoi tou theou dicha 
agapes ouden euareston estin to theo; Funk, "Patr. apost.", p. 163). 
The "Epistle of Barnabas" insists that the way of light is "the love of 
him who created us" (agapeseis ton se poiesanta; Funk, l. c., p. 91), 
"a love of our neighbour that does not even spare our own life" 
(agapeseis ton plesion sou hyper ten psychen sou), and it affirms that 
perfection is nothing else than "love and joy over the good works which 
testify to justice" (agape euphrosyns kai agalliaseos ergon dikaiosynes 
martyria). St. Ignatius never wearies in his letters of proposing faith 
as the light and love as the way, love being the end and aim of faith 
("Ad Ephes.", ix, xiv; "Ad Philad.", ix; "Ad Smyrn.", vi). According to 
the "Didache", love of God and of one's neighbour is the beginning of 
the "way of life" (c. i), and in the "Epistle to Diognetus" active love 
is called the fruit of belief in Christ. The "Pastor" of Hermas 
acknowledges the same ideal when he sets down "a life for God" (zoe to 
theo) as the sum-total of human existence. To these Apostolic Fathers 
may be added St. Ambrose (De fuga sæculi, c. iv, 17; c. vi, 35-36) and 
St. Augustine, who regards perfect justice as tantamount to perfect 
love. Both St. Thomas and St. Bonaventure speak the same language, and 
their authority is so overpowering that the ascetical writers of all 
subsequent centuries have faithfully followed in their footsteps (cf. 
Lutz, "Die kirchl. Lehre von den evang. Räten", Paderborn, 1907, pp. 
26-99). 
 
However, though perfection is essentially love, it is not true that any 
degree of love is sufficient to constitute moral perfection. The 
ethical perfection of the Christian consists in the perfection of love, 
which requires such a disposition "that we can act with speed and ease 
even though many obstacles obstruct our path" (Mutz, "Christl. 
Ascetik", 2nd ed., Paderborn, 1909). But this disposition of the soul 
supposes that the passions have been subdued; for if is the result of a 
laborious struggle, in which the moral virtues, steeled by love, force 
back and quell the evil inclinations and habits, supplanting them by 
good inclinations and habits. Only then has it really become "a man's 
second nature, as it were, to prove his love of God at certain times 
and under certain circumstances, to practise virtue and, as far as 
human nature may, to preserve his soul even from the slightest taints" 
(Mutz, l. c., p. 43). Owing to the weakness of human nature and the 
presence of the evil concupiscence (fomes peccati: Trid., Sess. VI, 
can. xxiii), a perfection that would exclude every defect cannot be 
attained in this life without a special privilege (cf. Prov., xx, 9; 
Eccl., vii, 21; James, iii, 
(3)    Likewise, perfection, on this side of the grave, will never 
reach such a degree that further growth is impossible, as is clear from 
the mind of the Church and the nature of our present existence (status 
viœ); in other words, our perfection will always be relative. As St. 
Bernard says: "An unflagging zeal for advancing and a continual 
struggle for perfection is itself perfection" (Indefessus proficiendi 
studium et iugis conatus ad perfectionem, perfectio reputatur; "Ep. 
ccliv ad Abbatem Guarinum"). Since perfection consists in love, it is 
not the privilege of one particular state, but may be, and has as a 
fact been, attained in every state of life (cf. PERFECTION, CHRISTIAN 
AND RELIGIOUS). Consequently it would be wrong to identify perfection 
with the so-called state of perfection and the observance of the 
evangelical counsels. As St. Thomas rightly observes, there are perfect 
men outside the religious orders and imperfect men within them (Summa 
theol., II-II, Q. clxxxiv, a. 
(4)    True it is that the conditions for realizing the ideal of a 
Christian life are, generally speaking, more favourable in the 
religious state than in the secular avocations. But not all are called 
to the religious life, nor would all find in it their contentment (cf. 
COUNSELS, EVANGELICAL). To sum up, the end is the same, the means are 
different. This sufficiently answers Harnack's objection (Essence of 
Christianity) that the Church considers the perfect imitation of Christ 
possible only for the monks, while she accounts the life of a Christian 
in the world as barely sufficient for the attainment of the last end. 
 
(5)    The ideal, to which the Christian should conform and towards 
which he should strive with all his powers both natural and 
supernatural, is Jesus Christ. His justice should be our justice. Our 
whole life should be so penetrated by Christ that we become Christians 
in the full sense of the word ("until Christ be formed in you"; Gal., 
iv, 19). That Christ is the supreme model and pattern of the Christian 
life is proved from Scripture, as e. g. from John, xiii, 15, and I 
Peter, ii, 21, where imitation of Christ is directly recommended, and 
from John, viii, 12, where Christ is called "the light of the world". 
Cf. also Rom., viii, 29, Gal., ii, 20, Phil., iii, 8, and Heb., i, 3, 
where the Apostle extols the excellent knowledge of Jesus Christ, for 
whom he has suffered the loss of all things, counting them but as dung, 
that he may gain Christ. Of the numerous testimonies of the Fathers we 
only quote that of St. Augustine, who says: "Finis ergo noster 
perfectio nostra esse debet; perfectio nostra Christus" (P. L., XXXVI, 
628; cf. also "In Psalm.", 26, 2, in P. L., XXXVI, 662). In Christ 
there is no shadow, nothing one-sided. His Divinity guarantees the 
purity of the model; His humanity, by which He became similar to us, 
makes the model attractive. But this picture of Christ, unmarred by 
addition or omission, is to be found only in the Catholic Church and, 
owing to her indefectibility, will always continue there in its ideal 
state. For the same reason, the Church alone can give us the guarantee 
that the ideal of the Christian life will always remain pure and 
unadulterated, and will not be identified with one particular state or 
with a subordinate virtue (cf. Zahn, l. c., p. 124). An unprejudiced. 
examination proves that the ideal of Catholic life has been preserved 
in all its purity through the centuries and that the Church has never 
failed to correct the false touches with which individuals might have 
sought to disfigure its unstained beauty. The individual features and 
the fresh colours for outlining the living picture of Christ are 
derived from the sources of Revelation and the doctrinal decisions of 
the Church. These tell us about the internal sanctity of Christ (John, 
i, 14; Col., ii, 9; Heb., i, 9; etc.). His life overflowing with grace, 
of whose fullness we have all received (John, i, 16), His life of 
prayer (Mark, i, 21, 35; iii, 1; Luke, v, 16; vi, 12; ix, 18; etc.), 
His devotion to His heavenly Father (Matt., xi, 26; John, iv, 34; v, 
30; viii, 26, 29), His intercourse with men (Matt., ix, 10; cf. I Cor., 
ix, 22), His spirit of unselfishness and sacrifice, His patience and 
meekness, and, finally, His asceticism as revealed in his fastings 
(Matt., iv, 2; vi, 18). 
B.   Dangers of the Ascetical Life 
The second task of ascetical theology is to point out the dangers, 
which may frustrate the attainment of Christian perfection and to 
indicate the means by which they can be avoided successfully. The first 
danger to be noticed is evil concupiscence. A second danger lies in the 
allurements of the visible creation, which occupy man's heart to the 
exclusion of the highest good; to the same class belong the enticements 
of the sinful, corrupt world (I John, v, 19), that is, those men who 
promulgate vicious and ungodly doctrines and thereby dim or deny man's 
sublime destiny, or who by perverting ethical concepts and by setting a 
bad example give a false tendency to man's sensuality. Thirdly, 
ascetics acquaints us not only with the malice of the devil, lest we 
should fall a prey to his cunning wiles, but also with his weakness, 
lest we should lose heart. Finally, not satisfied with indicating the 
general means to be used for waging a victorious combat, ascetics 
offers us particular remedies for special temptations (cf. Mutz, 
"Ascetik", 2nd ed., p. 107 sqq.). 
C.   Means for Realizing the Christian Ideal 
 
