Saintly writings about asceticism and monasticism -- for everyone?

I was reading a few excerpts from “The Ladder of Divine Ascent” (St. John of the Cross), and one particular thing caused me concern. Basically, a monk is supposed to let go even of his parents.

Also, has it ever been taught that asceticism is required for even lay people? Not just skipping a meal occasionally…but fasting, all-night vigils, drinking less water, long hours of prayer, etc.

The more I read about certain topics, the more dejected I get that the current vocation I’m in is worthless and that I’m doing nothing of value (nevermind the numerous sins). If I’m not hungry or thirsty or tired, I feel a little guilty.

Is salvation attained only through an ascetic lifestyle?

Should I stop reading, or is it better to continue reading but keep in mind the intended audience?

I don’t know if the devil is causing these thoughts to discontinue reading or if I should stop reading advanced spiritual writings.

Dear EIF5A,

Please don’t stop your spiritual reading. That kind of discouragement surely comes from the devil.

The spiritual life that St. John of the Cross and other mystics talk about are indeed the normal road to sanctity, but monasticism isn’t the only way to obtain holiness. That would make the universal call to holiness a universal call to celibacy! :smiley:

You answered your own question, my brother/sister, when you wondered whether you should keep in mind the intended audience.

If you’re interested in reading a seminal work on the interior life, and haven’t done so already, I highly recommend Fr. Garrigou-LaGrange’s “Three Stages of the Interior Life.” I’m almost done and I would argue that it does a spectacular job of synthesizing the works of St. John of the Cross, St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Teresa of Avila and St. Therese of Liseiux as it relates to the spiritual life.

Word of warning, though, it’s a huge piece of work. (It was Fr. Garrigou’s magnum opus, after all.) Shorter treatment is done by Dan Burke’s “Navigating the Interior Life.”

God bless,


Asceticism is possible for lay people, but in all cases, we must follow God’s will in our life and not attempt to follow our own agendas which often feed our egos.

Not everyone is called to be a monk and many romanticize what life in a monastery is like.

The ascetic life wears thin very quickly in a monastery and neither should it be what leads a person into such a vocation.

Our focus of attention is union with God, and this only can happen when we detach from our ego-identities and surrender totally to God’s will, whatever that may be.

There are probably more holy people whom we’ve never heard about, who never entered religious life, but instead fell in love, got married and raised a family.

You can live a life of faith by dedicating yourself to God’s will and following a routine of daily prayer and this should be part of everyone’s life, who is serious about their faith.

If God calls you to religious life, the doors will open. But your desire should be aligning your will with God’s.

Jesus gave us the two great commandments in order for us to follow God’s will.

Love the Lord God with all your being, and love your neighbor as yourself.

Follow these two, and everything that God wants you to be, will come to you.


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