Greek: askesis, exercise
That branch of theology which comprises the rules of Christian perfection, formulated by the monastic leaders beginning with the Fathers of the Desert, gathered together and systematized. Ascetics is the outcome of supernatural charity urging to a most perfect following of Christ and calls very particularly for a direction in every respect an art. Ascetical theology examines and defines Christian perfection; explains the call, the obligations thereby induced, and the renunciation of worldly goods otherwise lawful included in the call. It expounds, in the degree proper to this mode of life, the Christian virtues of poverty, chastity, obedience, humility, mortification, charity, etc.; the external custody of the senses; the interior discipline of the soul by recollection, the presence of God, and conformity to His will; the vows giving permanence to this life; the various modes of ordinary prayer corresponding to progress made; how to discover and frustrate the devil’s snares, to recognize God operating in the soul, and to free oneself from false notions and scruples that hinder progress. Among theologians, Father Alvarez de Paz holds an honorable place; the practical treatise of Father Alphonsus Rodriguez is known everywhere. Mystical theology is classed with ascetical rather for convenience than for any intrinsic relation. The ascetic way is complete in itself. By it the highest perfection is reached. One might almost at any stage begin the mystic, should God permit.