(1)    Prayer, above all, in its stricter meaning, is a means of 
attaining perfection; special devotions approved by the Church and the 
sacramental means of sanctification have a special reference to the 
striving after perfection (frequent confession and communion). Ascetics 
proves the necessity of prayer (II Cor., iii, 5) and teaches the mode 
of praying with spiritual profit; it justifies vocal prayers and 
teaches the art of meditating according to the various methods of St. 
Peter of Alcantara, of St. Ignatius, and other saints, especially the 
"tres modi orandi" of St. Ignatius. An important place is assigned to 
the examination of conscience, and justly so, because ascetical life 
wanes or waxes with its neglect or careful performance. Without this 
regular practice, a thorough purification of the soul and progress in 
spiritual life are out of the question. It centres the searchlight of 
the interior vision on every single action: all sins, whether committed 
with full consciousness or only half voluntarily, even the negligences 
which, though not sinful, lessen the perfection of the act, all are 
carefully scrutinized (peccata, offensiones, negligentiœ; cf. 
"Exercitia spiritualia" of St. Ignatius, ed. P. Roothaan, p. 3). 
Ascetics distinguishes a twofold examination of conscience: one general 
(examen generale), the other special (examen particulare), giving at 
the same time directions how both kinds may be made profitable by means 
of certain practical and psychological aids. In the general examination 
we recall all the faults of one day; in the particular, on the 
contrary, we focus our attention on one single defect and mark its 
frequency, or on one virtue to augment the number of its acts. 
 
Ascetics encourages visits to the Blessed Sacrament (visitatio 
sanctissimi), a practice meant especially to nourish and strengthen the 
divine virtues of faith, hope, and charity. It also inculcates the 
veneration of the saints, whose virtuous lives should spur us on to 
imitation. It is plain that imitation cannot mean an exact copying. 
What ascetics proposes as the most natural method of imitation is the 
removal or at least the lessening of the contrast existing between our 
own lives and the lives of the saints, the perfecting, as far as is 
possible, of our virtues, with due regard to our personal disposition 
and the surrounding circumstances of time and place. On the other hand, 
the observation that some saints are more to be admired than imitated 
must not lead us into the mistake of letting our works be weighted with 
the ballast of human comfort and ease, so that we at last look with 
suspicion on every heroic act, as though it were something that 
transcended our own energy and could not be reconciled with the present 
circumstances. Such a suspicion would be justified only if the heroic 
act could not at all be made to harmonize with the preceding 
development of our interior life. Christian ascetics must not overlook 
the Blessed Mother of God; for she is, after Christ, our most sublime 
ideal. No one has received grace in such fullness, no one has co-
operated with grace so faithfully as she. It is for this reason that 
the Church praises her as the Mirror of Justice (speculum justitiœ). 
The mere thought of her transcendent purity suffices to repel the 
alluring charms of sin and to inspire pleasure in the wonderful lustre 
of virtue. 
 
(2)    Self-Denial is the second means which ascetics teaches us (cf. 
Matt., xvi, 24-25). Without it the combat between spirit and flesh, 
which are contrary to each other (Rom., vii, 23; I Cor., ix, 27; Gal., 
v, 17), will not lead to the victory of the spirit (Imitatio Christi, 
I, xxv). How far self-denial should extend is clear from the actual 
condition of human nature after the fall of Adam. The inclination to 
sin dominates both the will and the lower appetites; not only the 
intellect, but also the outer and the inner senses are made subservient 
to this evil propensity. Hence, self-denial and self-control must 
extend to all these faculties. Ascetics reduces self-denial to exterior 
and interior mortification: exterior mortification is the mortification 
of sensuality and the senses; interior mortification consists in the 
purification of the faculties of the soul (memory, imagination, 
intellect, will) and the mastering of the passions. However, the term 
"mortification" must not be taken to mean the stunting of the "strong, 
full, healthy" (Schell) life; what it aims at is that the sensual 
passions do not gain the upper hand over the will. It is precisely 
through taming the passions by means of mortification and self-denial 
that life and energy are strengthened and freed from cumbersome 
shackles. But while the masters of asceticism recognize the necessity 
of mortification and self-denial and are far from deeming it "criminal 
to assume voluntary sufferings" (Seeberg), they are just as far from 
advocating the so-called "non-sensual" tendency, which, looking upon 
the body and its life as a necessary evil, proposes to avert its 
noxious effects by willful weakening or even mutilation (cf. Schneider, 
"Göttliche Weltordnung u. religionslose Sittlichkeit", Paderborn, 1900, 
p. 537). On the other hand, Catholics will never befriend the gospel of 
"healthy sensuality", which is only a pretty-sounding title, invented 
to cloak unrestricted concupiscence. 
 
