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Asceticism | Physically Spiritual S2E4

Updated: Oct 21, 2021

Are the body and its passions evil, something to be warred against, discarded, and destroyed? Or, are they misguided, and in need of redemption and healing? This episode of Physically Spiritual explores the Church’s tradition of asceticism, the practice of self-denial and renunciation, but, in light of what can be discovered from God to heal the body and the soul to become more like Him.

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2:30 What is Asceticism?

5:00 Are Health and Asceticism Compatible?

7:00 Health and Holiness

7:30 The Body & Soul

12:00 Avoid the Cult of the Body

15:00 Ascetical Principle 1 - Integration of Health & Holiness

15:15 Ascetical Principle 2 - In context of story

21:00 Ascetical Principle 3 - The Pareto Principle


What is Ascesis? - “ASCESIS: The practice of penance, mortification, and self-denial to promote greater self-mastery and to foster the way of perfection by embracing the way of the cross” Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC), p. 867

“Freedom makes man responsible for his acts to the extent that they are voluntary. Progress in virtue, knowledge of the good, and ascesis enhance the mastery of the will over its acts.” CCC, 1734.

“The way of perfection passes by way of the Cross. There is no holiness without renunciation and spiritual battle. Spiritual progress entails the ascesis and mortification that gradually lead to living in the peace and joy of the Beatitudes.” CCC, 2015.

“Health is the Perfection of Nature. It is the ordering of nature according to God’s design, the attainment of the Cardinal Virtues, and the healing and function of the body.”

“Holiness is the attainment of supernatural life. [...] It includes the attainment of the Theological Virtues of Faith, Hope, and Love. These theological virtues are both from God and direct us to God.”

The Body and Soul

“The unity of soul and body is so profound that one has to consider the soul to be the "form" of the body: i.e., it is because of its spiritual soul that the body made of matter becomes a living, human body; spirit and matter, in man, are not two natures united, but rather their union forms a single nature.” CCC, 365.

“The human body shares in the dignity of "the image of God": it is a human body precisely because it is animated by a spiritual soul, and it is the whole human person that is intended to become, in the body of Christ, a temple of the Spirit.” CCC, 364.

“The term "flesh" refers to man in his state of weakness and mortality. The "resurrection of the flesh" (the literal formulation of the Apostles' Creed) means not only that the immortal soul will live on after death, but that even our "mortal body" will come to life again.” CCC, 990.

“‘The flesh is the hinge of salvation’ (Tertullian, De res. 8, 2:PL 2, 852). We believe in God who is creator of the flesh; we believe in the Word made flesh in order to redeem the flesh; we believe in the resurrection of the flesh, the fulfillment of both the creation and the redemption of the flesh.” CCC, 1015.

“In expectation of that day, the believer's body and soul already participate in the dignity of belonging to Christ. This dignity entails the demand that he should treat with respect his own body, but also the body of every other person, especially the suffering” CCC, 1004.

“Life and physical health are precious gifts entrusted to us by God. We must take reasonable care of them, taking into account the needs of others and the common good.” CCC, 2288.

“There is plenty of asceticism in wellness to mortify our will, deny ourselves, and grow in virtue.”

“If morality requires respect for the life of the body, it does not make it an absolute value. It rejects a neo-pagan notion that tends to promote the cult of the body, to sacrifice everything for its sake, to idolize physical perfection and success at sports. By its selective preference of the strong over the weak, such a conception can lead to the perversion of human relationships.” CCC, 2289.

“By growing in Faith, Hope, and Love we inoculate ourselves against the cult of the body.”

Proposed Ascetical Principles

  1. Authentic asceticism does not require damaging the body.

  2. Context - Ascetical practices should fit your story: avoiding possible pitfalls and addressing particular needs.

For more on the Root Cause Perspective see Physically Spiritual 9, “Healing Root Causes” -

  1. Focus on the Pareto Principle , the 80:20 Rule

For more on the Pareto Principle see Physically Spiritual 4, “Three Lies About Growth” -

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