Special attention is devoted to the mastering of the passions, because 
it is with them above all else that the moral combat must be waged most 
relentlessly. Scholastic philosophy enumerates the following passions: 
love, hatred, desire, horror, joy, sadness, hope, despair, boldness, 
fear, anger. Starting from the Christian idea that the passions 
(passiones, as understood by St. Thomas) are inherent in human nature, 
ascetics affirms that they are neither sicknesses, as the Stoics, the 
Reformers, and Kant maintain, nor yet harmless, as was asserted by the 
Humanists and Rousseau, who denied original sin. On the contrary, it 
insists that in themselves they are indifferent, that they may be 
employed for good and for evil, and that they receive a moral character 
only by the use to which the will puts them. It is the purpose of 
ascetics to point out the ways and means by which these passions can be 
tamed and mastered, so that, instead of goading the will to sin, they 
are rather turned into welcome allies for the accomplishment of good. 
And since the passions are inordinate in as far as they turn to illicit 
things or exceed the necessary bounds in those things which are licit, 
ascetics teaches us how to render them innocuous by averting or 
restraining them, or by turning them to loftier purposes. 
 
(3)    Labour, also, is subservient to the striving after perfection. 
Untiring labour runs counter to our corrupt nature, which loves ease 
and comfort. Hence labour, if well-ordered, persistent, and purposeful, 
implies self-denial. This is the reason why the Catholic Church has 
always looked upon labour, both manual and mental, as an ascetic means 
of no small value (cf. Cassian, "De instit. cœnob.", X, 24; St. 
Benedict, Rule, xlviii, li; Basil, "Reg. fusius tract." c. xxxvii, 1-3; 
"Reg. brevius tract.", c. lxxii; Origen, "Contra Celsum", I, 28). St. 
Basil is even of the opinion that piety and avoidance of labour are 
irreconcilable in the Christian ideal of life (cf. Mausbach, "Die Ethik 
des hl. Augustinus", 1909, p. 264). 
 
(4)    Suffering, too, is an integral constituent of the Christian 
ideal and pertains consequently to ascetics. But its real value appears 
only when seen in the light of faith, which teaches us that suffering 
makes us like unto Christ, we being the members of the mystic body of 
which He is the head (I Peter, ii, 21), that suffering is the channel 
of grace which heals (sanat), preserves (conservat), and tests 
(probat). Finally, ascetics teaches us how to turn sufferings into 
channels of heavenly grace. 
 
(5)    The Virtues are subjected to a thorough discussion. As is proved 
in dogmatic theology, our soul receives in justification supernatural 
habits, not only the three Divine, but also the moral virtues (Trid., 
Sess. VI, De justit., c. vi; Cat. Rom., p. 2, c. 2, n. 51). These 
supernatural powers (virtutes infusœ) are joined to the natural 
faculties or the acquired virtues (virtutes acguisitœ), constituting 
with them one principle of action. It is the task of ascetics to show 
how the virtues, taking into account the obstacles and means mentioned, 
can be reduced to practice in the actual life of the Christian, so that 
love be perfected and the image of Christ receive perfect shape in us. 
Conformable to the Brief of Leo XIII, "Testem benevolentiæ" of 22 Jan., 
1899, ascetics insists that the so-called "passive" virtues (meekness, 
humility, obedience, patience) must never be set aside in favour of the 
"active" virtues (devotion to duty, scientific activity, social and 
civilizing labour); for this would be tantamount to denying that Christ 
is the perpetual model. Rather, both kinds must be harmoniously joined 
in the life of the Christian. True imitation of Christ is never a 
brake, nor does it blunt the initiative in any field of human 
endeavour. On the contrary, the practice of the passive virtues is a 
support and aid to true activity. Besides, it not rarely happens that 
the passive virtues reveal a higher degree of moral energy than the 
active. The Brief itself refers us to Matt., xxi, 29; Rom., viii, 29; 
Gal., v, 24; Phil., ii, 8; Heb., xiii, 8 (cf. also Zahn, l. c., 166 
sqq.). 
 
D.   Application of the Means in the Three Degrees of Christian 
Perfection 
 
Imitation of Christ is the duty of all who strive after perfection. It 
lies in the very nature of this formation after the image of Christ 
that the process is gradual and must follow the laws of moral energy; 
for moral perfection is the terminus of a laborious journey, the crown 
of a hard-fought battle. Ascetics divides those who strive after 
perfection into three groups: the beginners, the advanced, the perfect; 
and correspondingly sets down three stages or ways of Christian 
perfection: the purgative way, the illuminative way, the unitive way. 
The means stated above are applied with more or less diversity 
according to the stage which the Christian has reached. In the 
purgative way, when the appetites and inordinate passions still possess 
considerable strength, mortification and self-denial are to be 
practised more extensively. For the seeds of the spiritual life will 
not sprout unless the tares and thistles have first been weeded out. In 
the illuminative way, when the mists of passion have been lifted to a 
great extent, meditation and the practice of virtues in imitation of 
Christ are to be insisted on. During the last stage, the unitive way, 
the soul must be confirmed and perfected in conformity with God's will 
("And I live, now not I; but Christ liveth in me": Gal., ii, 20). Care 
must, however, be taken not to mistake these three stages for wholly 
separate portions of the striving after virtue and perfection. Even in 
the second and the third stages there occur at times violent struggles, 
while the joy of being united with God may sometimes be granted in the 
initial stage as an inducement for further advance (cf. Mutz, 
"Aszetik," 2nd ed., 94 sq.). 
 
E.   Relation of Ascetics to Moral Theology and Mysticism 
 
All these disciplines are concerned with the Christian life and its 
last end in the next world; but they differ, though not totally, in 
their mode of treatment. Ascetical theology, which has been separated 
from moral theology and mysticism, has for Its subject-matter the 
striving after Christian perfection; it shows how Christian perfection 
may be attained by earnestly exercising and schooling the will, using 
the specified means both to avoid the dangers and allurements of sin 
and to practise virtue with greater intensity. Moral theology, on the 
other hand, is the doctrine of the duties, and in discussing the 
virtues is satisfied with a scientific exposition. Mysticism treats 
essentially of "union with God" and of the extraordinary, so-called 
mystic prayer. Though also those phenomena which are accidental to 
mysticism, such as ecstasy, vision, revelation, fall within its scope, 
yet they are by no means essential to the mystic life (cf. Zahn, 
"Einführung in die christl. Mystik", Paderborn, 1908). It is true that 
mysticism includes also matter of ascetics, such as the endeavour of 
purification, vocal prayer, etc.; but this is done because these 
exercises are looked upon as preparatory to the mystical life and must 
not be discarded even in its highest stage. Nevertheless, the mystical 
life is not merely a higher degree of the ascetical life, but differs 
from it essentially, the mystical life being a special grace granted to 
the Christian without any immediate merit on his part. 
F. Historical Development of Asceticism 
 
(1)    The Holy Bible 
Abounds in practical instructions for the life of Christian perfection. 
Christ himself has drawn its outlines both as to its negative and 
positive requirements. His imitation is the supreme law (John, viii, 
12; xii, 26), charity the first commandment (Matt., xxii, 36-38; John, 
xv, 17); the right intention is that which imparts value to the 
exterior works (Matt., v-vii), while self-denial and the carrying of 
the cross are the conditions for His discipleship (Matt., x, 38; xvi, 
24; Mark, viii, 34; Luke, ix, 23; xiv, 27). Both by His own example 
(Matt., iv, 2) and His exhortations (Matt., xvii, 20; Mark, ix, 28) 
Christ recommended fasting. He inculcated sobriety, watchfulness, and 
prayer (Matt., xxiv, 42; xxv, 13; xxvi, 41; Mark, xiii, 37; xiv, 37). 
He pointed to poverty as a means of gaining the kingdom of heaven 
(Matt., vi, 19; xiii, 22; Luke, vi, 20; viii, 14; xii, 33; etc.) and 
counseled the rich youth to relinquish everything and to follow Him 
(Matt., xix, 21). That this was a counsel and not a strict command, 
given in view of the particular attachment of the youth to the things 
of this world, is shown by the very fact that the Master had twice said 
"keep the commandments", and that he recommended the renunciation of 
all earthly goods only on the renewed inquiry after the means that lead 
to perfection (cf. Lutz, l. c., against the Protestants Th. Zahn, Bern, 
Weiss, Lemme, and others). Celibacy for God's sake was praised by 
Christ as worthy of a special heavenly reward (Matt., xix, 12). Yet 
marriage is not condemned, but the words, "All men take not this word, 
but they to whom it is given", imply that it is the ordinary state, 
celibacy for God's sake being merely a counsel. Indirectly, Christ also 
commended voluntary obedience as a means for attaining the most 
intimate union with God (Matt., xviii, 4; xx, 22, 25). What Christ had 
outlined in his teachings the Apostles continued to develop. It is 
especially in St. Paul that we find the two elements of Christian 
asceticism brought out in well-defined terms: mortification of 
inordinate desires as the negative element (Rom., vi, 8, 13; II Cor., 
iv, 16; Gal., v, 24; Col., iii, 5), union with God in all our thoughts, 
words, and deeds (I Cor., x, 31; Gal., vi, 14; Col., iii, 3-17), and 
active love of God and our neighbour (Rom., viii, 35; I Cor., xiii, 3) 
as the positive element. 
 
(2)    Fathers and Doctors of the Church 
 
With the Bible as a basis, the Fathers and Doctors of the Church 
explained particular features of the Christian life in a more coherent 
and detailed manner. The Apostolic Fathers called the love of God and 
man the sun of Christian life, which, animating all virtues with its 
vital rays, inspires contempt of the world, beneficence, immaculate 
purity, and self-sacrifice. The "Didache" (q.v.), which was intended to 
serve as a manual for catechumens, thus describes the way of life: 
"First, thou shalt love God, who created thee; secondly, thou shalt 
love thy neighbour as thyself; whatever thou wishest that it should not 
be done to thee, do not to others." Following probably the "Didache", 
the so-called "Epistle of Barnabas", written at the end of the second 
century, represents the Christian life under the figure of the two 
ways, that of light and that of darkness. Two Epistles, which purport 
to come from the pen of St. Clement, but were probably written in the 
third century, exalt the life of virginity, if grounded on the love of 
God and accompanied by the corresponding works, as heavenly, divine, 
and angelic. We also mention St. Ignatius of Antioch, of whose letters 
St. Polycarp says that they contain "faith and patience and all 
edification in the Lord", and the "Pastor" of Hermas, who in the twelve 
commandments inculcates simplicity, truthfulness, chastity, meekness, 
patience, continence, confidence in God, and perpetual struggle against 
concupiscence. With the third century the works on Christian asceticism 
began to show a more scientific character. In the writings of Clement 
of Alexandria and Gregory the Great ("Moral.", XXXIII, c. xxvii; cf. 
also Cassian, "Coll,", IX, XV) there may be observed traces of the 
threefold degree which was afterwards systematically developed by 
Dionysius the Areopagite. In his "Stromata" Clement sets forth the full 
beauty and grandeur of "true philosophy". It is particularly remarkable 
that this author delineates, even in its details, what is now known as 
ethical culture, and that he endeavours to harmonize it with the 
example given by Christ. The life of the Christian is to be ruled in 
all things by temperance. Following out this idea, he discusses in a 
casuistic form food and drink, dress and love of finery, bodily 
exercises and social conduct. Beginning with the fourth century, a 
twofold line of thought is discernible in the works on Christian life: 
one speculative, laying stress on the union of the soul with God, the 
Absolute Truth and Goodness; the other practical, aiming principally at 
instruction in the practice of the Christian virtues. The speculative 
element prevailed in the mystical school, which owes its systematic 
development to Pseudo-Dionysius and which reached its highest 
perfection in the fourteenth century. The practical element was 
emphasized in the ascetical school with St. Augustine as its chief 
representative, in whose footsteps followed Gregory the Great and St. 
Bernard. 
 
It may suffice to detail the principal points on which the writers 
prior to the medieval-scholastic period dwelt in their instructions. On 
prayer we have the works of Macarius the Egyptian (d. 385) and of 
Tertullian (d. after 220), who supplemented his treatise on prayer in 
general by an explanation of the Lord's Prayer. To these two must be 
added Cyprian of Carthage (d. 258), who wrote "De oratione dominica", 
and St. Chrysostom (d. 407). Penance and the spirit of penance were 
treated by Tertullian (De pœnitentia), Chrysostom ("De compunctione 
cordis", "De pœnitentia"), and Cyril of Jerusalem (d. 386) in his 
second catechetical instruction. That the life of the Christian is a 
warfare is amply illustrated in St. Augustine's (d. 430) "De agone 
christiano" and in his "Confessions". Chastity and virginity were 
treated by Methodius of Olympus (d. 311) in his "Convivium", a work in 
which ten virgins, discussing virginity, demonstrate the moral 
superiority of Christianity over the ethical tenets of pagan 
philosophy. The same subject is discussed by the following Fathers: 
Cyprian (d. 258); Gregory of Nyssa (d. 394) in his "De virginitate"; 
Ambrose (d. 397), the indefatigable eulogist and champion of the 
virginal life; Jerome in his "Adversus Helvidium de virginitate" and 
"Ad Eustachium"; Chrysostom (d. 407) in his "De virginitate", who, 
though extolling virginity as a heavenly life, yet recommends it only 
as a counsel; Augustine in his works "De continentia", "De 
virginitate", "De bono viduitatis". 
 
On patience we have the works of Cyprian, Augustine, and Tertullian's 
"De patientia", in which he speaks of this virtue as an invalid might 
speak of health to console himself. Chrysostom's "De jejunio et 
eleemosyna" discusses fasting. Almsgiving and good works are encouraged 
in Cyprian's "De opere et eleemosynis" and in Augustine's "De fide et 
operibus". The value of labour is explained in "De opere monachorum" by 
St. Augustine. Nor are treatises on the different states of life 
wanting. Thus St. Augustine's "De bono conjugali" treats of the married 
state; his "De bono viduitatis" of widowhood. A frequent subject was 
the priesthood. Gregory of Nazianzus, in his "De fuga", treats of the 
dignity and responsibility of the priesthood; Chrysostom's "De 
sacerdotio" exalts the sublimity of this state with surpassing 
excellence; St. Ambrose in his "De officiis", while speaking of the 
four cardinal virtues, admonishes the clerics that their lives should 
be an illustrious example; St. Jerome's "Epistola ad Nepotianum" 
discusses the dangers to which priests are exposed; finally, the 
"Regula pastoralis" of Gregory the Great inculcates the prudence 
indispensable to the pastor in his dealings with different classes of 
men. Of prime importance for the monastic life was the work "De 
institutis cœnobiorum" of Cassian. But the standard work from the 
eighth to the thirteenth century was the Rule of St. Benedict, which 
found numerous commentators. Of the saint or rather his Rule St. 
Bernard says: "lpse dux noster, ipse magister et legifer noster est" 
(Serm. in Nat. S. Bened., n. 2). Illustrations of the practice of 
Christian virtues in general were the "Expositio in beatum Job" of 
Gregory the Great and the "Collationes Patrum" of Cassian, in which the 
various elements of Christian perfection were discussed in the form of 
dialogues. 
(3)    The Medieval-Scholastic Period 
 
The transition period up to the twelfth century exhibits no specially 
noteworthy advance in ascetical literature. To the endeavour to gather 
and preserve the teachings of the Fathers we owe Alcuin's "De 
virtutibus et vitiis". But when in the twelfth century speculative 
theology was celebrating its triumphs, mystical and ascetical theology, 
too, showed a healthy activity. The results of the former could not but 
benefit the latter by placing Christian morality on a scientific basis 
and throwing ascetical theology itself into a scientific form. The 
pioneers in this field were St. Bernard (d. 1156) and Hugh and Richard 
of St. Victor. St. Bernard, the greatest mystical theologian of the 
twelfth century, also holds a prominent place among ascetical writers, 
so that Harnack calls the "religious genius" of the twelfth century. 
The basic idea of his works, especially prominent m his treatise "De 
gratia et libero arbitrio", is that the life of the Christian should be 
a copy of the life of Jesus. Like Clement of Alexandria, he, too, lays 
down precepts for the regulation of the necessities of life, as food 
and dress, and for the implanting of God's love in man's heart, which 
would sanctify all things ("Apologia", "De præcepto et dispensatione"). 
Many are the steps by which love ascends till it reaches its perfection 
in the love for God's sake. Among his ascetical writings are: "Liber de 
diligendo Deo", "Tractatus de gradibus humilitatis et superbiæ", "De 
moribus et officio episcoporum", "Sermo de conversione ad clericos", 
"Liber de consideratione". 
 
Frequent allusions to St. Augustine and Gregory the Great are scattered 
through the pages of Hugh of St. Victor (d. 1141), so much so that he 
earned the distinction of being called a second Augustine by his 
contemporaries. He was undoubtedly the first to give to ascetical 
theology a more or less definite, scientific character. The ever-
recurring theme of his works is love. But what he aimed at above all in 
his writings was to lay bare the psychological bearings of mystical and 
ascetical theology. Noteworthy are his works: "De vanitate mundi", "De 
laude caritatis", "De mode orandi", "De meditatione". His pupil, 
Richard of St. Victor (d. 1173), though more ingenious and systematic, 
is yet less intent upon practical utility, except in his work "De 
exterminatione mali et promotione boni". The great theologians of the 
thirteenth century, who were no less famous for their scholastic 
"Summæ" than for their ascetical and mystical writings, brought 
ascetical teaching to its perfection and gave it the definite shape it 
has retained as a standard for all future times. No other epoch 
furnishes such convincing proof that true science and true piety are 
rather a help than a hindrance to each other. Albert the Great, the 
illustrious teacher of the great Thomas, who was the first to join 
Aristotelean philosophy with theology and to make philosophy the 
handmaid of theology, was at the same time the author of excellent 
works on ascetics and mysticism, as, e. g., "De adhærendo Deo", the 
ripest fruit of his mystic genius, and "Paradisus animæ", which was 
conceived along more practical lines. To St. Thomas we owe the ascetic 
work "De perfectione vitæ spiritualis"; in it he explains the essence 
of Christian perfection so lucidly that his line of argumentation may 
even in our days serve as a model. His other works, too, contain ample 
material of value both for ascetics and for mysticism. 
 
The Seraphic Doctor, St. Bonaventure, "treats of mystic theology", to 
use the words of Leo XIII, "in a manner so perfect that the unanimous 
opinion of the most expert theologians regards him as the prince of 
mystic theologians". Of his authentic works the following deserve to be 
mentioned: "De perfectione evangelica", "Collationes de septem donis 
Spiritus sancti", "Incendium amoris", "Soliloquium", Lignum vitæ", "De 
præparatione ad Missam", "Apologia pauperum". From the pen of David of 
Augsburg, a contemporary of these great masters, we have an ascetic 
instruction for novices in his book entitled "De exterioris et 
interioris hominis compositione". He leads the reader along the three 
well-known ways, purgative, illuminative, and unitive, purposing to 
make the reader a spiritual man. By severely disciplining the faculties 
of the soul and subordinating the flesh to the spirit, man must restore 
the original order, so that he may not only do what is good, but 
likewise do it with ease. There remains to be mentioned the "Summa de 
vitiis et virtutibus" of Peraldus (d. c. 1270). The fourteenth century 
is characterized throughout by its mystical tendencies. Among the works 
which this period produced, Henry Suso's "Booklet of Eternal Wisdom 
deserves special mention on account of its highly practical value. Pre-
eminent in the fifteenth century were Gerson, Dionysius the Carthusian, 
and the author of the "Imitation of Christ". Relinquishing the ideals 
of the mystic writers of the fourteenth century, Gerson attached 
himself again to the great scholastic writers, thus avoiding the 
vagaries which had become alarmingly frequent among the mystics. His 
"Considerationes de theologia mystica" shows that he belongs to the 
practical school of asceticism. Dionysius the Carthusian is esteemed as 
a highly gifted teacher of the spiritual life. Both mysticism properly 
so called and practical asceticism owe valuable works to his pen. To 
the latter category belong: "De remediis tentationum", "De via 
purgativa", "De oratione", "De gaudio spirituali et pace interna", "De 
quatuor novissimis". 
 
The "Imitatio Christi", which appeared in the middle of the fifteenth 
century, deserves special attention on account of its lasting 
influence. "It is a classic in its ascetical unction and perfect in its 
artistic style" (Hamm, "Die Schönheit der kath. Moral", Munich-
Gladbach, 1911, p. 74). In four books it treats of the interior 
spiritual life in imitation of Jesus Christ. It pictures the struggle 
which man must wage against his inordinate passions and perverse 
inclinations, the indulgence of which sullies his conscience and robs 
him of God's grace: "Vanity of vanities and all is vanity, except to 
love God and serve Him alone" (Vanitas vanitatum et omnia vanitas 
præter amare Deum et illi soli servire: I, i). It advises mortification 
and self-denial as the most efficacious weapons in this struggle. It 
teaches man to establish God's kingdom in his soul by the practice of 
virtues according to the example of Jesus Christ. It finally leads him 
to union with Christ by exciting love for him as well as by pointing 
out the frailty of all creatures: "It is necessary to leave the beloved 
thing for the beloved, because Jesus wishes to be loved above all 
things" (Oportet dilectum propter dilectum relinquere, quia Jesus vult 
solus super omnia amari: II, xvii). The thoughts of the "Imitation" are 
thrown into epigrams so simple that they are within the mental grasp of 
all. Though the book betrays that the author was well versed not only 
in Scholastic philosophy and theology, but also in the secrets of the 
mystical life, yet this fact never obtrudes itself on the reader, nor 
does it obscure the meaning of the contents. There are a number of 
quotations from the great doctors Augustine, Bernard, Bonaventure, and 
Thomas, from Aristotle, Ovid, and Seneca; yet these do not mar the 
impression that the whole work is the spontaneous outburst of an 
intensely glowing soul. It has often been said that the teachings of 
the "Imitation" are "unworldly" and show little appreciation for 
science. But, to judge the work aright, one must take into 
consideration the peculiar circumstances of the time. Scholasticism had 
entered on a period of decline and had lost itself in intricate 
subtleties; mysticism had gone astray; all classes had been more or 
less infected with the spirit of licentiousness. It is conditions like 
these that give us the key to interpret phrases such as the following: 
"I would rather feel compunction than know how to define it" (Opto 
magis sentire compunctionem quam scire ejus definitionem) or "This is 
the highest wisdom: through contempt of the world to strive for the 
kingdom of heaven" (Ista est summa sapientia: per contemptum mundi 
tendere ad regna cœlestia). 
 
(4) Modern Times 
 
During the sixteenth century St. Teresa and St. Ignatius of Loyola 
stand out most prominently owing to the wide-felt influence which they 
exerted upon the religion of their contemporaries, an influence that is 
still at work through their writings. The writings of St. Teresa arouse 
our admiration by the simplicity, clearness, and precision of her 
judgment. Her letters show her to be an enemy of everything that smacks 
of eccentricity or singularity, sham piety or indiscreet zeal. One of 
her principal works, the "Way to Perfection", though written primarily 
for nuns, also contains apposite instructions for those who live in the 
world. While teaching the way to contemplation, she yet insists that 
not all are called to it and that there is greater security in the 
practice of humility, mortification, and the other virtues. Her 
masterpiece is the "Castle of the Soul", in which she expounds her 
theory of mysticism under the metaphor of a "castle" with many 
chambers. The soul resplendent with the beauty of the diamond or 
crystal is the castle; the various chambers are the various degrees 
through which the soul must pass before she can dwell in perfect union 
with God. Scattered throughout the work are many hints of inestimable 
value for asceticism as applied in everyday life. This fact is 
undoubtedly due to the well-founded conviction of the saint that even 
in extraordinary states the ordinary means must not be set aside 
altogether, so that illusions may be guarded against (cf. J. Zahn, 
"Introduction to Mysticism" p. 213). 
 
In his "Exercitia spiritualia" St. Ignatius has left to posterity not 
only a grand literary monument of the science of the soul, but also a 
method unparalleled in its practical efficacy of strengthening the 
willpower. The booklet has appeared in numberless editions and 
revisions and, "despite its modest guise, is in reality a complete 
system of asceticism" (Meschler). The four weeks of the Exercises 
acquaint the execrating with the three degrees of the spiritual life. 
The first week is taken up with cleansing the soul from sin and from 
its inordinate attachment to creatures. The second and third weeks lead 
the execrating along the illuminative way. The portrait of Christ, the 
most lovable of all men, is outlined before his eyes, so that he can 
contemplate in the humanity the reflex of Divine light and the supreme 
model of all virtues. The meditations of the fourth week, the subject 
of which are the resurrection etc., lead to union with God and teach 
the soul to rejoice in the glory of the Lord. It is true, there are 
many rules and regulations, the sequence is most logical, the 
arrangement of the meditations follows the laws of psychology; yet 
these exercises do no violence to the free will, but are meant to 
strengthen the faculties of the soul. They do not, as has often been 
asserted, make the exercitant a powerless instrument in the hands of 
the confessor, nor are they a mystic flight to heaven, accomplished by 
means of a compulsion which intends a rapid advance in perfection by a 
mechanical process (Zöckler, "Die Tugendlehre des Christentums", 
Gütersloh, 1904, p. 335). Their marked intellectualism, so frequently 
objected to, in no way constitutes a hindrance to mysticism (Meschler, 
"Jesuitenaszese u. deutsche Mystik" in "Stimmen aus Maria-Laach", 
1912). On the contrary, they make man's moral will truly free by 
removing the hindrances, while, by cleansing the heart and by 
accustoming the mind to meditative prayer, they are an excellent 
preparation for the mystical life. Louis of Granada, O. P. (d. 1588), 
also belongs to this period. His work "La guia de pecadores" may justly 
be styled a book full of consolation for the erring. His "El memorial 
de la vida cristiana" contains instructions which take the soul from 
the very beginning and lead her to the highest perfection. Louis of 
Blois (Blosius), O. S. B. (d. 1566), is of a mind kindred to St. 
Bernard. His "Monile spirituale" is the best known of his numerous 
works. Thomas of Jesus (d. 1582) wrote the "Passion of Christ" and 
"De oratione dominica". 
 
A great number of ascetical writers sprang up during the seventeenth 
century. Among them St. Francis de Sales stands out most prominently. 
According to Linsemann, the publication of his "Philothea" was an event 
of historical importance. To make piety attractive and to adapt it to 
all classes whether living in Court circles, in the world, or in a 
monastery, this was his aim and in this he succeeded. Of a mild and 
sweet temperament, he never lost sight of the habits and particular 
circumstances of the individual. Though unwavering in his ascetical 
principles, he yet possessed an admirable facility for adapting them 
without constraint or rigidity. In the practice of mortification he 
recommends moderation and adaptation to one's state of life and to 
personal circumstances. Love of God and of man: this he puts down as 
the motive power of all actions. The spirit of St. Francis pervades the 
whole of modern asceticism, and even today his "Philothea" is one of 
the most widely read books on asceticism. "Theotimus", another work of 
his, treats in the first six chapters of the love of God, the rest 
being devoted to mystical prayer. His letters, too, are very 
instructive. Attention may be called to the new edition of his works 
(Euvres, Annecy, 1891 sqq.). "Il combattimento spirituale" of Scupoli 
(d. 1610) was spread very widely and earnestly recommended by Francis 
de Sales. 
 
To the same period belong the following authors and works. Bellarmine, 
S. J. (d. 1621): "Gemitus columbæ"; "De ascensione mentis in Deum"; "De 
arte bene moriendi". Alphonsus Rodriguez, S. J. (d. 1616): "Exercicio 
de perfección y virtudes cristianas" (3 vols., Seville, 1609), which 
has frequently been re-edited and translated into nearly all languages. 
John of Jesus-Mary, O. C. D. (d. 1615): "Teologia Mistica" (Naples, 
1607), highly esteemed by Bellarmine and Francis de Sales. Alvarez de 
Paz, S. J. (d. 1620): "De vita spirituali ejusque perfectione" (1608); 
"De exterminatione mali et promotione boni" (1613); "De inquisitione 
pacis" (1617), which was frequently re-edited. Gaudier, S. J. (d. 
1620): "De perfectione vitæ spiritualis" (1619; new ed., 3 vols., 
Turin, 1903-4). La Puente, S. J. (d. 1624): "Guia espiritual" 
(Valladolid, 1609), containing, according to his own statement, a brief 
epitome of the spiritual life both active and contemplative (prayer, 
meditation, trials, mortification, practice of virtue); "De la 
Perfección del Cristiano en todos sus estados" (1612). Both works have 
ever been highly esteemed by all ascetical men and have been translated 
into many languages. Lessius, S. J. (d. 1623): "De perfectionibus 
moribusque divinis", a work distinguished both for its scientific and 
ascetical spirit. Nlcholas Lancicius, S. J. (d. 1638), past-master in 
the spiritual life, whose saintly personality is reflected in his 
writings (new ed., Cracow, 1889 sqq.): "De exteriore corporis 
compositione"; "De quatuor viis perveniendi ad perfectionem"; "De 
humanarum passionum dominio": "De mediis ad virtutem"; "De causis et 
remediis in oratione". Greatly valued is his book of meditations: "De 
piis erga Deum et cœlites affectibus"; it has been translated into 
several languages. Schorrer, S. J.: "Synopsis theol. ascet." 
(Dillingen, 1662; rare edition). Godinez, S. J.: "Práctica de la 
teologia mystica" (La Puebla de los Angeles, 1681), of which we have a 
Latin edition together with a commentary by de la Reguera, S. J. (Rome, 
1740). 
 
Surin, S. J. (d. 1665), wrote his important "Catéchisme spirituel" at a 
time when he was subject to interior trials (cf. Zahn, "Mystik", p. 
441). The book appeared in many editions and translations, but was 
placed on the Index. The edition of Fr. Fellon, S. J. (1730), and the 
latest edition of Fr. Bouix (Paris, 1882) probably do not fall under 
this prohibition, because in them the errors have been corrected. After 
Surin's death appeared: "Les fondements de la vie spirituelle" (Paris, 
1667); "Lettres spirituelles" (ib., 1695); "Dialogues spirituels" (ib., 
1704). Gasper Druzbicki, S. J. (d. 1662), is the author of a 
considerable number of ascetical works both in Polish and in Latin, 
many of which were translated into other languages. There are two 
complete editions of his works: one published at Ingolstadt (1732) in 
two folios, the other at Kalisz and Posen (1681-91). Among his numerous 
works are: "Lapis lydius boni spiritus"; "Considerationes de soliditate 
veræ virtutis"; "De sublimitate perfectionis"; "De brevissima ad 
perfectionem via"; "Vota religiosa". The "Mystica theologia Divi 
Thomae" of Thomas a Vallgornera, O. P. (d. 1665), published at 
Barcelona, (1662 and 1672) and at Turin (1890), is almost exclusively 
made up of quotations from St. Thomas and is a rich storehouse of 
ascetical material. From the pen of Cardinal Bona, O. Cist. (d. 1674), 
we have: "Principia et documents vitæ christianæ" (Rome, 1673) and 
"Manuductio ad cœlum" (Rome, 1672 and 1678), both of which works, 
remarkable for their simplicity and practical utility, were frequently 
re-edited; the still valuable "De sacrificio Missæ"; "De discretione 
spirituum"; "Horologium asceticum". Complete editions of his works 
appeared at Antwerp, Turin, Venice. Morotius, O. Cist., in his "Cursus 
vitæ spiritualis" (Rome, 1674; new ed., Ratisbon, 1891), follows 
closely the lead of St. Thomas. The "Summa theologiæ mysticæ" (new ed., 
3 vols., Freiburg, 1874) is the best and most widely read work of 
Philip of the Blessed Trinity (d. 1671), the philosopher among the 
mystic writers. He wrote in the spirit of St. Thomas, following 
definite scientific principles and showing their practical application 
in the spiritual life. Anthony of the Holy Ghost, O. C. D. (d. 1674), 
was a disciple of the author just named. His "Directorium mysticum" 
(new ed., Paris, 1904), dominated by the spirit of. his master, was 
written for the instruction of his pupils. He is also the author of the 
following works: "Seminarium virtutum" (3rd ed., Augsburg and Würzburg, 
1750), "Irriguum virtutum" (Würzburg, 1723), "Tractatus de clericorum 
ac præcipue sacerdotum et pastorum dignitate", etc. (Würzburg, 1676). 
 
In the course of the eighteenth century a number of valuable works on 
asceticism and mysticism were published. To Neumeyer, S. J. (d. 1765), 
we owe the "Idea theol. ascet.", a complete, scientifically arranged 
epitome. Rogacci, S. J. (d. 1719), wrote "Del uno necessario", an 
instruction in the love of God, which ranks high in ascetical 
literature and was translated into several languages. Among the best 
literary productions, and widely read even today, is Scaramelli's (d. 
1752) "Direttorio ascetico". The author treats asceticism apart from 
mysticism. A treatise on the virtues is contained in Dirkink, S. J., 
"Semita perfectionis" (new ed., Paderborn, 1890). Designed along broad 
lines is the "Trinum perfectum" (3rd ed., Augsburg, 1728) by Michael of 
St. Catherine. Katzenberger, O. F. M., wrote "Scientia salutis" (new 
ed., Paderborn, 1901). Schram's "Institutiones theol. mysticæ" (2 
vols.) combines asceticism with mysticism, though the author is at his 
best in the ascetical parts. St. Alphonsus Liguori (d. 1787), rightly 
called the "Apostolic Man", published a large number of ascetic works, 
full of heavenly unction and tender-hearted piety. The best-known and 
most important of them are: "Pratica di amar Gesù Cristo" (1768), 
"Visita al SS. Sacramento", perhaps the most widely read of all his 
ascetical works: "La vera sposa di Gesù Cristo" (1760), a sure guide to 
perfection for countless souls. 
 
Complete treatises on asceticism, published during the nineteenth and 
twentieth centuries, are the following: Grundkötter, "Anleitung zur 
christl. Vollkommenheit" (Ratisbon, 1896). Leick, C. SS. R., "Schule 
der christl. Vollkommenheit" (Ratisbon, 1886), inspired by the writings 
of St. Alphonsus Liguori. Weiss, O. P., "Philosophie der christl. 
Vollkommenheit" (vol. V of his "Apologie"; Freiburg 1898). The author 
is extraordinarily well read, and his conception of the spiritual life 
is unusually deep. Ribet, "L'ascétique chrétienne" (Paris, 1888). 
Tissot, "La vie intérieure". Saudreau, "Les degrés de la vie 
spirituelle" (Angers, 1896 and 1897), a work full of unction. His other 
works, "Les faits extraordinaires de la vie spirituelle" (1908) and "La 
vie d'union à Dieu" (1909), belong to mysticism properly so called. 
Poulain, S. J., "La grâce d'oraison", though of a mystic character, yet 
treats of the ordinary method of prayer. Saudreau and Poulain are 
reliable throughout and their works are among the best productions in 
this branch. Rousset, O. P., "Directorium asceticum" (Freiburg, 1893). 
Meynard, O. P., "Traité de la vie intérieure" (Paris, 1899), based on 
St. Thomas. Meyer, S. J., "First Lessons in the Science of the Saints" 
(2nd ed., St. Louis, 1903), translated into several languages. Francis 
X. Mutz, "Die christliche Aszetik" (2nd ed., Paderborn, 1909). Joseph 
Zahn, "Einführung in die christliche Mystik" (Paderborn, 1908), 
important also for asceticism. Berthier, "De la perfection chrétienne 
et de la perfection religieuse d'après S. Thomas et S. François de 
Sales" (2 vols., Paris, 1901). A. Devine, "Manual of Ascetical 
Theology" (London). Ryan, "Groundwork of Christian Perfection" 
(London). Buchanan, "Perfect Love of God" (London). 
 
An exhaustive list of Catholic ascetical writers is given in Migne, 
"Encycl. théologique", XXVI; "Dict. d'ascéticisme", II, 1467. 
 
Non-Catholic authors: Otto Zöckler, "Die Tugendlehre des Christentums, 
geschichtlich dargestellt" (Gütersloh, 1904). W. Hermann, "Der Verkehr 
des Christen mit Gott" (6th ed., Stuttgart, 1908), and "Die sittlichen 
Weisungen Jesu" (Göttingen, 1907). Kähler, "Verkehr mit Christo in 
seiner Bedeutung für das eigene Leben" (Leipzig, 1904). Peabody, "Jesus 
Christ and the Christian Character". A. Ritschl, "Christiiche 
Vollkommenheit" (Göttingen, 1902). Sheldon, "In his Steps -- What Would 
Jesus do?", widely read in England. 
 

Transcribed by Douglas J. Potter

From the Catholic Encyclopedia 
Copyright © 1913 by the Encyclopedia Press, Inc. 

Electronic version copyright © 1996 by New Advent, Inc.
All Rights Reserved

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